How to Achieve Automotive Grade with Quality, Reliability, Functional Safety and Cybersecurity

This is the final article in the five-part series on automotive solutions. This article will discuss the differences in NAND Flash storage products used in automotive systems and how they comply with automotive standards.

As automotive applications continue to expand, there is an increasing demand for storage and semiconductor solutions. However, the rapid development of technologies such as autonomous driving, electric vehicles and new electrical/electronic (E/E) architecture also brings potential dangers and risks of accidents. To prevent further incidents, car manufacturers are required to recall vehicles, which not only results in significant financial losses but also may have a negative impact on their brand image. According to a report by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in the United States, at least 300 car models were recalled in 2022, totaling over 10 million vehicles. These potential safety hazards pose a threat to consumer safety, making it a core concern for the government, car manufacturers and suppliers. This article will explore the certifications and standards that professional automotive IC suppliers need to comply with.



Automotive standards overview

NAND Flash storage is widely used in smartphones, personal computers, tablets, servers, gaming devices and various electronic products. However, the requirements for NAND Flash storage in automotive environment are vastly different from other markets. These requirements can be categorized into four main areas: quality, reliability, functional safety and cybersecurity management.


Quality management

Quality management encompasses a wide range of areas with multiple standards and certifications to ensure supplier excellence.

First, the ISO 9001 quality management system is a universal standard developed by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), aiming to help organizations maintain consistent quality in their products and services. It is one of the most well-known ISO certifications and is applicable to various industries, including automotive applications.

Second, IATF 16949 is a global quality management standard for the automotive industry developed by the International Automotive Task Force (IATF). While this certification primarily targets production and manufacturing-related companies, it does not directly apply to IC design houses like Phison. In the case of Phison’s automotive solutions, all of its suppliers comply with the IATF 16949 standard. Additionally, the development cycle of Phison’s automotive products aligns with one of the key requirements of IATF 16949 – APQP (Advanced Product Quality Planning).

Third, VDA 6.3 is a quality management standard developed by the Verband der Automobilindustrie e. V. (VDA) and widely recognized across the automotive industry, particularly in Germany and among certain Japanese customers. Its scope is similar to APQP, covering the entire product lifecycle, and it involves a second-party audit.

Lastly, Automotive SPICE (Software Process Improvement and Capability Determination) is a framework developed by the Automotive Manufacturers’ Alliance, which includes companies such as BMW, Bosch, Continental, DaimlerChrysler, Ford and Volkswagen. This framework provides standards for assessing software development processes used in the automotive industry with the aim of improving the quality and reliability of automotive software. The assessment covers various aspects of the software development lifecycle from requirement management and design to testing and maintenance. Each process is evaluated based on a set of process attributes and is graded on a scale from 0 to 5.


Reliability management

Reliability management focuses on the ability of a product to continue functioning properly over an extended period and in harsh environments. Unlike quality, which addresses the assurance of a product in its initial use, reliability focuses on the assurance of continued performance after a certain duration of use. A highly reliable product is capable of functioning without issues over a long period in demanding automotive environments. The automotive industry places great importance on reliability and relies on relevant specifications set by the Automotive Electronics Council (AEC).

One of these specifications is AEC-Q100, which defines the various stress tests that IC components must undergo to meet the stringent requirements of the automotive environment. These tests include temperature cycling, thermal shock, high-temperature operation, low-temperature operation and high-temperature operating life, among others. The specification also encompasses various qualification grades, with Grade 0 being the most stringent and Grade 3 being the least stringent. These grades are based on the working temperature range of the component, with Grade 0 suitable for use in the most extreme temperature environments. Overall, the AEC-Q100 specification is an important standard in ensuring the reliability of electronic components used in automotive applications, and it is widely recognized and adopted by global automotive manufacturers and suppliers.


Functional safety

Functional safety is a concern that goes beyond quality and reliability. The internationally accepted standard for functional safety is ISO 26262, or Road Vehicles – Functional Safety. The standard was first published by the ISO in 2011 and was updated in 2018. ISO 26262 provides a framework for identifying and mitigating safety risks in automotive systems. It requires a risk-based approach to developing and testing these systems and taking measures to reduce the risks of potential hazards. The standard specifies numerous requirements for functional safety, including safety goals, hazard and risk analysis and verification and validation of functional safety requirements. ISO 26262 covers the entire product lifecycle and maintains traceability and documentation therein, providing evidence of compliance with the standard.

ISO 26262 can be applied to all parties involved in the development of automotive systems, including manufacturers, suppliers and engineering companies. Its objective is to enhance the safety of road vehicles and reduce the risk of accidents or harm resulting from electronic or electrical failures in these systems. ISO 26262 classifies functional safety levels based on the severity of hazards, the probability of occurrence and controllability, known as Automotive Safety Integrity Levels (ASIL), such as ASIL-A, ASIL-B, ASIL-C and ASIL-D.



With the flourishing concept of the Internet of Things (IoT), the percentage of vehicles equipped with internet connectivity is constantly increasing. This trend has brought about another issue – cybersecurity, which is receiving more and more attention from the industry. The ISO/SAE 21434 Road Vehicles – Cybersecurity Engineering guidelines released in 2021 set standards for addressing cybersecurity concerns in automobiles. This standard was jointly developed by the ISO and the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE), and has undergone review by both organizations. Similar to the ISO 26262 framework, ISO/SAE 21434 requires the definition of risk items to be protected and the use of appropriate techniques for implementing protection.



Phison interview with its Automotive Planning Department

Due to the rapid growth in demand for NAND Flash storage in the automotive market, Phison established the Automotive Planning Department in 2018. The purpose of this department is to plan and manage all automotive certifications and establish an Engineering Process Group that connects over 250 Phison R&D engineers from different departments. Over the years, this department has not only helped the company pass a series of certifications but also strengthened the resilience of product development processes. Here, Harvey Hsia, the manager of this department, shares his insights.


Rick (author):  What made Phison decide to establish a dedicated department for automotive   certifications? What was the background behind this decision?

Harvey:  At that time, we were collaborating with a key customer on an automotive project. The customer wanted our development processes to comply with APQP and ASPICE standards. In order to achieve this goal, our entire project team spent a lot of time and effort adjusting and monitoring the processes and ensuring the quality of outputs. Along the way, we also realized that cultivating an automotive team was a challenging task. It required keeping automotive knowledge and execution experience within the same group of people. That’s why the company established the Automotive Planning Department, to continuously drive process improvement.


Rick:  Phison has successfully obtained a lot of automotive certifications. Could you share your practical experience about how to achieve these?

Harvey:  Certainly. I believe an important aspect is to first establish a framework for process development and then stack and adjust processes within that framework. The choice of process framework is crucial as it determines the content, division of work and responsibilities, as well as the flexibility and adjustability for future expansion. For us, we selected ASPICE as the core process and built upon it with APQP, ISO 26262 and ISO/SAE 21434. In establishing the processes, we tried to maintain flexibility to facilitate process selection and customization for different projects. This way, we have a chance to use the same process framework to meet the diverse business models of Phison and the specific requirements of our customers for various automotive standards.


Rick:  Lastly, how much time and effort does obtaining these certifications actually require, and what benefits do they offer for Phison to invest in them?

Harvey:  I believe various automotive standards help to differentiate different automotive components, but they also raise the entry barrier for component suppliers. For Phison, it took us five years to achieve ASPICE CL3 and two years to obtain ISO 26262 ASIL-D development process certification. The implementation of these processes is extremely resource- and time-consuming, not to mention the additional manpower invested during the product development stage. If the same type of product needs to comply with ISO 26262, the development cycle will be 1.3 to 1.6 times longer than without ISO 26262. This directly increases the development cost of the product. For car manufacturers and Tier 1 suppliers, developing such a product on their own is not cost-effective. For Phison, working with numerous customers allows us to leverage the value of such a huge investment. I believe letting us handle the development and certification is a more cost-effective approach for customers, and it also represents another level of product differentiation that Phison can achieve.



Phison embraces automotive standards to build the strongest automotive product line

As mentioned above, NAND Flash storage devices have been used in various electronic systems for quite some time. However, in the automotive market, significant investments are required to achieve high levels of quality, reliability, functional safety and cybersecurity.

At Phison Electronics, there is no compromise in the planning of automotive products. In terms of quality, the company not only has ISO 9001 and APQP certifications but also undergoes VDA 6.3 audits to meet customer requirements. Phison’s product development and production are carried out by suppliers with IATF 16949 certification, and the company has obtained ASPICE CL3 product certification. In terms of reliability, Phison’s entire range of automotive solutions complies with AEC-Q100 standards. For functional safety, it has obtained ISO 26262 ASIL-D certification in 2021 and are also working with customers to develop ASIL-B-level products. Furthermore, the Phison Automotive Planning Department is currently implementing ISO 21434, which was newly launched in 2021. Phison Electronics is committed to delivering the highest quality, reliability and safety in automotive NAND Flash storage solutions.


Additional Articles in the Series


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