Modern luxury vehicles claimed to feature more software than a fighter jet

The Mercedes Benz S-Class has almost as many microprocessors as the new Airbus A380 passenger jet

The Mercedes Benz S-Class has almost as many microprocessors as the new Airbus A380 passenger jet

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The F-22 Raptor fighter jet uses about 1.7 million lines of software code, while Boeing’s upcoming 787 Dreamliner passenger jet is expected to use close to 6.5 million lines of code, but as extensive as this sounds it is nothing compared to the amount of software used in a modern luxury vehicle.

Speaking with IEEE Spectrum, Technical University professor Manfred Broy explained that a modern luxury vehicle “probably contains close to 100 million lines of software code” all of which is processed by up to 100 microprocessors networked throughout the car.

Take for example the Mercedes Benz S-Class, the car’s radio and navigation system alone requires up to 20 million lines of code, while the car itself has almost as many microprocessors as the new Airbus A380 passenger jet.

Every year, carmakers pack their models with more and more electronic gizmos and each of these has a piece of software behind it. Features like adaptive cruise control, parking sensors, lane departure warning and engine and gearbox management are all driven by software.

Of course, the more complicated these systems get the more chance of them developing bugs, some of which could even lead to cars not being drivable. A study conducted by IBM in 2005 suggested that roughly 50% of car warranty costs were related to electronics and their embedded software, costing carmakers around $350 per vehicle. Insurance companies are also finding it cheaper, often, to write-off accident damaged cars rather than fix them because of high cost of replacing the software and electronics alone.

As for the future, experts are predicting that cars will be able to communicate with each other via a telematics infrastructure, passing on details such as traffic hotspots, accidents and even crash avoidance systems. This, however, is expected to lead to cars with upwards of 300 million lines of code.
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Comments (5)
  1. software is cheaper than machines.. typically you would have mechanical controllers or at least analog electronic controllers on planes.. mostly because they dont screw up.

    digital controllers are cheaper to mass produce, cheaper to design, much cheaper to code, and in the end result in acceptable operation for luxury cars. if a car screws up, one car may crash, some occupants may die, you'll chalk it up to driver error. if a plane goes down, governments ask questions.

  2. think of it like old electronics and new electronics. find a tube radio from the 20s and it probably still works... find a transistor radio from the 50s.. it may work still.. get a 20 year old piece of stereo equipment and it almost certainly doesnt work unless its sony or some other good brand.

  3. I feel consoled in the fact that airplanes use less code than modern luxury cars, especially German ones, given their reliability record.

    It also makes sense for avionics software, especially in fighter jets, to contain as few lines of code as possible, increasing the efficiency of the software while reducing possible points of failure. On the flip side, it means the cost for engineering the Raptor's 1.7 million lines of code costs far more (on a per-line basis) than the Dreamliner's 6.8M or the S550's 100M lines of code.

  4. aristo.. very good point. there definitely is such thing as efficiency in code, and that is likely another huge factor. im tempted to say that you would have more companies doing individual programs for their individual components that they sell to the auto manufacturer than boeing.... or the raptor, which would almost certainly be entirely Lockheed code. its much easier for one entity to make a complete program using less code than a group of entities making components of a program.

    programming is one place where synergy is definitely alive and well

  5. I say it's just more stuff to go wrong. I like cars that you can work on or fix anything with a few socket wrenches and some screwdrivers, like an MG, or a Model A. Still, the amount of sheer technology that goes into new cars every year never ceases to amaze me. An S-Class is probably smarter than most of the people who own them!

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