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

From: Parker, Stephen < >
Date: Tue, 12 Nov 2013 09:25:55 +0000


[Peter Bernard Ladkin]
Toyota knew they had spaghetti code in this acceleration-control kit. They wrote so themselves, which you can see in the evidence

It’s interesting to me that Toyota was aware of this, and were attempting to take steps to try to reduce the problem (which, frankly will occur in any long maintained software project), but this has only negatively affected them.

Had they not had internally documents describing the infelicities in the code then they’d probably be in a stronger position.

The improvement of software often requires frank discussion within a team where the issues are discussed and compromises are made. You can imagine a discussion weighing up, for example, the costs of a ball of spaghetti code (which has seen action in the field) against a rewrite (which will have its own set of bugs that are yet to be discovered). These decisions are rarely easy.

Its worrying that Toyota would be in a better position by not discussing this internally. That seems a recipe for reducing software quality to me.

stephen

Sent: 12 November 2013 06:53
To: Les Chambers
Cc: systemsafety_at_xxxxxx Subject: Re: [SystemSafety] a discursion stimulated by recent discussions of alleged safety-critical software faults in automobile software

It seems worth while making again a point I have made before.

It is not about blame. Which, by the way, I wouldn't necessarily call an emotion (Wikipedia, for example, thinks it is an act). It is about assignment of responsibility for a deleterious event with a view to dispensing compensation. This is a general principle of human behavior and lawmaking for thousands of years and occurs in many if not all human societies. I won't argue here the case for compensating people for harm you have caused them. I'm glad we adhere to it and that I don't live 1600 years ago.

So, if you are a 1970's hotel owner and a rock group trashes some of your rooms, you are entitled to a determination of responsibility, and adequate compensation from those deemed responsible. Since that will often be disputed (likely not by a 1970's rock group, for which it was a source of pride), it needs to be decided by the appropriate means, which for us is a court of law.

It used to be the case in GB that hordes of foreigners came ashore from boats, took what they wanted, trashed the restaurants as if they were Bullingdon boys, and took women into slavery. They had to be fought off. When this started being successful, they quit (apart from those who stayed, which ruined their business model another way). Every three-year old who has played in a sandbox knows this phenomenon, which manifestly does not stop when one is older: John Kenneth Galbraith wrote about the power of large corporations and the consequences for human society between 40 and 55 years ago. So there is also another point to this kind of action: resistance stops other people doing stuff.

Toyota knew they had spaghetti code in this acceleration-control kit. They wrote so themselves, which you can see in the evidence. They also knew and know the consequences of such complexity, namely a lack of control over the behavioral properties of the program. That is also in the evidence. It didn't stop them using the code again and again (it was still in the 2010 model year, apparently). That won't continue. For example, they have recently signed a contract with Altran UK to develop examples of useful code which is free of run-time error.

If you don't like principles of fairness and responsibility, and developed organisations (the courts) with the power to set those principles of fairness for everyone and every organisation without exception, just try doing without it..........

PBL Prof. Peter Bernard Ladkin, University of Bielefeld and Causalis Limited

What bothers me is the alarming repeat performances we have of these disasters. And the eye-watering sums of money spent on forensics and retribution. These events are typically passed over to the legal profession who proceed to dine out on the assignation of blame.......



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systemsafety_at_xxxxxx Received on Tue Nov 12 2013 - 10:27:26 CET

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