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Vulkan graphics and compute for the safety-critical industry

Vulkan SC is a streamlined, deterministic, robust API based on Vulkan 1.2 that enables state-of-the-art GPU-accelerated graphics and computation to be deployed in safety-critical systems that are certified to meet industry functional safety standards.

The Vulkan SC 1.0 Final Specification Has Landed Safely

Launched March 1, 2022

The release of the Vulkan SC 1.0 specification marks an important milestone in delivering a new generation of safety-critical APIs. Based on the Vulkan 1.2 API Vulkan SC meets the needs of safety-critical systems to leverage the performance of modern GPUs to satisfy their graphics and compute requirements.

The design of Vulkan SC gives safety-critical application developers detailed control of GPU acceleration in a way that can be rigorously specified and tested to meet safety certification standards such as RTCA DO-178C Level A / EASA ED-12C Level A (avionics); IEC 61508 (industrial), IEC 62304 (Medical), and ISO 26262 ASIL D (automotive).

Vulkan SC removes functionality from Vulkan 1.2 API that is not needed for safety-critical markets, increases the robustness of the specification by eliminating ignored parameters and undefined behaviors, and enables enhanced detection, reporting, and correction of run-time faults.

  • Streamlined: Remove non-essential runtime functionality (e.g. sparse memory, descriptor update templates and certain types of object deleters).
  • Deterministic: Predictable execution times and results (e.g. offline compilation of pipelines, static memory allocation and high degree of control over resource management with explicit synchronization )
  • Robust: Remove Ambiguity (No ignored parameters or undefined behaviors, enhanced fault handling and reporting functionality, rigorous Vulkan SC Conformance Test Suite and MISRA C alignment)

Additional information can be found in the blog post: Vulkan SC Overview - and how it is different from the Vulkan you already know.

“Vulkan 1.2’s modern design for explicit control over GPU resources was the ideal foundation for building this next-generation safety-critical GPU API that provides significantly increased performance and control over graphics and compute dataflows than was possible with OpenGL SC 2.0. Vulkan SC 1.0 enables detailed design and control of device scheduling, synchronization, and resource management, making it the ideal API for developing the next generation of safety-critical graphics and compute applications targeting modern GPUs.”

Overview Presentation

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Industry Support for Vulkan SC

“Functional safety is paramount for any autonomous system deployed in vehicles, robots, factories and beyond. Through our partnership with CoreAVI and The Khronos Group, we’re addressing the complex requirements of autonomous use cases using Arm’s first high-performance, safety-capable GPU, Mali-G78AE, and ISO26262-certified Vulkan SC drivers, Mali-G78AE VKCore. The release of Vulkan SC 1.0 marks an important milestone in enabling developers to leverage the full capabilities of safety-capable Mali GPUs and create robust code for safety-critical use cases.”

Tom Conway
Senior Director of Product Management, Automotive and IoT Line of Business, Arm

“Artificial intelligence is being brought into every aspect of our lives and in some cases safety is essential, such as for self-driving cars. At Codeplay, we believe that the future of technology should be built on open industry standards and that safety must be taken very seriously. That’s why we are leading members of the SYCL industry standard that is being used for the next generation of supercomputers and why we are also interested in using Vulkan SC compute capabilities with SYCL to support safe software development for the innovations of tomorrow.”

Andrew Richards
CEO, Codeplay

“CoreAVI is excited that our engineers have been an integral part of the creation of the new Vulkan SC API open industry standard. We believe this technology comes at the perfect time in the evolution of safety-critical systems and leads the way for the future of the new autonomous world.”

Damian Fozard

“At Imagination, we are focused on delivering differentiated safety solutions, covering both GPU HW and DDK, to leading automotive manufacturers and Tier 1s. As a long-standing advocate of Khronos safety APIs we were proud to be one of the first supporters of OpenGL SC 2.0. We are committed to delivering best-in-class safety drivers, working closely with Khronos on the definition of Vulkan SC for next-generation safety-critical use cases in automotive and beyond.”

Janos Lakatos
Director of Software Engineering - DDK Safety Critical, Imagination Technologies

“Mobica is delighted to have played a key role in the development of the Vulkan® Safety-Critical (SC) 1.0 Specification and its conformance testing capabilities. We are excited to see how this royalty-free API will benefit safety critical industries from the advanced GPU graphics now available.”

Gary Butters
CRO, Mobica

“Vulkan SC will broaden the adoption of GPU acceleration in safety-critical systems and real-time applications. Vulkan SC 1.0 is a significant milestone and NVIDIA is proud to have participated in its design at Khronos. We have conformant Vulkan SC 1.0 running today on our DRIVE and Jetson platforms, which was critical to proving the API’s architecture, and we will be rolling out drivers to our developers during 2022.”

Kevin Flory
Vice President of Automotive Software, NVIDIA

Conformance Testing & Implementations

The Vulkan SC Conformance Test Suite (CTS) is built upon the robust Vulkan CTS and provides an important tool for API implementers to exercise the completeness of their implementations. The rigorous CTS also assists system integrators to confirm specification compatibility while maximizing software portability and reuse across systems.

Conformant implementations are running today on:

  • CoreAVI’s VkCore® SC graphics and compute drivers
  • NVIDIA DRIVE and Jetson Platforms.
  • View Conformant Products for more details

Khronos welcomes any company creating safety-critical hardware or systems to implement and ship the Vulkan SC API. Implementors wanting to use the Vulkan SC name or logo in connection with and implementation and enjoy the protection of the Khronos Intellectual Property Framework should become a Vulkan SC Adopter. This requires passing the Conformance Tests and is independent from being a Khronos member.

Join the Vulkan SC Community

There are several ways to follow the latest Vulkan SC developments, provide feedback on the specification, and get your questions answered. It's a great way to get involved and will help forge the Vulkan SC community and ecosystem.

Join Khronos. If you would like to participate directly in the ongoing development of the Vulkan SC standard please join Khronos and become a member of the Vulkan SC Working Group.

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Khronos Safety-Critical GPU API Evolution

Khronos has close to 20 years experience in adapting mainstream APIs for safety critical markets. In 2005 OpenGL SC 1.0 defined a minimal subset of OpenGL ES 1.0 for easier certification to the DO-178B standard for avionics displays. When OpenGL ES 2.0 introduced programmable shaders, OpenGL SC 2.0 integrated that functionality for ISO 26262 certification for automotive displays. And now Khronos has defined a safety critical subset of Vulkan to create Vulkan SC.

An Invitation to Join the Khronos Safety-Critical Advisory Forum

KSCAF LogoThe Vulkan SC Working Group works closely with the Khronos Safety-Critical Advisory Forum (KSCAF) which is open to any organization to join, with no charge or Khronos membership obligations. The KSCAF provides insight, best practises and feedback to help aid the design of safety-critical APIs across multiple domains, including avionics and automotive industries. Experienced practitioners in the field of safety critical system design are invited to apply for KSCAF membership.

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