Driverless cars raise the stakes for test management

Driverless cars raise the stakes for test management

Software testing As technology continues to advance, it’s the job of QA teams to adapt and stay ahead. This guest post from test management expert Zephyr takes a look at driverless cars, and what they mean for the future of test management.

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Computers, mobiles and beyond

There are many new frontiers for software as it moves beyond PCs, phones and tablets.

The car is one of the most promising, since its current user interface and experience feels downright old-fashioned compared to the scores of other endpoints that are connected to the Internet.

Designing software for automobiles is not a light undertaking, though. The margin for error is small, since a glitch, bug, or even simple unresponsiveness could compromise driver and passenger safety.

It’s therefore essential that testing and quality assurance for in-vehicle applications is comprehensive. To that end, a test management and automation system enables a collaborative, streamlined process, one that is essential for screening critical apps, even on a demanding schedule.

Not every company will develop for cars. However, even ones that don’t would do well to take note of the rising stakes of software testing and apply the lessons to their own procedures.

Software updates may soon come to cars

CNN Money’s Jose Pagliery sketched out a future in which prompts such as “update available,” already commonplace on mobile devices, would be fixtures in the car as well. Automobiles such as the Tesla Model S already have built-in 3G networking, which is almost certainly a sign of things to come.

There are several reasons for putting more software into cars. Regularly distributed patches, like the ones that pop up on a PC, could resolve issues that would otherwise require a trip to a mechanic. Similarly, features such as seatbelts or airbags could be protected with antivirus software to prevent attack or tampering.

The car could also evolve into an entertainment center. If driverless technology ever takes off, then having more options for apps, music and video will become increasingly appealing.

“Your car’s dashboard will soon function like a tablet, running all sorts of apps – navigation, weather, social media – within the ‘infotainment’ system,” wrote Pagliery. “That means auto companies must develop their own version of the Apple iTunes App Store or Google Play Store.”

Bug-free software essential for safe driving and riding

The possibilities are exciting, but skeptics are right to be concerned about the quality of the underlying software. The move to cars that are not only networked but also driverless means that QA processes become more more critical than ever.

“[A]ny driverless car will be dependent upon bug-free software,” wrote Graham Pitcher for Newelectronics. “And, as one of the contributions to the debate at last year’s show asked, has anyone written bug-free software?”

It is quite possible to write bug-free software, and it is being done since decades.NASAand other organizations have mastered the art of writing sophisticated software – they are capable of accurately send a rocket thousands of miles to Mars by programming the rocket to move in certain direction with extreme speed.

Similarly, Boeing and Airbus have built thousands of jets carrying millions of passengers each day with flawless records.

The question is not about whether one could write bug-free software. The question is: What can we learn from various industries and borrow to make sure this software is defect-free?

Testers need to be prepared for ever-increasing complexity in the coming years. The F-35 the stealth aircraft, for example, has anywhere between 8 – 10 million lines of code. But aircrafts don’t have too many decisions to make once they are airborne; cars, on the other hand, need to be in a constant mode of awareness to avoid accidents.

Driverless cars are expected to have 100 million lines of code.

It will certainly be a challenge for QA teams to adapt to new technologies and tools, but for  testers who are already bored by testing the usual — user interfaces,  tax programs or iPhone apps — the thought of testing a real car which they might soon be driving is an exciting one. The important thing is that it’s a challenge we get right: tax programs or iPhone apps won’t harm a life, but a driverless car with defects could.

Clearvision is proud to partner with Zephyr. Zephyr’s cutting edge test management solutions are part of the Spectrum best of breed family – for more visit: http://spectrumalm.com/tools/commercial/.

Don’t stop your learning here! Check out Git 101, your free one stop guide to the basics of Git, including a Git cheat sheet to help you on your way!

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