Linux Foundation launches ELISA for building safety-critical systems

Machines have a trust problem — particularly autonomous machines deployed in safety-critical scenarios, like industrial robots and driverless cars. In a pair of surveys published by the American Automobile Association last January and by Gallup in May, 63 percent of people reported feeling afraid to ride in a fully self-driving vehicle and more than half said they’d never choose to ride in one. Moreover, in a report published by analysts at Pew in 2017, 70 percent of Americans said they were concerned about robots performing tasks currently handled by humans.

In an effort to allay those fears, the Linux Foundation today launched Enabling Linux in Safety Applications (ELISA), an open source project comprising tools intended to help companies build and certify Linux-based systems whose failure could result in loss of human life, significant property damage, or environmental damage. In partnership with British chip designer Arm, BMW, autonomous platforms company Kuka, Linutronix, and Toyota, ELISA will work with certification and standardization bodies in “multiple industries” to establish ways Linux can form the foundation of safety-critical systems across industries.

ELISA’s launch follows last year’s rollout of Automotive Grade Linux (AGL) 5.0, the newest version of a Linux Foundation project aimed at bringing open source technology to the automotive industry. Previous releases focused mainly on infotainment systems, but 5.0 introduced telematics and mapping solutions that allow OEMs to share mapping data generated by autonomous cars, in addition to offering improved security and a functional safety platform. Toyota and Amazon expressed early support; the former is using AGL in its 2018 Camry.

“All major industries, including energy, medical, and automotive, want to use Linux for safety-critical applications because it can enable them to bring products to market faster and reduce the risk of critical design errors,” said Kate Stewart, senior director of strategic programs at the Linux Foundation. “The challenge has been the lack of the clear documentation and tools needed to demonstrate that a Linux-based system meets the necessary safety requirements for certification. Past attempts at solving this have lacked the critical mass needed to establish a widely discussed and accepted methodology, but with the formation of ELISA, we will be able to leverage the infrastructure and support of the broader Linux Foundation community that is needed to make this initiative successful.”

ELISA’s responsibilities will chiefly involve developing reference documentation and use cases, educating the open source community on safety engineering best practices, and enabling “continuous feedback” to improve processes and automate quality assurance testing. Additionally, the organization will help members monitor hazards and critical system components and lay the groundwork for a set of policies members’ response teams can follow in the event something goes wrong.

“Open source software has become a significant part of our technology strategy, and we want to help make it easier to use Linux-based applications,” Masato Hashimoto, general manager of Toyota’s E/E Architecture Development Division, said in a statement. “Toyota believes the ELISA project will support CASE use cases in an innovative way for the automotive industry.”

The Linux Foundation — a nonprofit tech consortium founded in 2000 to support Linux’s growth and promote its adoption — has more than 1,000 corporate members, including automakers Ford, Mazda, Honda, Subaru, and Suzuki, as well as suppliers like Denso, Panasonic, LG, software giants Microsoft and IBM, and chip industry incumbents such as Nvidia, Intel, and Arm. The organization’s work in ELISA builds on SIL2LinuxMP, a project targeting the certification of embedded safety-critical Linux systems on off-the-shelf computer boards, and the Real-Time Linux Project, which seeks to make Linux real-time capable.


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