Between 1985 and 1987, there were at least 6 distinct accidents where the Therac-25 radiation therapy machine delivered up to 100 times the prescribed radiation dose, resulting in injury and death. These high-profile accidents demonstrated that embedded software can be dangerous, even lethal. In the decades since, and despite increasing regulation, safety-critical system failures have continued to kill people.
As embedded software's size and complexity continue to rapidly progress, user safety increasingly relies upon safe and reliable firmware implementations. Nowhere is this more evident than in the automotive industry, where self-driving vehicles are a much-hyped and potentially invaluable part of our future.
Barr Group co-founder and CTO Michael Barr presents an engaging discussion of the past, present, and future of embedded software safety. To view the keynote slides, click on this image:
Unfortunately--though safety standards and guidelines have been ratified and promoted many times across the decades--best practices are not universally followed and enforced in all industries.