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OTA updates. Makes a S/W developer more or less cautious?

Discussion in 'Model S' started by Missile Toad, May 12, 2017.

  1. Missile Toad

    Missile Toad Member

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    So, I see that Fiat-Chrysler has had a run of 'bad luck' in programming their safety equipment. Click through to see how they are recalling over a million of their Ram trucks for a software defect. I'd hate to foot the bill on such a massive movement of metal to the shops. Leaving the question, if Tesla knows it is relatively trivial to push out a new update, does that cause them to be more or less strict with vetting code for errors?
     
  2. Sir Guacamolaf

    Sir Guacamolaf The good kind of fat

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    Unfortunately less cautious, because you can fix your mistakes easily, you are less careful about not making them.

    We saw the same when we went from punch cards to magnetic storage.
     
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  3. ThisIsTrue

    ThisIsTrue Member

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    Happily for them, they don't have to: that's on the owners to get their metal to the shops, and "Who cares?!" about that. It IS still expensive, of course, since they're paying franchisees to do the updates.

    But this is apparently why Tesla rolls out updates slowly: if they see something is wrong (or start getting lots of complaints), they can stop the rollout, patch, and then start rolling out again. And they don't have to pay mechanics to connect computer cables and wait for an upload.
     
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  4. TexLaw

    TexLaw Member

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    I'd like to think that no coder or company would be cavalier about releasing software on safety systems, regardless of how easily it can be updated or fixed. Now, if you're dealing with something not related to safety, I could see how Tesla's OTA updates might let someone think "'good enough' is good enough for now."

    That said, bug-free software is like Santa Claus. We all want it to exist, but we all know it doesn't. The corollary to that is that certain bugs only show up once the software is in the field, no matter how much vetting you do before release. The difference between Tesla and the rest is that Tesla can iron out those bugs on the fly. The rest (and their customers) just have to live with them (or, if it's safety, deal with a major recall). I'll go with Tesla.
     
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  5. ChadS

    ChadS Petroleum is for sissies

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    At no software company I've worked at has attention to quality had anything to do with the software release mechanism.

    It's all about the culture of the company, and the value they place on quality (not the value they write in a mission statement, but in the values demonstrated day-to-day by the employees and managers working there. Culture is a combination of what you reward and punish).

    Musk does have a big hand in setting the tone of the culture, so it is appropriate to ask a modified version of the question: is Musk more forgiving on quality due to the (relative only!) ease of in-the-field updates. It's possible, I suppose - he is always in a hurry. Then again, he seems to be a stickler for safety as well.

    My best guess (though it is only the guess) is essentially the same as TexLaw's. They probably work very hard to keep anything safety-related free of any serious bugs, but likely more lax on, say, infotainment features.
     
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  6. bmah

    bmah Obscure Member

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    At a prior job, I maintained the software update mechanisms for the company's products which, like Teslas, could update themselves with firmware images downloaded over the network. You can be sure I was extra careful when working on that feature because the last thing I wanted was to have a customer download a software build containing a bug where they couldn't install the next software update. :confused:

    (Interestingly the person who originally coded up this feature is now a long-time Tesla employee.)

    Bruce.
     
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  7. Sir Guacamolaf

    Sir Guacamolaf The good kind of fat

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    @bmah - indeed the most precious ability of the software is the ability to update itself. The rest of it can go pound sand. Just look at Windows 10. The update mechanism is highly secure almost bullet-proof. Rest of the OS is bad code hell.
     
  8. Missile Toad

    Missile Toad Member

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    Good points from all. So if I were to build a Tesla-wannabe company, I would software test (and other quality controls) with these priorities in mind:
    1) update mechanisms are robust, authenticated, verified, fail-soft (i.e. resort to previous load if calamity occurs);
    2) any fix/update that affects safety;
    3) any fix/update that might brick the battery or other systems;
    4) everything else.
    Same principals would affect autonomous boats, planes, boring machines, and surgical robots, etc.
     
  9. Sir Guacamolaf

    Sir Guacamolaf The good kind of fat

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    @Missile Toad -

    You have to evaluate risk vs. reward at every step.
    Technology means the rate of rate of change is constantly increasing - and with AI you'll see another differential added on top of that.
    Those who master this basic principle will rule. This is Tesla's key advantage, and even if they are now suffering the effects of point #c below.

    So in that sense,
    a) Re-evaluate every assumption at every step,
    b) Look for opportunities that were previously unthinkable.
    c) Inertia and size is your enemy, simplicity and alacrity to change is your friend.

    i.e. the 4 points you mention, seem valid today - but where will the puck be in the time frame you want to hit the market?
    That is where you need to be.
     
  10. whitex

    whitex Active Member

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    OTA updates are a double edge sword. They allow bug fixes and new features to be deployed quickly. The flip side of this coin has a number of drawbacks though, for example.
    1. New bugs can be deployed just as fast. I vividly remember applying an update to my MS before a road trip, then getting caught on rural highway with no visibility - the update changed the "windshield defroster" button to "windshield froster" - almost got into an accident before I realized WTF was happening.
    2. OTA's also encourage companies to release unfinished (or completely non-functional) features. In Tesla's case they even charge for those future features. In Mobile phone business this usually ends up in features never being completely finished, and once new hardware is released, management has zero motivation to allocate any resources to finishing features for customers that already paid for it, therefore no additional revenue. Anyone thinks we are ever going to get summon at 90 degree driveway for AP1, or actually working blind spot detection, or better auto-parking? Not a priority for Tesla anymore.
    3. OTA's allow companies to treat their customers as QA. Non life/safety critical bugs are more acceptable since they can be fixed soon, so why spend all that money trying to find them by testing before a release.

    I use a number of products that OTA and I have to tell you, I really wish all those companies, Tesla included, would offer 2 tracks for updates:
    1. Safety/security only. Only fix security and safety critical bugs. No new features or improvements.
    2. Full bleeding edge update - what we have today. You get the mixed bag of good and crap.

    Of course track 1 is not possible in Tesla's case today, as they are still delivering basic features included in the base price like automatic wipers (how they managed to deliver 2016 and some 2017 cars without automatic lights is a mystery to me since they are required in the USA. I think they got one passed the regulators by putting a check-mark somewhere based on vapourware).
     

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