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Automotive SPICE: Determining Software Process Improvement and Capability

In the last few years, we have seen the role of embedded systems (electronic components) and software in our vehicles evolving, enabling them to become more efficient, intelligent, and safe. The prime reason for this evolution has been the continuous need for new features, better customer experience, and safety. However, by adding electronic components and software, the risks of malfunctions increase. This raises questions regarding functional safety as automotive is considered to be a mission-critical industry.

Functional safety refers to taking active measures to achieve required risk reduction in two spheres: reliability and active safety. ISO 26262 lays down safety standards that help to minimize the risks caused due to malfunction. It is widely accepted and broadly adopted worldwide and involves extensive safety analyses that check for random errors. However, in the real world, ISO 26262 has only successfully addressed functional safety concerns related to system failures. It has largely failed to address systematic errors, including software-related issues. Therefore, one needs a standard that addresses these issues and provides a reliable framework for software and systems.

What is Automotive SPICE (ASPICE)?    

Automotive SPICE or ASPICE is the standard that addresses automotive software best practices. A few key European OEMs (a total of 11 car manufacturers, including the likes of Fiat, BMW, Audi, Ford, Volvo, and Jaguar) collaborated to create an industry-specific process reference model and a process assessment model, now collectively known as ASPICE.   

Before understanding Automotive SPICE, let us take a look at the abbreviation first. SPICE stands for Software Process Improvement and Capability Determination, and it is a framework for embedded software process assessment. This framework helps define, implement, and evaluate the process for system development focused on software and system parts. Regulatory standards have evolved to address the evolving requirements, and ASPICE has evolved from ISO 15504.    

ASPICE can be used as a yardstick to evaluate development factors and identify the ability of companies to deliver reliable and effective software. It can also be extended to other processes  within the organization like hardware, mechanical, and others using the “Plug-in” concept described in the standard.   

Automotive SPICE is built on the Verification and Validation model (V-Model) that requires the product to be tested during each development phase. It promotes rigorous testing, which helps in identifying potential issues early in the development cycle.   

Naturally, the next question would be, how does this help? 

Benefits of Implementing ASPICE   

When it comes to OEMs, they are interested in:  

  • Quality control in electronics and software, especially with the products and supply chains becoming more complex over time.  
  • Managing potential risks and issues in the supplier project while meeting tight delivery schedules, especially during shorter development cycles.   

While suppliers are interested in:  

  • Becoming part of exciting business associations and being able to safeguard their margins, which would not have been possible without the existence of Automotive SPICE.    
  • Having control over the development costs and quality problems in volume production caused by the development (leading to repairs, recalls, among others). 

Understanding ASPICE Certifications 

There are various levels of ASPICE certifications that suppliers can achieve by demonstrating their capabilities. Auto manufacturers need to choose which level of certification they need based on their requirements. The ASPICE certifications are categorized into six tiers, levels 0 to 5, described as follows:  

Level 0. Basic: This is the basic level where the main focus is to fulfill basic tasks. The software development process may not be complete, and the design goals may not have been fulfilled. Documentation and other aspects like analysis are incomplete.  

Level 1. Performed: At this level, all software development processes are fulfilled along with proper documentation. However, there may still be nonconformities in the process that will have to be streamlined. A level-1 certification could mean that the company is a start-up.  

Level 2. Managed: Level-2 is a big leap from level-1. It means that the entire development process is fully managed. It also proves that the supplier has trained programmers along with proven management processes in place. As a result, the product meets desired performance standards, documentation is ample, and once the product is implemented, required support will be provided.    

Level 3. Established: This means that the processes defined during level-2 have been established over time. Therefore, there will be constant evaluation of the process, and the outcomes are studied to improve further.  

Level 4. Predictable: Along with establishing and meeting the required performance standards, outcomes are constantly measured, documented, and analyzed to enable evaluation. The process and outcomes are established so well that outcome prediction becomes possible and easy.  

Level 5. Innovating: At the innovation level, the software developer understands and controls their processes very well and can push boundaries by continuously optimizing the process and making them better. 

An ASPICE certification can be obtained after an appropriate assessment by the regulatory body. ASPICE certification is essential for any software company that develops automotive-specific software.  

eInfochips is an ASPICE certified systems and software partner for various companies across the world. We leverage our expertise across ADAS, Infotainment & Clusters, Telematics, Connected Vehicles (V2V, V2X), EV Charging, and Multimedia Sub-systems to help global OEMs and Tier1s deliver a superior experience, safety, and efficiency. Our services and solutions are range from core automotive product engineering, AUTOSAR compliant ECU software development, HMI design & testing to next-gen technology enablement (edge computing, cloud, AI/ML, data analytics). To know more please contact our experts today 

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