Interviews

Standards have nowadays a wider gap to the innovations emerging today: Jens Henkner

Telematics Wire recently interacted with Jens Henkner, CEO, CertX. Mr. Henkner is an experienced Managing and Business Unit Director with a long track record in the renewables and aerospace industry. We are reproducing the conversation here:

Q. Can you share in brief about Certx activities in automotive sector?

A: We are active in various aspects of functional safety and cybersecurity with a unique expertise for autonomous cars.
We offer trainings and certifications of engineers, assessment of products and processes and last not least certification of systems according to the latest standards.

Moreover we are the Swiss delegates and co-writing with further 16 people worldwide the new SOTIF standard relevant for autonomous cars and we do participate in several research projects around autonomous mobility

Q: Tell us about your test and certification program for the Automotive Industry?

A: This question would deserve quite some time to be answered in depth but being brief: Our test and certification program does provide a comprehensive and structured evaluation of products, processes and persons. We want to support the industry with unbiased yet rigorous services. Because of our unique know-how at the leading edge of technology and the cross fertilization across various other domains such as drones, robots, trains, … we are implementing worldwide acknowledge best practices.

Q: What role Certx is playing or can have in future, in this period of transition in mobility?

A: We are all convinced about the benefits of autonomous mobility will have for the society.. Everyone expects that the autonomous cars should be more safe then manually driven ones. When meeting the expectation the industry around it will benefit but one single event can ruin quickly the confidence, e.g. the famous UBER accident created waves worldwide while thousands of similar accidents with manually driven car do not make the same worldwide headlines. So a real focus on safety and security will support a growth path AND increases safety and the well-being of humans, and this is exactly the contribution CertX like to make.

Q: Is there a trade-off between innovation and standards?

A:We hear this concern quite frequently but it is not necessarily the case. It depends on the expertise and the approach of the certifying partner. Standards by definition only follow the forefront of innovation by 2-3 years since this is time it takes to introduce new technical aspects into new standards. Now the speed of innovation has increased drastically in the recent years and the standards have a nowadays a wider gap to the innovations emerging today

Her comes the benefit of CertX. We are contributing to new standard definitions while also being closely connected to the leading edge of innovation through research projects. We trying to support innovation and providing assessments in the light of things to come while maintaining the intention of current safety and security.

Q: Does certification helps in creating a safer, more reliable product?

A: There are lot of proves around and is the result of process rather than a one activity.A certified product is the end result but there is a whole process and qualified staff contributing to it. I compare it with pilots in the cockpit of commercial airplanes. There are always two. One pilot reads down the checklist, the other one flies the plane and executes the task on the checklist. This safety culture approach has been proven to be very effective in past decades and a safe and secure product development follows the same principle.

We are the ones reading down the checklist and thus providing guidance to our clients who finally need to decide on the direction to take. Both pilots are present from the take-off to the landing, i.e. the best results someone gets when “taking off with us” and “flying” with us along the product development. Together with our client we will then land together a product developed right first time and safe & secure.

Q: How does Certx helps companies attain better market acceptance, lower insurance premiums and lower product liabilities risks?

A: As said before – humans are less forgiving to machine mistakes than to other humans and rightfully so. Again the aerospace domain provides us currently a lesson of the economic impact non-safe products do have. A big US aerospace company due to not properly handling the functional safety lost 15% of its shareholder value in the last few months. A safe and secure product will find better market acceptance in the long run, leave alone potential product liability claims. Companies embracing this will outperform companies which don’t.

Q: In which aspects automation in Automotive Industry is different from other industries?

A: I would like to approach this question from the other end. Automotive functional safety is quite similar to many other domains. The challenges today are less related to physical laws of motion since they are mastered to very high degree with sophisticated simulation tools. It is about AI, sensors, PLCs and software all together controlling safety function(s). The impressive aspects is that the whole software in a car has more lines of code than an aircraft fly-by-wire system.

If it flies, drives on tracks or roads is not making a lot of difference to functional safety aspects. So that is our advantage that CertX is engaged in all forms of modern mobility and our clients will benefit from it … in all domains.

Q: How challenging is automotive cybersecurity? How its assessment is done ?

A: While (functional) safety warrants the safety of the car when leaving the factory. Cyber security ensure that it remains safe and cannot be misused though external (remote) access. The topic is not high on the list of car manufacturers while being a real potential threat.

In the EU cars must have a an emergency call function with a SIM card a data connection which typically informs a call center if e.g. a airbag has been released. So there is a connection from the outside to the airbag. Are we sure that no one can misuse the connection in the opposite direction and ignite the airbags? Can no one from the outside access the lane keeping assistance? There are numerous safety critical system potentially exposed and cars have been (ethically) hacked already while in motion. CertX believes that we must pay the same attention to cyber security like we do for safety – two sides of the same coin and in a connected world essential for autonomous systems including those for cars.

(Interview through email exchange)

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