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The ABCs of ASIL

Understanding automotive safety levels and why certifications matter to your safety stack

Talk about automotive safety integrity levels (ASIL) permeates the automotive industry, with implications of compliance standards for industrial applications that don’t apply. So what do ASIL certifications really mean, and how important are they?

ASIL is a risk classification system defined by the ISO 26262 standard for the functional safety of road vehicles, which establishes safety requirements based on risk probability. ASIL levels are categorized as A, B, C and D, with ASIL-C being most relevant for semi-autonomous vehicles and advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) today. 

The transportation industry takes safety very seriously, placing OEMs under heavy scrutiny to deliver solutions that are road-ready. ASIL certifications aim to:

  • Mitigate risks to acceptable levels
  • Manage and track safety requirements
  • Ensure standardized safety procedures have been followed from start to finish

By creating a development process that implements ISO 26262 requirements for ASIL designation, tech providers can identify potential risks, design effective safety measures and employ targeted testing to ensure it’s up to snuff for OEMs and regulatory bodies. Not to mention the vital role it plays in building consumer confidence, which should be paramount for any provider.

Without functional safety standards, including ASIL designations that gauge hazard and risk assessments, there would be no way to discern which tech providers are delivering a vetted level of safety-critical reliability.  

“ASIL ready” and “ASIL certified” are not created equal

When companies use the term “ASIL ready,” that essentially means that on paper, the tech they’re providing is good enough to be ASIL rated. But it hasn’t gone through the arduous certification process.

Using a non-recognized term like “ASIL ready” only implies that a solution is built according to a designated ASIL level without evidence of ISO 26262 compliance. It’s the difference between the ingredients in a cake being vetted, or the recipe, vs the completed cake being taste-tested to ensure the end result hits the mark. 

"ASIL ready” merely suggests  a vendor’s good faith representations for meeting ASIL requirements. So when you come across claims for a solution that “supports an ASIL [A, B, C or D]  capable system,” keep in mind this does not equate to certified compliance with industry functional safety standards.

ASIL level compliance validates ADAS system — from concept to commissioning

Adopting ISO 26262 helps ensure that safety is considered throughout the entire lifecycle of an automotive component, from initial risk assessment to final decommissioning. Ratings that achieve higher levels like C tend to be reflective of a provider's level of domain experience, years of innovation expertise and their continual investment in R&D. Companies with many patents in the space also add validation to their dedication for dependable innovation.

Seeking out tech partners that have received high ASIL level designations and seek to meet and exceed other applicable industry standards is a good way to ensure that safety is deeply embedded within their company culture — and not just a talking point or implied through fluffy language.

Trimble gets C-level positioning engine certification stamp of approval

In 2023, Trimble ProPoint Go™ became the first ASIL-C certified positioning engine for automotive ADAS, including hands-free driving systems to maintain in-lane precise positioning. And while this certification is specific to automotive, it serves as an example of the solid engineering standards reflected in other versions of Trimble positioning engines within geospatial, agriculture, construction and even unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) applications.

Beyond validating the integrity of our software, it also demonstrates the power of Trimble RTX in producing results that pass discerning testing protocols and meet stringent safety standards. 

The success of Trimble’s ProPoint Go engine reflects the same finesse and engineering prowess that goes into everything we build, including the positioning engines used for applications within controlled environments. While variations are made to suit the needs of a particular application, the core technology is the same. 

Functional safety 101

Technological advancements have altered the trajectory of road vehicles through the integration of sensors and controllers for a growing range of functions. But safety requires that those advances not be made in a vacuum. With safety top of mind, the auto industry has developed specific standards for electronics-related components in automotive vehicles, known as ISO 26262. Originally issued in 2011, they provide functional safety standards for systems that include one or more electrical and/or electronics systems installed in series production road vehicles. 

ISO 26262 classifies based on potential risks called the automotive safety integrity level (ASIL). Through an ASIL level designation, a manufacturer can demonstrate that a system or component within contains built-in redundancies that protect not only a vehicle’s occupants, but others around the vehicle including pedestrians, cyclists and adjacent vehicle occupants. 

A robust functional safety system works best with multiple sensors and technology — absolute and relative (perception) positioning — working in unison to deliver the safest, most capable ADAS possible.