Can SYCL™ and OpenCL™ Meet the Challenges of Functional Safety?

17 June 2021



Presented at IWOCL and SYCLcon 2021

Open standards are being looked at as an attractive alternative to proprietary solutions by the automotive domain to enable sensor fusion systems in cheap mass-market vehicles. Open standards specification for SYCL, OpenCL and Vulkan were not always designed with safety in mind, yet they could be at the centre of tomorrows highly critical systems in a vehicle.

At the leading edge of HPC and vision technologies in many areas open standards are being used, but automotive functional safety standards were designed with older technologies in mind. Modern programming constructs, system topologies and paradigm-shifting technologies such as AI were not considered when the safety standards were created. Today’s developers are using development processes that are causing a seismic shift in how the automotive industry does business.

In 2006 the software component of a car made up proportionally about 50% of the development effort, today it is the majority. The amount of software continues to grow exponentially driven by cheaper and more powerful hardware and demand for more innovative new functionality. The growth of software, and the importance in how it operates, brings numerous challenges including how the car operates safely in any circumstance. Over the years there have been many news articles on how a car has malfunctioned due to human error. The automotive industry has responded with the publication of the ISO 26262 functional safety standard, now in its second edition.

The automotive industry needs to find a balance between the established safety standards required and the need to use emerging commercially developed technologies to differentiate and sell more vehicles. Automotive Tiers are having to look at off the shelf solutions, CoS model, to partner with technology companies with promising solutions. However, these are companies who do not have the same level of safety experience. This approach has worked for a few companies with deep pockets, putting technological wonders into high-end luxury cars but this will not work for all automotive companies. This means some are looking for alternative ways to develop future ADAS systems, in particular those that will be mandated by law. Open standards like SYCL and OpenCL are seen as a viable approach for OEMs to lower costs while still have access to a large technical knowledge base. Code can be more easily ported between architectures, developers can take advantage of a wide range of pre-existing libraries and frameworks, and crucially these standards are defined by the industry.

Illya Rudkin's Avatar

Illya Rudkin

Principal Engineer Safety-Critical Software Development Lead