Electronic News & Comment

Problems Loom Large for Autonomous Cars

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Parris Boyd
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Consumers deserve better
Parris Boyd   4/4/2014 10:40:33 AM
Government agencies have become mouthpieces for the businesses they are supposed to regulate. This was demonstrated in no uncertain terms when freelance writer David Benjamin asked the Department of Justice - point blank, in writing - if they were aware of Michael Barr's findings. The DOJ's response? A curt "No comment."

Right on for Charles Murray and Design News exposing the facts about the pathetic state of affairs in the auto industry. Insofar as Toyota is concerned, I've been blogging about the Recall King - Beware of Toyota. Their next victim may be YOU... - and took great pleasure writing yesterday's post, "March sales DOWN for Toyota brand cars." The much ballyhooed Prius - which has figured prominently in the sudden unintended acceleration issue - took a 16 percent drop. Consumers have good reason to wonder if there are unresolved problems in Toyota's electronic throttle control.

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Re: Interesting post
fm   4/4/2014 10:33:09 AM
The avionics industry has been dealing with software safety for lots of years. There's an industry standard for software development that sets out the degree of oversight and rigor that they have to go through just to be able to fly a single line of code. The amount of overhead combined with writing the code in the first place results in an average of just a few lines of code written PER HOUR. It's a tremendous effort, and it does pay off - software problems on airplanes are rare (a Blue Screen of Death takes on a whole new meaning!). The downside is that the software becomes very expensive. If the automotive folks go down that road (not a bad idea -- and pun not intended!), we can expect to pay big $$$ for it.

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Software Safety
Reliabilityguru   4/4/2014 9:35:45 AM
Software reliability and safety are not new topics anymore. Not in the defense industry anyway. There are books and experts and a wealth of experience in software design that does everything from drive by wire to arming and firing lethal mechanisms without human oversight or intervention. Because of weapon system lethality, these software designs are more safety critical than autonomous control of cars. Establishment of requirements and standards is always the first step.

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Re: Bug free software for safety critical applications
Jim_E   4/4/2014 9:27:52 AM
There may be no software in the 60163 Tornado, but isn't the boiler out for repairs for the seconds time since being built?  Apparently modern steels and welded boiler construction can't match the older stuff!  Okay, I'll admit that the rapid fire-ups of this locomotive aren't helping matters.

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Re: Bug free software for safety critical applications
Davek3gau   4/4/2014 9:19:08 AM


That's funny!  You are absolutely right, and no buggy software! :-)

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Re: Interesting post
Zippy   4/4/2014 8:54:40 AM
In principle, requiring common safety standards for automotive software is no different than requiring seatbelts that meet load standards, but it is 1) technically more complex and 2) the current political polarization would prevent anything reasonable from happening.  It is a quirk of human nature that 35,000 fatalities in the US annually due to car accidents is a yawn, but 200 people dying in a plane crash is headline news for weeks.

Elizabeth M
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Interesting post
Elizabeth M   4/3/2014 10:37:16 AM
I have to admit that when I read the headline I thought this was going to be about something different! But it's actually really interesting to hear about the problems in terms of cooperation and compatibility that car makers and others in this industry have, and how crucial it actually is to making technology like this work. It is an interesting angle to a complicated story, Chuck, and I think it's really good you called them out on this. Safety is going to be a key issue if this vision of autonomous cars and "smart highways" is going to work. I am personally quite skeptical!

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Bug free software for safety critical applications
Battar   4/3/2014 9:55:49 AM
If you want to see an example of a high powered, high speed, 21st century (2008) vehicle with 100% bug-free software, guaranteed, look here - 


Other than that, no one can assure you that the software will be free of bugs.

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