The world runs on software, thankfully for me and my career

I manage a team of software engineers and before that I was one of those software engineers. Typically the size of a program is measured in Lines of Code (LOC). Windows 7 is estimated to in excess of 50 million lines of code. This is likely one of the bigger programs but what most people don’t realize is there are microprocessors and software everywhere. Ignoring the common things like your computer and smartphone/tablets, there is a microprocessor in many common things like modern appliances. An automobile can have 20-30 modules all with microprocessors and software from the radio to the engine controller. There are many unseen modules busily doing their jobs without most of our knowledge or concern.

For those in the embedded software industry, I believe the conventional wisdom is that things like fighter jets or passengers jets have more lines of code than an automobile. Everyone of us in the automotive industry thought this to be true.  The example given to us by a supplier was to compare military jets with passengers jets with Mercedes S-Class (arguably one of the more expensive cars with the most electronics).

The data below  is from paul.kedrosky.com:

Air Force F-22 Raptor: 1.7 million
F-35 Joint Strike Fighter: 5.7 million
Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner: 6.5 million
Typical Mercedes/BMW/etc: ~100 million

Not only does this go against the conventional wisdom but its not even close enough to say that is in the margin for error. This probably only makes sense to somebody in the industry but it is an interesting bit of trivia. I’ve heard that subtracting the infotainment system from the high end vehicle it is closer to 80 million which is still more than 12 times the lines of code. The development cycle and level of complexity of automobiles is increasing at a far faster rate than the aerospace industry. I guess this makes sense since new car models come out every year while new fighter jets might only be developed every 10-20 years with similar timelines for the passenger jet industry. One of the other reasons might be that there are many more car companies than there are airline manufacturers especially military grade suppliers.

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