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Demand for advanced GPU-accelerated graphics and compute is growing in a wide range of industries where safety is paramount, such as automotive and avionics. When a compute or display system failure would pose a significant safety risk it is vital that systems meet safety-critical standards such as ISO 26262.

Vulkan SC is a low-level, deterministic API that enables safety-critical system implementers to deploy state-of-the-art GPU graphics and compute acceleration by streamlining the system-level safety certification process. Vulkan SC can also be invaluable for real-time embedded applications, even if not formally safety certified.

Vulkan SC 1.0 is evolved from Vulkan 1.2 and includes the removal of runtime functionality that is not needed in safety-critical markets, an updated design to provide predictable execution times and results, and clarifications to remove potential ambiguity in its operation. The definitive list of changes and added functionality is documented in the Vulkan SC 1.0 Specification Appendix H: Vulkan SC Deviations from Base Vulkan.

This article provides a summary of the updates that have been made to create Vulkan SC 1.0, and explains how these new capabilities are typically used in applications. It is assumed that the reader has a reasonable understanding of the Vulkan API.

The upcoming release of the Vulkan® SC™ 1.0 specification by Khronos will mark an important milestone in developing an open API standard that leverages the performance of modern GPUs to satisfy the graphics and compute needs of future safety critical systems. As the Vulkan SC Working Group continues to make significant progress, we take this opportunity to share some of the challenges that have been overcome on our journey to define a state-of-the-art API specifically designed to benefit the automotive and avionics industries.