Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Become a software specialist at the NHTSA

The Morning Call is reporting on US senators who are slamming against the NHTSA, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The NHTSA is responsible for making sure the vehicles driving on highways are save for use. They should test and check new cars and equipment and clear it to be used in the US.

The issue the senators are bringing up is that the NHTSA are more concerned on low tech things and are not looking enough into the technical details of “new” technology. Things like checking the chips and computer software in the Toyota cars were not looked into enough or in a correct way.

"I don't know if NHTSA turned a blind eye because they didn't understand chips or the electronics," said LaHood, who has been in his position since early 2009 and oversees NHTSA.

This makes one wonder if government agencies like the NHTSA are (ever) able to pick up speed on new technologies like the complex computer software of a new type of car. Possibly a government, and not only the US government, should outsource things like this to a company who might be better equipped and who has better trained and qualified people to look deeply into software and chip technology.

The software bugs found in the software from Toyota is something you should not detect easily. Toyota has tested it extensively and the bug will be most likely something hard to spot. Maybe it is a good idea that a organization like the NHTSA demands a second software test and debugging from a third party who is specialized in testing and car software.

In the “old” days testing was done by developers and groups of users who tested the software and reported the results back so developers could repair the bugs. Today a lot of software testing is done automatically by executing millions of scenarios and receiving automated reports on what went wrong under which conditions. A company like Vectorcast for example is specialized automated testing of embedded systems written in C, C++ or Ada.

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