Preventing Automotive Software Failures
Once and awhile we review the various automotive industry software failures hitting the news headlines, not with the purpose to embarrass any particular automotive manufacturer but rather to highlight that in most cases such failures could have been avoided with straight forward software development best practices and the right development toolset.
Disclaimer: – Of course it is in our interest to highlight these problems since we provide a toolset designed to assist Automotive Software Developers to meet the best practice in software development as well as to meet compliance requirements internationally via our Automotive ALM, – codeBeamer ALM.
After the catelogue of automotive software failures in 2015, surprisingly the first quarter of 2016 was quiet, with few recorded software failures (that were made public). Then in June 2016 complaints of navigation problems arose about Toyota owned Lexus vehicles, effecting exclusively newer Lexus vehicles manufactured since 2014, those with the Enform System, a more advanced infotainment and navigation system. According to Toyota, their Landcruier was also affected. The sudden failure of these systems was identified to be what all these cars had in common, they had received an Over the Air (OTA) update of the Enform System, – broadcast by satellite. The failure was distracting for drivers, and resulted in a system startup loop, whereby the system would just keep rebooting and could only be stopped by disconnecting the car battery. Toyota has suffered from several high profile, costly software failures in recent years.
Toyota’s software update failure is a good example of how vehicles are become increasing complex as auto manufacturers like Toyota have become reliant upon software and software updates to add automotive features, to keep consumers happy and to remain competitive. Of course many software failures are a result of the big automotive manufacturers not vetting their component suppliers sufficiently where components supplied contain embedded electronics (reliant on software) and that they meet the required international automotive standards. Often it is simply a matter of ensuring component suppliers use the right tools to ensure automotive standards compliance. As automotive software complexity has increased, the numbers of software failures in vehicles also increased, however the vast majority of these failures could have been prevented with the right ALM Software, designed to meet the demands of massive complexity. According to financial advisors Stout Risius Ross (SSR), in their Automotive Warranty & Recall Report 2016, software-related recalls have gone from less than 5 percent of recalls in 2011 to 15 percent by the end of 2015.
This article is also in response to news articles such as this article by the Guardian Newspaper which highlight the problem but do not provide any solution. Similarily we wish to raise awareness at organizations such as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and other automotive regulatory bodies, – internationally that the development methodologies and tools used should be a focus of any increased oversight. Specifically how software solutions such as our own ALM Software, manage complexity is key area for concern with some solutions far better than others as well as how the software meets the transparency and traceability requirements of industry standards. Automotive Manufacturers and their suppliers should be looking to codeBeamer ALM as an industry leader.