The 2013 Prestige Award for Risk Reduction in Mechanical Engineering went to Dr David Ward, Head of Functional Safety at MIRA, in recognition of his outstanding contribution to establishing international standards for system safety in the automotive industry. The award recognises an eminent engineer who has contributed most to the understanding and risk reduction in mechanical engineering.  

david-wardAfter a degree in physics from the University of Cambridge, Dr Ward did a PhD studying the different electromagnetic effects of lightning on aircraft. From there he moved to MIRA, the engineering, research and test consultancy, to work on a research project looking at electromagnetic fields and their effects in cars. “Moving from a general degree to a specialisation, and combining practical and theoretical experience, was a sound foundation for an engineering career,” he says.

As the amount of software in cars increased, so Dr Ward has become an expert on the implications for the control systems, safety and reliability of the vehicle. These efforts began with MISRA (The Motor Industry Software Reliability Association) and have continued with the development of the international standard ISO 26262, which Dr Ward and his team at MIRA continue to influence. Dr Ward has been instrumental in the development of codes of practice for the design, development and verification of embedded software, which has significant implications for vehicle safety. “It is important to have common standards and common approach, as this leads to good practice and efficiency in the supply chain.”

Starting as recommendations for automotive applications, MISRA guidelines are now being adopted by the rail, aerospace, military and medical sectors. “All industries need safe products,” Dr Ward explains. “While the constraints may vary between sectors, they can all learn from each other and recognise the benefits of having a common approach to safe systems.”

As the software in the automotive industry moves inexorably from driver assistance to driverless cars, the importance of safety increases still further. The standards and regulators need to have a common approach and must keep pace with the technology. The standards need to extend their scope beyond passenger vehicles to all vehicles and ultimately to the road transport infrastructure. Dr Ward explains: “Customers increasingly want the same level of comfort in the car as at home, with the same services. Greater connectivity with increased safety and security is the challenge.”
Dr Ward is a keen supporter of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers. “It is an important resource and has a key role in making the voice of engineering heard. Engineers need to be able to exchange ideas and recognise good practice.” He is keen to help nurture the next generation of engineers and is currently a mentor of a young engineer.
Dr David Ward said: “I am exceptionally proud to have been awarded the Institution Prestige Award for Risk Reduction in Mechanical Engineering. Winning this accolade reiterates MIRA’s leading position in functional safety, which has a direct impact on the safety of the vehicles used by consumers and industry every day. To be recognised for my work on these influential activities and to be part of an innovative global team is something I’m really proud of.”

Find out more about the Award for Risk Reduction in Mechanical Engineering