A brief history of MISRA C

MISRA was originally established as a collaboration between vehicle manufacturers, component suppliers and engineering consultancies, and seeks to promote best practice in developing safety-related electronic systems in road vehicles and other embedded systems. To this end MISRA publishes documents that provide accessible information for engineers and management, and holds events to permit the exchange of experiences between practitioners.

As part of these activities, MISRA C was first published in 1998. The intention was to provide a "restricted subset of a standardized structured language" as required in the 1994 MISRA Guidelines for automotive systems being developed to meet the requirements of Safety Integrity Level (SIL) 2 and above.

Since its launch in 1998, the uptake and usage of MISRA C has far exceeded the authors's original expectations. MISRA C was originally developed to support the language requirements of the 1994 MISRA Guidelines, as noted above. Since that time, however, MISRA C has been adopted and used across a wide variety of industries and applications including the rail, aerospace, military and medical sectors. Furthermore, a significant number of tools are available that support enforcing the MISRA C rules. In Japan, a Japanese translation of MISRA C has been published by JSAE, and the MISRA C Study Group have produced a book (in Japanese) giving detailed explanations of the rules and additional code examples.


A considerable amount of feedback on the original version of MISRA C was received and it was recognized that a revision was appropriate, in particular to address the following:

  • Ensuring that the language used is consistent with the standard language
  • Replacing generalized rules for Undefined Behaviour with specific rules targeted at Undefined Behaviour only
  • Ensuring "one rule, one issue"; i.e. complex rules are split into atomic rules for ease of compliance
  • Adding to and improving the code examples
  • Removing the option for tool-less use.

In updating MISRA C, the aim was to avoid new material and to ensure backwards compatibility with the earlier version (MISRA C1 / MISRA C:1998) where possible.

The second version of MISRA C is known as MISRA C:2004 and is titled "Guidelines for the use of the C language in critical systems."

In July 2007 an Exemplar Suite was released. This is a set of code examples that demonstrate conforming and non-conforming code for the majority of the MISRA C rules. This Exemplar Suite is of value to users both in understanding the rules and also in evaluating the performance of rule-checking tools, although in this respect it must be understood that the Exemplar Suite is not a conformance testing suite.

In July 2007 a Technical Corrigendum was also issued, giving updates based on some of the most commonly-asked questions and also issues identified during the development of the Exemplar Suite. When MISRA C:2004 was reprinted in June 2008, the opportunity was taken to incorporate the text of the Technical Corrigendum.


MISRA C:2012 was published on 18 March 2013. MISRA C:2012 extends support to the C99 version of the language whilst maintaining guidelines for C90. Other improvements, many of which have been made as a result of user feedback, include: better rationales for every guideline, identified decidability so users can better interpret the output of checking tools, greater granularity of rules to allow more precise control, a number of expanded examples and integration of MISRA AC AGC. A cross reference for ISO 26262 has also been produced.