Re: [SystemSafety] a discursion stimulated by recent discussions of alleged safety-critical software faults in automobile software

From: Andrew Rae < >
Date: Mon, 11 Nov 2013 14:51:06 +0000

You make a valid point. In my case there is a simple answer:

I want to tell the story to other people as a way of motivating and reinforcing the lessons. In putting together a story, I need to be concerned with factual accuracy. I also want to include the accident, because whether I like it or not, it's a much more compelling story when cars crash and people get hurt.

You're absolutely right that the lessons are there to be learnt regardless of whether the software caused the accident or not.

Like you I work in England, and I definitely don't want to state or imply causality where none exists. I can get around it a little by telling a story about the court case rather than about the accident, but this requires a lot of care, since just reporting someone else's words can still be defamation, even if they said it in a jurisdiction where it wasn't defamation.

(As the twitter cases indicated, even hypotheticals don't help if there is an obvious real-world meaning from the context).


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On 11 November 2013 14:39, Martyn Thomas <martyn_at_xxxxxx

> (I'm writing this in England. We don't have a constitution that
> guarantees freedom-of-expression. Indeed, we have become a favourite
> destination for libel tourists. )
> Let's suppose that in a purely fictional sequence of events, a
> manufacturer that develops and sells safety-related consumer products
> installs some very badly written software in one of their products:
> software that could lead to injury or death. Let's further suppose that
> an accident happens that, when investigated, turns out to be of the sort
> that the bad software could have caused.
> Let's speculate that n this fictional case, the manufacturer suffers
> serious penalties and as a result vows to write much better software in
> future, changes their development methods, significantly reduces the
> likelihood of safety-related errors in their future products, and (by
> acting as a warning to others of the consequences) influences other
> companies to make similar improvements.
> That would be a lot of good things that resulted from the discovery of
> the badly-written software and most or all of them might not have
> happened if the bad software had been discovered without an accident and
> a finding of liability.
> Of course, this is fiction and the good outcomes described above are
> hypothetical.
> But a man can dream and, if such a set of circumstances were ever to
> arise, why would I care whether the bad software did actually cause the
> accident?
> Martyn
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