Thursday, July 7, 2016

Self-driving vehicles and test code coverage

As many of us know, a world of self-driving vehicles is coming quickly. These vehicles do this with computer software.

I'd like to share a thought with others to start a discussion.

I generally hesitate to ask for rules and procedures, but in this case, I feel our lives may depend on it.

Should we ask auto-manufacturers to provide some kind of metric about source code test coverage as a percentage for the self-driving portion of the source code?

I acknowledge that 100% test code coverage does not guarantee reliable software. I also feel personally certain that I don't want a vehicle driving me around that has no Unit Tests or automated tests as part of the development, build and test process.

I have seen too much in my career to expect this to be safe.

Why do I bring this to people's attention now?

Many people do not know that there is an ongoing discourse in the software industry relating to the delivery of features versus appropriately testing software. I won't talk about this here. Do an internet search on "Extreme Programming" or "Test Automation" as a place to start. You'll see how important testing is to software.

It is not uncommon to hear comments in the software industry such as "Oh, it will be fine, it can go out with that bug", or "we'll fix it later", or my least favourite....

"We don't have time to write tests. 
We need to get the feature out."

Personally, I don't want to let a vehicle drive me where the developers have been pressured (or the developers have decided on their own) to write code without tests. Not all companies or developers are this way! I do not intend on painting them with a big brush.

I want to be clear.  I have zero knowledge of any vehicle manufacturer acting irresponsibly to-date. I am just thinking about my future and I don't want this topic to come up when it's far too late for myself, family or friends.

I have been in the software business long enough to know that I have a responsibility to society to bring this up now.

There's no perfect answer to appropriate code coverage with tests, Please don't get that impression. 

All I ask of you is that we find a way to not let this important conversation just disappear.
Letting auto manufacturers (new and old) know we care about code quality for self-driving vehicles will already go a long way.

If you are in the self-driving car business, please consider this as an important topic. Even if you disagree, I'll be happy because at least you thought about it.

I think about it this way.. I am saving my own life.