CeBIT 2006: Bug-free Automobile Soft- and Hardware

Computer scientists prove for an automatic car emergency call “eCall” that soft- and hardware are guaranteed to be free of design errors — Research project Verisoft at the CeBIT booth of the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF)

Modern cars have more and more electronic components, a lot of them implementing security mechanisms like airbag or ABS. Unfortunately, the number of errors in these systems rises significantly with the number and complexity of these components. According to the General German Automobile Club (ADAC) a third of all breakdowns result from deficiencies in the electronics, of which about 80 percent are software errors. To avoid the difficult and expensive search for those errors by testing, scientists in the Verisoft project lead by Wolfgang Paul, computer-science professor at Saarbrücken, already start before the actual production begins. They show that the soft- and hardware used in vehicles satisfy exact consistent mathematical specifications. By these means, the absence of logical errors in the design of hard- and software can be proven with a maximum of reliability. Currently no manufacturer or supplier can give a comparable kind of guarantees for any of their products. In order to show the feasibility of their approach, the scientists are investigating an exemplary yet representative setup: eCall is an automatic car emergency call, which can save time and life in the case of an accident. eCall has been proposed by the EU Commission to become mandatory from 2009.

The latest results of their research will be presented from 9th to 15th March 2006 at the CeBIT 2006 in Hanover at the booth of the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF).

A system that is provably correct is called verified, and formally verified if the methods used to obtain the results are based on mathematical reasoning. The methods for the formal verification of complex computer systems comprising soft- and hardware are being developed or enhanced to suit industrial applicability by scientists in the scope of the research project Verisoft. Verisoft was funded since 2003 by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) for two years. Due to the success after the first two years, the grant has been renewed for another period of two years and with a budget of 7,3 Mio. Euro.

In case of an accident the car automatically calls an emergency service and sends the coordinates of the scene as well as information on the severity of the accident. This distributed system comprises a real-time operating system and a fault-tolerant bus. Not only the components have to be proven free of errors, but also all components have to collaborate fault-free.

“So far the industry spends too much time to test computer systems to find mostly small errors. You can compare this with looking for needles in a haystack. With the help of our method we can find any tiny needle in the haystack already during the construction”, so Wolfgang Paul. The verification has enormous advantages for the industry. New systems could be developed faster and cheaper. Besides, car manufacturers could avoid expensive call-backs concerning problems with the car's electronics due to design errors.

Professor Wolfgang Paul from the University of Saarland as well as Professor Manfred Broy from the TU Munich head the research project Verisoft. The academic partners are the University Koblenz, the Technical Universities in Darmstadt and Munich, the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI), the Max Planck Institute for Computer Science in Saarbrücken, and the Oldenburg Research and Development Institute for Information Technology, Tools, and Systems (OFFIS). Industrial partners are the Infineon Technologies AG, the T-Systems International GmbH, the BMW Group AG, the OneSpin-Solutions GmBH, and the AbsInt Angewandte Informatik GmbH.

The scientific head of the BMBF-Research Project Verisoft, Prof. Wolfgang Paul, will talk about “Provably correct car electronics” in CeBIT's future talk on March, 9th at 3 PM. For more information, visit the booth of the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (Hall 9, Booth B40) or the booth of the Saarland University (Hall 9, Booth B43). For an appointment call +49-681/302-3585.

Revision 14 Mar 2006