For the everyday consumer, software underwrites more of our daily lives than we ever realize. We interact with software a thousand times a day in a thousand tiny ways – from the obvious like checking our emails and smart phones to depositing a check and shopping for groceries.
At Tricentis, we specialize in seeing the world through the lens of software testing. We understand how much software enhances our daily lives, and the troubling repercussions a software breakdown can have. The year 2014 was filled with scores of dramatic stories of software breakdowns and their consequences on the consumer, the product, and the brand. So far we have looked at some of these stories within the Finance and Government industries; today we look at the Transportation Industry.
In modern times transportation is more controlled by software than it is by iron and petrol. With the degree to which our cars, trains, and planes are dependent on clever programming, it is hard to believe that there was once a time when these methods of transportation ran completely computer-free. Today, software determines everything from airbag deployment to flight patterns for busy airspaces. The upside is that transportation software is continually advancing in safety measures that prevents thousands of accidents every year. The downside? It takes just one software glitch to ground a fleet of planes.
EZ Pass Transactions Miscounted Due to Software Error
Drivers in Virginia this past April received an unwelcome surprise upon learning that the EZ Pass automatic road toll system had been failing to process transactions. The glitch, which reportedly persisted over a period of weeks, resulted in drivers being exempted from their usual toll fees. Catching up on the missed fees however, placed EZ Pass in the uncomfortable position of needing to withdraw large amounts of money from their unsuspecting client’s accounts.
Hundreds of VW Car Bodies Scrapped as Result of Software Problem
A Volkswagen factory discovered software errors in their robotic manufacturing software, resulting in over 700 VW Passat bodies being incorrectly produced. The plant was forced to scrap the 700 vehicle bodies, and beginning working overtime to correct for the error. The costly mistake reportedly has increased pressure on the employees, and resulted in a ‘relieving of duties’ for some of the key plant managers.
Boeing 787 Air India Flight Diverted Due to Software Flaw
Air India diverted one of their Boeing 787s to Kuala Lumpur after the pilots noticed a glitch in the plane software mid-flight. Boeing engineers were immediately flown out from Hong Kong to address and correct the issue; though not without first creating considerable inconvenience to the passengers on board. Unfortunately this news came as the latest of Boeing 787’s numerous software flaws, for which the entire worldwide fleet was grounded last year.
General Motors Recalls Cadillacs in China Over Brake Software Flaw
General Motors recalled over 38,000 Cadillacs in China over a software flaw that caused the brakes to malfunction. Though it is not clear whether any accidents had yet been attributed to the software error, quality watchdog officials reported that the bug could cause the car to accelerate improperly. This incident adds to an unprecedented 5.3 million vehicles that have been recalled in China within the last year.
Ford Fusion Cars Recalled After Discovering Glitch That Causes Cars to Roll Away
Ford Motors recalled over 65,000 Fusion sedans this past November over a software glitch that could cause the cars to roll away. The software glitch allowed for the keys of the vehicle to be removed from the console when the car was turned off, regardless of whether the transmission was in ‘park’ mode. As a result, if the vehicle was on an incline, the vehicle was liable to roll away, causing a surreal “where’s my car?” moment for the owner.
Software Glitch Grounds Flights at Sonoma Airport
A glitch in the software responsible for monitoring weather patterns at the Sonoma Airport in California grounded multiple flights and delayed travel plans for hundreds of passengers this past July. The weather monitoring program had been scheduled for an update that morning, though unexpected complications in the update caused the program to be knocked offline for over 5 hours. According to airport officials, the information provided by the program was essential for calculating safe takeoffs and landings, meaning no flights could proceed until the system was back online.
Honda Recalls 175,000 Hybrid Models Due to Software Malfunction
Honda recalled over 175,000 third generation Fit hybrid vehicles in Japan this past July over a potentially deadly software malfunction. The software error was reported to be located in the engine control unit, and put the car at risk of abruptly speeding up or moving unexpectedly. Eleven accidents were already linked to the software error, though mercifully no deaths had yet been caused by the issue.
Audi Recalls Over 100,000 A4 Cars Due to Airbag Software Glitch
Audi recalled 102,000 luxury model A4 sedans due to a software glitch that could prevent front airbags from deploying during a crash. Unfortunately for Audi, this was not the first airbag related recall they have made for their vehicles, though the larger problem appears to stem from the airbag production themselves. Past airbag malfunctions have included shrapnel explosions upon deployment.
Nissan Infiniti Models Recalled Over Dangerous Software Flaw
Nissan recalled over 5,000 Q50 and Q70 Hybrid models upon discovering a software flaw in the motor inverter that could cause the vehicle to lose power in traffic. The malfunction reportedly affected the car’s electric motor and, in some circumstances, caused the motor to stall and stop working entirely. The worrisome bug greatly increased the risk of traffic accidents for the Q50 and Q70 Hybrid drivers, though Nissan was confident the problem could be solved with a quick software update.
London Airspace Temporarily Closed Due to Air Traffic Software Bug
Early this past December, BBC reported the temporary close of London’s airspace due to a software flaw at the air traffic control center in Stanwick. The failed software, designated to track and plan all incoming and outgoing flights in one of the world’s busiest airspaces, resulted in hundreds of flights being canceled, delayed, or diverted. Unfortunately for the Stanwick control center, this news comes as only the latest in a long list of software failure incidents.
More on Software Failures
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