What Is UL 4600?
April 16, 2021

What Is UL 4600?

Security & Compliance
Static Analysis

UL 4600 helps to ensure that fully autonomous vehicles are safe and reliable for those both on the road and pedestrians. Here, we explain what is UL 4600, why it’s important, and how to comply with it.

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What Is UL 4600?

UL 4600 — Standard for Safety for the Evaluation of Autonomous Products focuses on autonomous systems that operate without human intervention.

While the most direct application of UL 4600 is for self-driving cars, it also applies to autonomous vehicles in mining, agriculture, maintenance, and other vehicles — including lightweight unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).

UL 4600 standard focuses on ensuring that a comprehensive safety case is in place, including safety claims, argumentation, and evidence. It is intended to cover computer-based system aspects of autonomous operation.

📕 Related Resource: Are Self-Driving Cars Safe?

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UL 4600 Standard Overview

UL 4600 specifically addresses the ability of autonomous products to perform safely and as intended — without human intervention — based on their current state and their ability to sense the operating environment. In addition, UL 4600 applies to the reliability of hardware and software necessary for machine learning, and other safety aspects of autonomy.

This standard covers the safety principles, risk mitigation, tools, techniques, and lifecycle processes for building and evaluating a safety argument for vehicles that can operate in an autonomous mode.

The standard addresses changes required from traditional safety practices to accommodate autonomy, which includes a lack of human operators to take fault mitigation actions. In addition, it covers the validation of any machine learning-based functionality and other autonomy functions used in life-critical applications.

This includes safety practices for machine learning-based approaches, practices for addressing “unknown unknowns” in safety argumentation, and practices to ensure that adequate fault mitigation capabilities are present in systems that do not have oversight by human drivers.

The UL 4600 standard provides guidance on constructing the safety case for: 

  • Dependability, which includes fault detection and mitigation, incident response, and cybersecurity.
  • Data and networking, which includes communications and storage.
  • Verification, validation, and testing, which includes approaches, methods, and safety case updates.
  • Tool qualification, commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) systems, and legacy components.
  • Lifecycle concerns, including the handoff from design to manufacturing, supply chain, and disposal.
  • Maintenance and inspection.
  • Metrics and safety performance indicators (SPIs).
  • Assessment of conformance, independent assessment, and prompt element feedback.

Why Is UL 4600 Important?

With the increased development of fully autonomous vehicles, it is essential that functional safety can be assured. Current functional safety standards are not sufficient to completely cover this type of risk, which is why UL 4600 was developed.

The standard requires that you complete a broad, three-step approach for assessing and validating autonomous vehicle safety.

  1. Make a measurable safety claim.
    This step requires that you make a statement about how the autonomous vehicle should operate.
  2. Make an argument that proves the claim is true.
    This step requires you to describe your perception technologies along with the systems that will be triggered by them.
  3. Provide evidence that the system will actually perform as expected. 
    This step requires that you provide simulation results, road test outcomes, and other proof that the autonomous vehicle will perform as stated.

"UL 4600 is designed to let you know that you have done enough work on safety. It ensures that you have defined an appropriately rigorous safety case for your AV design, then it asks you to demonstrate your compliance with that safety case in a measurable way."

― Dr. Philip Koopman, CTO, Edge Case Research

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How UL 4600 Works With Other Functional Safety Standards

UL 4600 was designed to be compatible with existing functional safety standards such as ISO 26262 and SOTIF (ISO/PAS 21448), building on their strengths while also filling their autonomy-specific gaps.

📕 Related Resource: Functional Safety Standards >>>

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Using Static Code Analysis for UL 4600  

It is required that static analysis is used as part of the V&V Safety case and also required that source code analysis results be produced.

These requirements can be met by using a static code analyzer— like Helix QAC — to effectively identify vulnerabilities and weaknesses. A static code analysis tool is able to verify compliance with coding guidelines and provide evidence of that compliance. This will provide consistency, correctness, and completeness with respect to autonomous vehicle product requirements.

The right tools will help make compliance simpler, and a static code analysis tool can help you meet development guidelines for the production of safe, secure, and reliable autonomous vehicle products. By using a static code analyzer — like Helix QAC — you are able to accelerate compliance by:

  • Enforcing coding standards and detecting rule violations.
  • Detecting compliance issues earlier in development.
  • Accelerating code reviews and manual testing efforts.
  • Reporting on compliance over time and across product versions.

See how Helix QAC can help you accelerate compliance, register for a free seven-day trial.

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