(Image courtesy of Robert Basic, Creative Commons).

Mentor Graphics Backs Functional Safety Bet with Austemper Design Systems

Less than two years after Siemens bought Mentor Graphics for $4.5 billion, it continues to expand into electronic design automation software. Last year, it acquired San Jose, California-based startup Solido Design Automation, which makes machine learning software that can optimize complex chip designs for lower power consumption and verification tools that screen chips before manufacturing.

On Friday, the company bought Austin, Texas-based startup Austemper Design Systems, which was founded by Sanjay Pillay in 2015. The company’s software tests that chips are safe from electrical faults resulting from high temperatures, radiation, vibration and other factors in automotive, industrial and aerospace applications where high reliability is mandatory. The tools can also suggest changes to what they identify as vulnerable areas of silicon.

These are critical protections for autonomous driving systems as well as factory robots that collaborate with humans. This functional safety is central to automotive standards like ISO26262, which is used to determine that the code running inside chips that control collision avoidance, lane-change warnings, and other functions can continue working through faulty signals. Testing functional safety before chips are manufactured is increasingly valuable.

“In automotive systems, it is difficult to inject faults into physical devices,” said Robert Bates, chief safety officer of Mentor Graphics, in an interview last July. "It’s kind of destructive. You can do fault injection testing once, then you have to go out and buy new boards.” Both Cadence and Synopsys are expanding into functional safety software for cars, while OpenSpin Solutions, a former unit of the automotive chip maker Infineon, is also addressing the space.

Many automotive, industrial and aerospace chips must be protected against systemic, malicious and random hardware faults. While Mentor Graphics’ software flags down both systematic and malicious faults, Austemper’s tools can address random hardware faults through safety analysis and fault simulations as well as automatically correcting issues with chips. The acquisition will help Mentor Graphics offer customers a more complete functional safety solution.

"In all of these markets, customers need to innovate more nimbly, but it is imperative they also build these systems with the highest degree of safety in mind,” said Tony Hemmelgarn, chief executive offer of Siemens PLM Software, in a statement. The terms of the acquisition, which is expected to close next month, were not disclosed. The company said that Austemper’s tools would be integrated into Mentor Graphics’ software suite.

TAGS: Automotive
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