Zero-Fault Car Electronics

Computer scientists are working on a proof that operating systems are free of design and programming errors.

More and more electronics is employed in vehicle safety. As a result, however, the error rate has risen. According to the General German Automobile Club (ADAC) one third of all vehicle failures are due to electronic deficiencies, out of which around 80% are software errors. A research group under the management of professor Wolfgang Paul, Computer Science Department Saarbrücken, is presently working on a new technology with which it can be technically guaranteed that the vehicle systems no longer contain such errors. The knowledge obtained is then to be employed in a vehicle emergency call system that automatically alerts the rescue centre in case of an accident. The scientists assume that in the near future it will not be possible to market vehicle and plane safety technology without these correctness guarantees. They are presenting their research results at the CeBIT 2005 in Hanover.

Whenever it is proved that a computer system performs its mathematically accurate guidelines correctly, we speak of formal verification. The necessary methods have been developed by scientists in the Verisoft research project, which has been funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) for two years. Up to now, industry has spend a lot of time testing computer systems and often finding only small defects. It has been looking for, so to speak, a needle in a haystack. 'Through our methods we can find every needle in the haystack, even the tiniest, as early as the construction stage,' explains professor Wolfgang Paul. Industry can benefit from Verisoft enormously. New systems can be developed faster and at lower cost. Furthermore, vehicle manufacturers can avoid, for example, expensive callbacks because of disorders in the automotive electronics. 'In the future the manufacturer will be able to guarantee that their computer systems have been constructed free of faults. This will also affect the safety regulations and norms,' says the computer science professor from Saarbrücken. He expects that this will bring a competitive advantage for the federal industry, as the local research on the topic of verification occupies a leading worldwide position.

In the past year the Verisoft scientists have thoroughly examined the automatic vehicle emergency call as an example of a complex system and described all the operations in mathematical formulas. This accurate modelling creates the basis for the possibility to prove an error-free design not only in hard- and software but in communication systems as well. At the request of the European Union and the car industry, the automatic vehicle emergency call, as published recently, will be installed in all new vehicles from 2009 on. When involved in an accident, the vehicle automatically dials an emergency call centre and sends the exact coordinates of the place of accident as well as further vehicle data. For that scenario to function without errors, it is necessary not only to have a large number of correctly working independent processors in the vehicle, but also the interaction between different software like GPS, mobile phone, and crash sensors.

The Verisoft research project has been funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) since 2003 with 3.7 million Euro per year. The project lead management is executed by Saarland University. For the scientific part of the project, they collaborate with the technical universities of Darmstadt, Karlsruhe and Munich as well as with the Research Centre for Artificial Intelligence and the Max-Planck Institute in Saarbrücken. Industrial partners are Infineon Technologies AG, T-Systems International GmbH, BMW AG and the middle-sized Absint GmbH.

The Verisoft project will be presented at the CeBIT in Hanover from 10th till 16th March 2005 at the Saarland research booth (Hall 9, Booth D09). At the CeBIT's 'Future Talk Forum' (Hall 9, Booth C16) the scientific manager of project Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Paul will give a talk on 'Construction of guaranteed error-free operating system kernels'.

To arrange an appointment during the CeBIT, please call:

Tel. +49 (511) 89-697558 or Fax +49 (511) 89-597558

Revision 14 Mar 2006