McMaster Engineering researchers awarded funding to advance software safety for next-generation vehicles

McMaster Engineering researchers have initiated a $2 million project to work with General Motors Canada (GM Canada) to develop methods to help ensure the safety and reliability of autonomous and electrified vehicles.

Mark Lawford, Director of the McMaster Centre for Software Certification (McSCert), and his collaborators received funding from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), Ontario Centres of Excellence and GM Canada.

Within the context of the automotive industry’s ongoing development of new and complex software technologies for vehicles, GM Canada’s goal is to be at the forefront of establishing model management-based techniques to address software safety and compliance with standards, thus improving industry practice.

That’s where Lawford and his research team come in.

“With the addition of software-enabled hybrid powertrains and Advanced Driver Assistance Systems, the system design and safety processes of vehicles have had a corresponding increase in required effort, difficulty and cost,” explains Lawford. “To help GM Canada address this issue, we are developing methods and tools to help ensure safety for new GM Canada products while reducing the time and cost associated with software safety activities. This will, in part, be done by helping GM engineers determine when safety evidence from previous vehicles can be reused in developing a new vehicle.”

Lawford is joined by McMaster Department of Computing and Software Professors, Tom Maibaum and Alan Wassyng and University of Toronto Computer Science Professor, Marsha Chechik on the project. The team is working to model design and safety artefacts and their relationships with the safety case, the complete argument demonstrating the functional safety of the system. The work will also include the development of methods to help GM engineers determine the impact of a design change on the safety case. From there, engineers can determine which parts of it can be  appropriately reused.

“We’re excited to work with the McMaster Centre for Software Certification research team again,” said Brian Tossan, Director, Canadian Technical Centre, GM Canada. “Not only are they global leaders in software safety research and certification, the team is also highly skilled at understanding our needs and providing practical solutions to address them.”

“NSERC’s Collaborative Research and Development Grants create and support partnerships that economically, socially or environmentally benefit Canada and Canadians,” said Dr. Marc Fortin, Vice-President, Research Partnerships at the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada. “The already well-established collaboration between McMaster Centre for Software Certification research team and GM Canada has demonstrated extensive expertise in the area of safety and reliability of autonomous and electrified vehicles. We are proud to support them as they strive to improve industry practice.”

The McMaster Centre for Software Certification (McSCert) is a world leader in development and evaluation of safety-critical embedded software systems. McSCert’s partners are active in markets where software failure can have serious consequences, including automotive, medical device, financial and nuclear power industries.


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