Can Software Kill?...um, yes....
The real question is how many have been killed by software!In a previous post, I discussed Toyota's Killer Software which most-likely has resulted in dozens of deaths. However, cars are not the only devices with software that has killed humans. Between 1985 and 1987 at least 6 people were given massive amounts of radiation by broken software in the Therac-25 radiation therapy machine, resulting in at least 3 deaths.
Other medical devices may have software that has killed. The Software Freedom Law Center is calling for transparency in implantable medical devices (IMD) and mentions at least 6 recalls of IMDs by the FDA due to bad software. It would really make your day to have your pacemaker or insulin pump malfunction and send you to the ER or morgue.
Weapon systems have had major software failures too. In 1991, a Patriot missile battery experienced a software error in time calculation. This caused it to not be able to intercept a Scud missile resulting in the deaths of 28 soldiers.
Software doesn't have to kill to cause a lot of damage. This list of computer software blunders has some great stories and lessons for us all. Here are a few more including exploding rockets with the wrong software....
Clearly, software used in critical functions needs to be tested and evaluated. It needs to be evaluated by 3rd parties and must be developed using well-defined, controlled, audit-able processes. Software engineers and programmers need to do a MUCH better job.
Now are you ready for that self-driving car? Will it be safe? "Yes, it's safe! Trust Us!"