As with many other products whose operators must be protected against the possibility of injury and death, the International Organization for Standardization's 26262 standard provides concrete guidelines for testing and certification in the area of embedded automotive software.
Related to the International Electrotechnical Commission's 61508 standard, ISO 26262 is a standard based on functional safety. Risk experts differentiate functional safety measures from their passive counterparts by actively checking on potential hazards. A temperature sensor that sends input to a cutoff switch to shut down a system when it is in danger of becoming overheated would be considered a functional safety measure, while a simple coating of fire-retardant material would be passive.
The complicated design and operation of modern automobiles requires the extensive use of embedded software. Consequently, embedded systems testing is at least as important as mechanical checks to automotive systems safety. Checking systems under all possible software conditions - as unlikely as some may be - will allow developers to discover almost all potential bugs or flaws in their software.
Similar standards are in place for many other types of safety-relevant devices, including industrial infrastructure, aircraft and medical technology, providing a degree of protection against possible failure.