Thales has specified a Safe Computing Platform for future rail operations with railway operators and industry

The railway sector in Europe is on the verge of its largest technology leap in its history, with many railways aiming at large degrees of automation in rail operation to substantially increase the capacity, quality and efficiency of the rail system.

With digitalization, a large number of new technologies will enter the railway system that place high safety requirements on IT environments. To meet railway’s demands in a constantly evolving future, Thales follows a platform strategy since more than 20 years with constant enhancements towards digitalisation. With the TransVital™ platform running on more than 50,000 instances in the field, Thales has extensive experience in the field of safety-critical railway solutions. Together with partners from the rail sector and industry, Thales cooperates to move forward on this subject.

Besides the introduction of enhanced Control Command and Signaling (CCS) approaches, and the introduction of novel technologies such as advanced sensing and artificial intelligence into the rail system, it is also necessary to design the appropriate IT platforms for future rail operation. In this context, the railway initiatives Reference CCS Architecture (RCA) [ref] and Open CCS Onboard Reference Architecture (OCORA) [ref] have started working on a Safe Computing Platform concept [White Paper] in 2020, which is expected to provide the basis for safety-relevant railway applications for both onboard and trackside deployments. A key design paradigm is the introduction of a standardized method for separating applications from the computing platform. This decouples domains with very distinct lifecycles and leverages latest advances in the IT sector, while still leaving room for vendor differentiation on the detailed computing platform implementation.

With the introduction of enhanced Control Command and Signaling (CCS) approaches, and novel technologies such as advanced sensing and artificial intelligence into the rail system, it is necessary to design the appropriate IT platforms for future rail operation. In this context, the railway initiatives Reference CCS Architecture (RCA) and Open CCS Onboard Reference Architecture (OCORA) started working on a Safe Computing Platform concept [ref to White Paper] in 2020, which is expected to provide the basis for safety-relevant railway applications for both onboard and trackside deployments. A key design paradigm is the introduction of a standardized method for separating applications from the computing platform. This decouples domains with very distinct lifecycles and leverages latest advances in the IT sector, while still leaving room for vendor differentiation on the detailed computing platform implementation.

To take this work to the next stage, the railways and industry players DB Netz AG, duagon AG, Nederlandse Spoorwegen, Real-Time Innovations (RTI), SBB, Siemens Mobility GmbH, SNCF Voyageurs, SNCF Réseau, SYSGO GmbH, Thales and Wind river have jointly developed a first version of the specification of the possible Application Programming Interface (API) between railway applications and the Safe Computing Platform and published this in OCORA Release 2 [ref].

The published work includes a general definition of the concepts, key design paradigms for safe communication and computation, and implementation guidelines. Further, an analysis was conducted as to how functions defined in the POSIX standard could be reused for the desired API. Several open points were identified during this process that will require further specification work in the context of Europe’s Rail program. Overall, the published work provides a solid basis for further specification and prototyping of possible Safe Computing Platform implementations.

Thales would like to thank all partners for the excellent and fruitful collaboration in the past months, and the very diverse content and perspectives that were brought in!

Link to the publication in OCORA Release 2: LINK

Thales supports this initiative in order to build a mobility of the future we can all trust. Find here more information about the Thales TransVital™ secured platform for SIL 4 applications or about the underlying TAS Platform technology.

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