Introduction to the Special Theme "Safety-Critical Software"
by Pedro Merino and Erwin Schoitsch
Each day, our lives become more dependent on 'software-intensive systems' - digital information technology embedded in our environment. This includes not only automotive devices and controls, railways, aircraft and aerospace, but also the medical devices sector, 'mobile worlds' and 'e-worlds', the 'smart' home, clothes, factories and numerous other domains. Software is the main driver for innovations in all sectors, and most of the innovative features of new products would not be possible without software. New processors and methods of processing, sensors, actuators, communications and infrastructure are enablers for a truly pervasive computing environment; that is, omnipresent but almost invisible to the user, and as such the basis for an economic push. Software plays a critical role in this context, having an impact in areas such as complexity, security and privacy in a connected world, validation, verification and certification of software-intensive systems, and maintenance of these systems over long periods. The functional safety standards of the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) 61508 group (generic and domain-specific standards) and the ISO 26262 standard on 'road vehicles - functional safety' currently under development, include separate software-specific parts (IEC 61508 part 3, ISO 26262 part 6).