Introducing functional safety within teaching curriculum will enable future engineers to gain scholarship in a crucial discipline of engineering and establish their command on safety science when pursuing further academic research or solving complex tasks in dynamic industrial settings.

Functional safety is an engineering process that emphasizes on safe design and operation of systems and components in order to mitigate unreasonable risk caused by the application of the system. There are various functional safety standards for different disciplines that address necessary safety measures, potential failures, development requirements and recommendations for a specific safety critical system. One such standard that address the functional safety requirements for automotive systems is the ISO 26262 standard.

Do current educational programs consider functional safety in their curriculum?

Educational institutes throughout the globe indeed provide very good teaching methods, research opportunities and fundamental knowledge on safety engineering topics. Most of them focus on hazard based engineering, occupational safety and ergonomic design, industrial safety technologies, reliability methods, software safety and system safety. Some of these topics indeed cover various requirements for functional safety, but there are very few dedicated programs concerning functional safety as a separate subject matter.

Engineering programs that provide automotive or system engineering as a part of research or coursework in their curriculum can consider introducing the concepts and principles of functional safety to students. The automotive industry requires special focus on this topic as with growing electrical and electronic complexity into the vehicle, emergence of disruptive technologies like alternate sourced vehicles, autonomous fleet technology, and with higher consumer demand of more and better features the need of functional safety is at its peak.

Practical methods to implement automotive functional safety into teaching curriculum:
  • Introduction of “V” life-cycle in a product development process and the role of functional safety throughout the cycle
  • Introduction to other industry standards and their implementation processes for systems and safety engineering. It should be noted that the ISO 26262 standard was actually derived from the IEC 61508 standard and understanding the relationships and differences in various industry standards and processes is a vital necessity for safety engineering.
  • Provide methods and practical scenarios to implement best practices on system safety engineering
  • Introduction to general concepts of functional safety like hazard analysis and dependent failures
  • Exposure on safety lifecycle management and development processes
  • Focus on hardware metric requirements for different safety systems and risk classification for various products
  • Understand failure modes of software and hardware components and perform safety analyses using various techniques
  • Familiarization with various system and component (Hardware & software) architecture (including safety architectures)
  • Familiarization on functional safety testing, component qualification measures, tools and methods
  • Practical methods and measures for implementing diagnostic algorithms in designing fault tolerant systems
  • Familiarization on safety critical microcontrollers, ASIC (application specific integrated circuit), SOC (system on chip) and their applications and features

There are many other topics that can be utilized for research focus, especially in the areas of diagnostic measures, designing fault tolerant control systems, analyzing hardware integrity of components and so on for various applications and processes. Introducing the principles of functional safety enables future engineers to gain insight into the current industry needs as well as ongoing state of the art research on safety critical systems.

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