Automotive News managing editor Phil Nussel provides an good analysis of the announcement from the National Academy of Sciences on the closing of its Toyota investigation.
The major flaw from NAS is in saying that there are untraceable electronic faults that can cause problems. Having spent 17 years working on automotive electronic control systems, I have to humbly disagree. Hardware and software bugs can be enormously difficult to diagnose. But given enough time and effort, they can eventually be traced. Software and processors are discrete systems that can only do what they are instructed to do. Stuff doesn't just happen. Sooner or later a systematic approach will determine the root cause.
Where we have a real problem is on the regulatory side where NHTSA has not kept up with the rapid pace of development in the auto industry. They need more experienced engineers to conduct investigations. They also need to be given complete access to source code for all control software in new vehicles. While I'm a proponent of open source, for a number of reasons that isn't a viable option in the auto industry. But outsiders do need to be check out the code as part of an investigation. Investigators also need to understand the development tools used to produce and test code.
Unfortunately the current fiscal state of the US government and republican resistance to any additional spending or expansion of government operations means none of this is likely to happen. Oh Well.
#automotive #safety #automotivesafety
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