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GM Names Names, Suspends Two Engineers Over Ignition-Switch Safety 236

Posted by timothy
from the laying-blame dept.
cartechboy (2660665) writes "GM said it has placed two engineers on paid leave in connection with its massive recall probe of 2 million vehicles. Now, GM is asking NASA to advise on whether those cars are safe to drive even with the ignition key alone. Significantly, individual engineers now have their names in print and face a raft of inquiries what they did or didn't know, did or didn't do, and when. A vulnerability for GM: One engineer may have tried to re-engineer the faulty ignition switch without changing the part number—an unheard-of practice in the industry. Is it a good thing that people who engineer for a living can now get their names on national news for parts designed 10 years ago? The next time your mail goes down, should we know the name of the guy whose code flaw may have caused that?"
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GM Names Names, Suspends Two Engineers Over Ignition-Switch Safety

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  • Hero ? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 11, 2014 @07:32PM (#46730343)

    What follows is my baseless personal opinion based only on what I see at similar businesses ---
    The engineer that changed the part without changing the part number and without management knowing intentionally did it behind their back because management wouldn't let him make the change. Everyone knew about the problem. Management knew changing the part was akin to admitting the fault. The engineer did it on his own to save lives - company be damned. And he kept the part number the same so that no one would know.

    • Re:Hero ? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by gnoshi (314933) on Friday April 11, 2014 @07:39PM (#46730391)

      Changing part without changing part number is something which the engineer shouldn't have done. Sure, management wouldn't let him make the change and that is bad. However, by making a change without following the basic accepted procedures meant that sleuth work needed to be done to even identify that a change had been made. The engineer clearly did something wrong. That in no way reduces the responsibility of management for their decisions and the consequences of those decisions.

      That said, naming names of an engineer is a really bad precedent. What is the goal GM is trying to achieve here. Do they want people to go break the guy's windows? Burn down his house? Call him in the middle of the night or deliver pizza? Apart from potentially removing the guy's livelihood for the remainder of his life because no-one wants to hire 'that guy' ever again, and a lot of abuse being targeted his way, what will this achieve?

      If he did something criminal, then he should be charged. If he did something extremely incompetent then maybe membership of the engineering body should be revoked, but it isn't the place of GM to throw their engineers to the wolves.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 11, 2014 @07:53PM (#46730495)

        I'm not saying that it's good, and this case is an example of exactly why it can be a bad idea to do this, but changing part numbers has a lot of overhead (inventory management of multiple part numbers, all the manuals that now refer to the wrong number, etc)

        If it's expected that the new part is significantly different than the old one, then it's worth all the pain, but if it's not expected to be significantly different (just cheaper to build, or more reliable when nobody expects series reliability problems with the old one, etc) its not completely insane to just change the design and keep the same part number.

        If you want to be really paranoid, you track each batch of parts produced as a separate item, because minor things like the temprature that day could theoretically affect something. In medical and aerospace industries, this sort of tracking is done (which is one of the reasons why 'simple' things are so expensive in those industries)

        but in the automotive industry that level of tracking is just not done, and it's very common for parts to be substatuted with no notice.

        In the computer industry, it's unfortuantly common for some manufacturers to make what many people consider major changes (like changing chipsets) without changing the part number.

        David Lang

        • by confused one (671304) on Friday April 11, 2014 @08:54PM (#46730901)

          Since I work for an automotive OEM.... When this is done, there is an Engineering Change Order documenting the change and why it was implemented. We don't change anything without first getting the approval of the customer; and, invariably they will want all the relevant DV and PV testing redone. Huge effort and pain. All of this is well documented and nothing ships until we have final approval from the customer.

          The part number may not change; but, the part revision level will. PN 123456 RevA will become PN 123456 RevB. We treat it as the "same" part number but will only ship the latest revision once we have customer approval. As for tracking, I don't know how our customers tracks the change internally; but, I can tell you which batch, serial number, and date code the new revision started shipping.

          • by pipingguy (566974) on Saturday April 12, 2014 @03:07AM (#46732177) Homepage
            I've seen cock-ups like this happen before. Detailed fabrication drawings are auto-generated paper documents (paper, because each one must be signed and stamped by the stress engineer and signed by the checker and because paper is easier to handle by the fabrication shop and remains the copy of record). Sometimes, but rarely, a minor change is made in the 3D model and a new physical drawing is not printed and sent through the document process. In this case, the 3D model is correct but the detailed drawing is not. Or the reverse can happen; the detailed drawing is manually edited (say, under pressure to meet a deadline, with the intent to update the model as soon as the rush is over - then someone forgets) leaving the model incorrect.
          • by drinkypoo (153816)

            The part number may not change; but, the part revision level will. PN 123456 RevA will become PN 123456 RevB.

            Most automakers' part numbers do change. But some very much do not, for example the FIPL (TPS equivalent) on the old Ford diesels changed color but didn't change part number, and the two colors have substantively different internals. And there's no revision number, either.

        • I'd say that a part that doesn't lead to lethal accidents, as opposed to a part that sometimes does, constitutes a "significant change", no matter if the difference small. In this case, it actually seems to have been a fairly large change. They should have not only changed the number of the part, but made sure that cars in the wild with the old one got word, and probably should have been recalled immediately.

          This is also why the question asked in TFS is the wrong one:

          The next time your mail goes down, should we know the name of the guy whose code flaw may have caused that?"

          To be comparable with the case at hand,

      • Re:Hero ? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by countach (534280) on Friday April 11, 2014 @07:58PM (#46730565)

        I disagree. Assuming this hypothesis, it was better he make the change and save lives... management, convention and rules be damned.

        Of course we don't really know if that what really happened.

      • Re:Hero ? (Score:4, Informative)

        by TubeSteak (669689) on Friday April 11, 2014 @08:05PM (#46730603) Journal

        That said, naming names of an engineer is a really bad precedent. What is the goal GM is trying to achieve here. Do they want people to go break the guy's windows? Burn down his house? Call him in the middle of the night or deliver pizza? Apart from potentially removing the guy's livelihood for the remainder of his life because no-one wants to hire 'that guy' ever again, and a lot of abuse being targeted his way, what will this achieve?

        Why exactly is it a bad precedent?
        The names of everyone involved are going to come out anyways, with all the possible consequences you described.
        Our judicial system is usually exceedingly unwilling to pierce the corporate veil and directly hold bad actors responsible for their choices.
        So I'm perfectly happy with a society that aggressively shuns those people, regardless of judicial outcomes.

        I'm *guessing* GM's goal is to scapegoat a few responsible parties as early as possible,
        so that when the management failures are unmasked, there won't be as much heat and vitriol.

        • Re:Hero ? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Webcommando (755831) on Friday April 11, 2014 @10:06PM (#46731255) Homepage Journal

          Why exactly is it a bad precedent?

          So I'm perfectly happy with a society that aggressively shuns those people, regardless of judicial outcomes.

          IMHO, engineers have a hard job. They constantly need to manage trade-offs, complex concepts, and scope/schedule trade-offs. Sometimes they make mistakes. I've worked in design of automation equipment, enterprise software, and medical devices and in all cases there were the occasional mistakes. People forget to update a requirements document, a change order is approved but not implemented, a drawing rev number isn't updated before sending to vendor, a critical bug is mistakenly set to low, a vendor changes a part and someone uses the old data sheet, etc.. There are recalls all the time on products through honest mistakes people make. Should we call out each of these people individually?

          We would need to have a Google size site just to publish the name of every software engineer who introduced a bug into some software package. Everyone better step-up if we want to do that. I want the world to shun the individual who made a bad trade for my 401K, every person on a road crew who didn't finish a road project on time -- well, there are countless people who make mistakes who are nameless part of a bigger organization.

          • Re: (Score:2, Redundant)

            by TubeSteak (669689)

            There are recalls all the time on products through honest mistakes people make. Should we call out each of these people individually?

            The engineer that designed the part and the replacement lied in front of a Senate Committee when asked if he knew there was a defect.
            The engineering manager was deposed in a lawsuit and said that GM made a business decision not to fix the defect.

            Those aren't honest mistakes. Those are "bad actors" I'm talking about
            People who intentionally do something wrong, don't fix something that is wrong, or cover up something that is/was wrong.

            Your entire post is arguing against a position I did not take.

            • by drinkypoo (153816)

              The engineer that designed the part and the replacement lied in front of a Senate Committee when asked if he knew there was a defect.

              If he was asked to redesign the part because it was inadequate, then he's a liar. If he decided to redesign the part because he thought it might be inadequate, he isn't. The question is whether that's even feasible. In most companies people work on what they're told to work on. However, I have seen underutilized employees inventing work for themselves as well.

              The engineering manager was deposed in a lawsuit and said that GM made a business decision not to fix the defect.

              Well, GM is a typically evil corporations.

              The engineering manager was deposed in a lawsuit and said that GM made a business decision not to fix the de

          • There are recalls all the time on products through honest mistakes people make. Should we call out each of these people individually?

            But what has happened here is they did NOT initiate a recall, though they knew enough about the problem to redesign the part. I have no idea how likely or unlikely it is that the named engineers were responsible for that, or even for not assigning a new part number, as opposed to their managers.

            If the latter turn out to be culpable, the names of the engineers should be seen in headlines once more, to clear their reputations.

          • [Mel Brooks] Hey, you said "trade-offs twice! [/]

        • by sjames (1099)

          Are you sure it was really them? Where was the checking? Were they ordered to make the compromise? Was it built as designed?

          What do you bet if any of those questions would absolve them it'll be yet another case of allegations making the headline and the exoneration makes page 23?

      • Re:Hero ? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by khallow (566160) on Friday April 11, 2014 @08:11PM (#46730639)

        What is the goal GM is trying to achieve here.

        Create a scapegoat and deep six the visibility of the problem in the media. I don't buy at all that this problem can be narrowed down to two misbehaving engineers especially given what appears to be collusion on the regulatory government side (perhaps over both Obama and G. W. Bush's terms) to ignore the problem.

        • Engineers have bosses. Sometimes in a complicated situation where there are no good answers, engineers do what their bosses say.

          • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

            by Anonymous Coward

            Engineers have bosses. Sometimes in a complicated situation where there are no good answers, engineers do what their bosses say.

            If you're in this kind of situation, always secretly record any interaction with a higher-up where you raise a problem, and are ordered to not fix it. Even if your state (or company rules) bans secret recording. Do it anyway.

            [Simple sound-activated voice recorders are available that can record dozens of hours of conversation, so you don't even have to remember to turn it on.]

            Then if the situation escalates where the penalty against you is worse than the penalty for making the recording, reveal the recording

      • Re:Hero ? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by pla (258480) on Friday April 11, 2014 @10:02PM (#46731219) Journal
        Sure, management wouldn't let him make the change and that is bad.

        With this going so high that congress dragged the CEO in to lie to them that this involved anything more than "cheaper to let you die", by naming these two engineers, GM has just given them the power to completely ruin the company.

        "We tried to do the right thing and management thwarted us at every turn". Done in one, the CEO just perjured herself before congress, and the class action liability suits put GM (back) into bankruptcy (where they belong).

        Unfortunately in this case, engineers tend to have too strong of a "boyscout" streak in them, and the ones implicated here will probably just do their best to ignore the fact that GM just threw them under the bus for following orders.

        Or put another way - I don't work in an industry that seriously puts people's lives in danger, and legal would goose-step me out of the goddamned building before they let me do something like GM claims these two engineers did "on their own". So an entire multinational supply and manufacturing chain of command just quietly went along with the whims of two peons that massively violated protocol? Bullshit.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        As a Sr. Engineer, I can state that very few certified technical lead Engineers I have known would ever consent to such a modification without changing either the part number or revision number. However, there have been a number of times when hardware managers will not listen, since such a change has ramifications affecting a product's BOM, certifications, and various procurement/logistical processes.

        If there are liability consequences, my company will comply with the overhead. However, that is not the ca

      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        Changing part without changing part number is something which the engineer shouldn't have done.

        A single engineer can't do that alone. It takes collusion, probably by management.

        Sure, management wouldn't let him make the change and that is bad. However, by making a change without following the basic accepted procedures meant that sleuth work needed to be done to even identify that a change had been made.

        The question is whether some rogue engineer actually did this himself. And the question there is whether it is even possible. And it probably is not, since we're all just sitting here conjecturing.

        The engineer clearly did something wrong.

        It's not clear to me. Maybe an engineer completed a redesign, and someone else is responsible for it not getting a new part number?

        That in no way reduces the responsibility of management for their decisions and the consequences of those decisions.

        Every single person involved in the chain of decisions leading to this switch being released without a

    • Re:Hero ? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by wiredlogic (135348) on Friday April 11, 2014 @07:43PM (#46730417)

      Somebody in management had to sign off on the change and a whole lot of work had to be done to revise the tooling and approve the expenditures. This wasn't an invisible modification done by a sneaky engineer unbeknownst to higher levels of management. There is always a bottom to every hill and the shit stops rolling once it gets there.

      • a whole lot of work had to be done to revise the tooling

        Ah, so we need to name the machinists too! Charge the whole lot with a conspiracy to embarrass management!

        Somehow Harry Tuttle is probably involved.

    • Re:Hero ? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by thegarbz (1787294) on Friday April 11, 2014 @08:01PM (#46730583)

      Not a hero. An engineer has a responsibility to act ethically. It's part of what makes the profession ... err professional. A cover up to save face of management is not something that should have been done under any circumstance.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Grishnakh (216268)

        It was either that or just don't do the change at all, so that even more people would die. This is the problem with engineering: grandstanding fools like you sit in armchairs and say that engineers should "act ethically", but they're not allowed to by management, because they have zero power in the company, and are really nothing more than interchangeable cogs that management can replace at a whim. Management makes all the engineering decisions, but when something goes wrong, people want to blame the engi

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by thegarbz (1787294)

          No it was not either or. It is never either or. See part of this thing called ethics is to not act unethically at the request of others. It's part of the charter of being a professional engineer. If you can't say NO to the people who are paying you then you have absolutely no business being a professional engineer.

          • Re:Hero ? (Score:4, Insightful)

            by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Saturday April 12, 2014 @08:00AM (#46732697) Homepage Journal

            If you can't say NO to the people who are paying you then you have absolutely no business being a professional engineer.

            If you can't feed your children otherwise, you can't say no.

            If you fail economically, our society tells you that you are a failure. Ethics don't pay the bills.

            Maybe this guy is just feeding himself, I don't know. But society punishes the kind of ethics you're talking about. We clearly don't actually hold that value.

      • And if the engineer was stopped from making the changes then he should have gone to the proper regulatory officials with evidence of the cover up.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          And we've all seen how well whistleblowers have been treated lately.

    • Re:Hero ? (Score:5, Informative)

      by quarterbuck (1268694) on Friday April 11, 2014 @08:34PM (#46730775)
      As usual the Slashdot summary is incomplete on the verge of being incorrect.
      Reuters [reuters.com] has a longer story that explains the background. Digrigio testified in the Senate that he did not know of the issue. Later senate dug up documents implying the opposite.Altman did something similar (but not nearly as bad) in front of a Jury.
    • Re:Hero ? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 12, 2014 @01:04AM (#46731909)

      As a professionally licensed design engineer, we have a responsibility to the public in general. These two engineers, once the problem had been identified and middle management was preventing the fix from being implemented, should have sent an email to the CEO and copied the entire company mailing list highlighting the potential liability and risk of death and great bodily harm. I guarantee it would have been fixed, and a bunch of jackass middle management would have been out on their asses. If the warning was still ignored, the next stop is the press. They may or may not have lost their jobs, or they may have gotten a promotion, but either is far better than where they are now.

      Engineers in general are very conscientious as we have one of very few professions where our work makes us personally liable under the law and that liability cannot be transferred to a corporation (although the corporation may also be liable, and typically have deeper pockets.) This is one reason why, although spectacular (i.e. the Challenger shuttle explosion) it is very rare that middle management succeeds in hushing any serious safety flaws known to the engineers. As an engineer I would much rather be out of a job than on the hook for wrongful death, legally or morally. As for my next employer, if they are worth working for, they know the laws and know that engineers work for them but have a greater responsibility to society.

      • This. Please mod parent up. AC is exactly right, except maybe about it getting fixed. The CEO isn't always clued up enough. Also, prior to the press, one should likely approach whatever government regulatory is appropriate in your country.

        The paper trail here is the important thing. That email, is critical.

  • More Impressed (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sycodon (149926) on Friday April 11, 2014 @07:33PM (#46730351)

    I'll be more impressed when they suspend/fire the managers/executives that did not pass along the information or made the decision it would cost less to pay off victims than fix it.

  • Did they name the director that ordered the two engineers to cover up the change? There's no way the engineers decided to do that on their own volition.

  • by zooblethorpe (686757) on Friday April 11, 2014 @07:34PM (#46730363)

    The fine article submission asks:

    Is it a good thing that people who engineer for a living can now get their names on national news for parts designed 10 years ago? The next time your mail goes down, should we know the name of the guy whose code flaw may have caused that?

    One key difference here is that the engineer(s) responsible for redesigning the switch and not changing the part number were not just implementing an everyday change that happened to be buggy. By not changing the part number, their actions are more akin to trying to fix a known bug that has exposed the company to huge potential liabilities, and then hacking the version control system to make it look like the bug was never there, in full intentional pursuit of obfuscation and ass-covering.

    Cheers,

    • by thegarbz (1787294) on Friday April 11, 2014 @07:58PM (#46730561)

      And following on that I fully expect software engineers to be held to account in a similar way. If the Heartbleed bug was silently fixed and then historical logs messed with to make it look like it never existed in the first place then the person responsible should have their name in lights.

      Professional Engineers have an obligation to act ethically, not an obligation to be right all the time. Software engineers and other professionals in the IT industry should be held to the same account.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 11, 2014 @07:37PM (#46730381)

    Specifically, OnStar.

    I can remember one of the development groups there "discovering" Agile, and immediately trying to patent the crap out of every process they could. Specifically, they were patenting how they made "new" processes to make Agile work with their awful SDP-21 development process (waterfall)..... by putting multiple sprints inside of the waterfall.

    The place was soul sucking, conformity was desperately sought in all people, and management was desperate to throw underlings under the bus in order to save their own $160,000/year jobs (the talent for which they never really possessed).

    You know... sort of like what is happening to these two engineers.

  • Why not? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by hawguy (1600213) on Friday April 11, 2014 @07:40PM (#46730399)

    The next time your mail goes down, should we know the name of the guy whose code flaw may have caused that?"

    Why not let software engineers take responsibility for their work just like "real" engineers do when they sign off on a project?

    The developer responsible for the Heartbleed [arstechnica.com] bug that put the privacy of millions of users at risk stood up and took responsibility for his mistake.

    If you know that the world is going to hear about it if you screw up, then maybe you'll take a little more time to vet your work before you sign off on it.

    • Re:Why not? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Jaime2 (824950) on Friday April 11, 2014 @07:46PM (#46730439)

      That's why software developers shouldn't insist on using the title Engineer. This kind of accountability is expected of an engineer, it's not an anomaly. When programming matures to the point where bugs are rare, then we will deserve the title.

      I write software for a living and I'm well aware that if we were to compare computer science to medical science, the current era is roughly equivalent to the blood letting and leeches era. I can't wait for our penicillin to come around.

      • by TubeSteak (669689)

        I think the traditional /. response involves something along the lines of:
        "But what if you're a doctor in a movie theater and someone dies because you didn't get an e-mail in the seconds after it was sent?"

      • Not this "software engineers aren't real engineers" crap again. Those real engineers make plenty of mistakes too,sometimes costly ones, sometimes even deadly. And they too hide behind the "shit happens" excuse from time to time, after signing off on a disaster. I recognize that software engineering is not nearly as mature as other fields of endeavor, but you're doing the profession of software design a disservice comparing it to bloodletting and leeches.
      • That's why software developers shouldn't insist on using the title Engineer. This kind of accountability is expected of an engineer, it's not an anomaly. When programming matures to the point where bugs are rare, then we will deserve the title.

        When that day comes, the programmer won't be called an engineer: he'll be called a mathematician.

      • by russotto (537200)

        That's why software developers shouldn't insist on using the title Engineer. This kind of accountability is expected of an engineer, it's not an anomaly.

        Engineers just build siege engines, they're not responsible if the siege fails.

    • Re:Why not? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by thegarbz (1787294) on Friday April 11, 2014 @07:55PM (#46730523)

      The world doesn't need to hear about screw-ups, it does however need to hear about cover-ups.

    • It is good to take responsibility if you screw up, and I would like to see more real engineering rigour in software development. However that doesn't mean the guy making the mistake should be the scapegoat. The best of us can make mistakes, but the fact that these mistakes make it into the final product is not only our failing, but a failing of the procedures in place as well. If your process cannot cope with a single human being making a mistake, then it's the team, manager and company failing, not just th
    • by eulernet (1132389)

      Let's suppose that you have an interview for on a software project where human lives are at stake.
      You learn that if you make a mistake, your name will be published everywhere, and your career will be ruined.
      Will you take this job ?

      If you take the job:
      1) do you believe that you'll accept a normal pay to work on this job ? Do you believe the company will give you a high salary ?
      2) do you believe that you'll be able to deliver easily, especially if you have troubles with your emotions ?
      3) do you realize that a

    • by Kjella (173770)

      Well, first of all since OpenSSL is an open source project, I doubt staying anonymous was an option as you can go back and check git logs and mailing lists.

      Dr. Seggelmann said the error he introduced was "quite trivial", but acknowledged that its impact was "severe". (,..) After he submitted the code, a reviewer "apparently also didn't notice the missing validation," Dr. Seggelmann said

      So the takeaway here is that OpenSSL has a review process that lets "quite trivial" bugs in the input validation of a high security product through, that's comforting

      Seggelmann said it might be "tempting" to assume the bug was inserted deliberately by a spy agency or hacker. "But in this case, it was a simple programming error in a new feature, which unfortunately occurred in a security relevant area," he said, according to the newspaper report. "It was not intended at all, especially since I have previously fixed OpenSSL bugs myself and was trying to contribute to the project."

      If you were a spy agency trying to get a vulnerability into OpenSSL, do you think it'd be on the first patch? Fix some insignificant bugs, get trusted, introduce seemingly innocent but deepl

  • by ttucker (2884057) on Friday April 11, 2014 @07:41PM (#46730407)
    What a bullshit news story, it is written is broken and bastardized English. Lets discuss a reputable story instead.
    • by ttucker (2884057)

      The broken switches can move out of the “run” situation suddenly, executing the motor and closing off force to airbags.

      What is this even supposed to mean?!? The "run" situation?

      • by Qzukk (229616)

        It reads like it was spewed out by a markov chain generator trained on a tiny subset of language to make sure that its rambling stays on topic, but still makes no guarantees that it comes out in English.

        Maybe that's what the MK means? I had a look at the other stories on the site:

        The issue is these venues value their transactions off of the distributed costs on the exchanges – in addition, if those costs need uprightness, then “darkpool” evaluating will itself be twisted.

        -- http://www.mk [mkobserver.com]

        • by ttucker (2884057)
          The stories are almost like markov chain nonsense that is inspired by real news articles. Maybe nonsense article remixing is some kind of new SEO/ad revenue trick.
      • by Arker (91948)
        "What is this even supposed to mean?!? The "run" situation?"

        He's trying to write 'the run position.'

  • by thegarbz (1787294) on Friday April 11, 2014 @07:54PM (#46730509)

    Is it a good thing that people who engineer for a living can now get their names on national news for parts designed 10 years ago? The next time your mail goes down, should we know the name of the guy whose code flaw may have caused that?

    Yes. Well nearly. That is a good thing. If these engineers were found to act unethically in this regard they should be punished. Where I live professional engineers are registered and the charter of professional engineers put a great deal of weight on the ethical practice of engineering. Should the same go for software? Absolutely. I have long held the belief that software can be life critical at times and software engineers should be held to the same professionalism as any other form of engineering.

    Now I said well nearly because these people didn't get their name in the news for mis-designing a part. They got their name in the news for trying to cover up the fact that they mis-designed a part and potentially put the public in danger in the process. I don't believe they acted alone since it would take more than 2 people to pull off something like this unless GM really has no oversight structure, but if a software engineer made a mistake that was discovered to potentially cause a fatality and then attempted to cover it up by messing with the system so it looks like the bug never existed then by all means they should definitely have their name up in lights.

    • I have long held the belief that software can be life critical at times and software engineers should be held to the same professionalism as any other form of engineering.

      It is a matter of fact, not belief, that software can be life critical. [vt.edu] For the majority of software, though, cost and time-to-market considerations far outweigh coding to the highest professional standard. "Good enough" wins.

  • by Sir_Sri (199544) on Friday April 11, 2014 @07:59PM (#46730567)

    Engineers are professionally certified with professional responsibility, if they aren't doing their job it's criminal and names need to be named. Just as a physician working for a hospital is named for accusations of negligence.

    It's not obvious if that's relevant here, but if someone tried to pass themselves off as a professional engineer and aren't that's a problem, if someone who is a professional engineering violated the ethical principles that's a problem too.

    • The engineers may have responsibility, but they are not the ones that made QA, build the cars and distribute them massively. I think it is bad to pin-point the engineers, blame them and destroy their careers this way.

      I hope that this does not create a precedent that if product is a success the company will win money and get all recognition, if the product fails or if it dangerous the blame is on the engineers and they have to be publicly shamed.
    • by munch117 (214551)

      And yet, somehow, electrical engineers are always seat-of-the-pants cowboy coders. At least the ones I know, I work with a few of them. They might be more disciplined with their core skill, developing hardware, but I've heard "let's add a pull-up resistor and see what happens" one too many times to really believe that. I don't have a problem with that, they get the work done. I just can't take seriously this notion some people have, that software engineers are sloppy amateurs and real engineers work to a

    • by x0ra (1249540)
      AFAIK, in Canada, there is nothing criminal in professional irresponsibility. At worst, the crown would have to prove mens rea, which is pretty much impossible to prove on an employed individual.
  • How many people died? They get paid leave?

    • by Mishotaki (957104)
      they should say: "GM wastes 1.3 billion dollars.. and they still get paid! and they don't even have to work for it!" I still don't get that people get paid leave for stuff like that..
  • by countach (534280) on Friday April 11, 2014 @08:04PM (#46730601)

    I can see parallels here to the Snowden affair. Basically, if you blow the whistle on management acting unethically, you are screwed. Whether it's Snowden blowing the whistle on the Feds or some engineer blowing the whistle on GM management, there is no protection for someone wanting to do the right thing. This is how Nazi Germany got to where they ended up. We don't know if one of these engineers wanted to blow the whistle, but usually engineers want to engineer, they don't care about bean counting, so its a fair bet he wanted it done right, but wasn't allowed to.

    “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” Edmund Burke.

    The way society is going, having good men do something gets harder and harder.

    • by khallow (566160)

      Whether it's Snowden blowing the whistle on the Feds or some engineer blowing the whistle on GM management, there is no protection for someone wanting to do the right thing. This is how Nazi Germany got to where they ended up.

      Which is quite relevant actually. During the time of the Wiemar Republic, apparently in the 1920s, several would-be whistle blowers got murdered for knowing too much about violations of the Treaty of Versailles (for example, the secret development of military weapons, tanks, airplanes, naval ships, etc, and the creation of an illegal, shadow general staff for the military).

      Those violations in turn were a significant and necessary part of the transformation of Germany into the powerful, totalitarian, mili

  • by rsilvergun (571051) on Friday April 11, 2014 @08:06PM (#46730609)
    Had me going there. For a minute I thought there might be some discussion that the people running GM might somehow be at fault. Thankfully they are blameless as always, and have rooted the true culprits in the form those dastardly engineers.

    Seriously though, I'm tired of being told that it's OK for these people to be super super rich because of all the value they add and the risks they take, when $#@! like this keeps happening and they never once take a hit. I know it's how ruling classes work and all, but it still sucks...
    • Re:Whew! (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Grishnakh (216268) on Friday April 11, 2014 @08:22PM (#46730695)

      Better yet, these people get to be super rich AND immune from any consequences for their mistakes and misdeeds, however the engineers working for them, who make middle-class salaries at best (and far less than doctors), are somehow expected to have "ethical standards" and are the first to be blamed when something goes wrong that was really because of a management decision.

  • by Ol Olsoc (1175323) on Friday April 11, 2014 @08:08PM (#46730617)
    You have failed the corporate overlords GM. This will not do.....

    What, exactly just what the fuck are you doing putting Engineers on leave?

    Corporate protocol demands that the guilty culprit must be either a Janitor, or a mailroom clerk!

  • GM Cars are designed by a crack team of accountants not engineers that's why they generally suck. Did anyone question the penny pinchers that directed the engineers that they must save 0.20 cents on each ignition switch?

  • Making mid-production changes in parts without changing the part number -- at least the customer-visible part number -- is not unheard-of, it's common.

    • by vux984 (928602)

      Making mid-production changes in parts without changing the part number -- at least the customer-visible part number -- is not unheard-of, it's common.

      Its not merely common its 'frustratingly common'.

      I've experienced this time and again ordering replacement parts for a variety of cars. Usually the differences don't matter. The replacement is shaped a bit different, improved in some way, or the material is slightly different, the item has been cost reduced in some way perhaps, or suppliers were changed, and

    • by Animats (122034)

      It's prohibited in aerospace, where you have traceability back through the production process, but not unheard of in automotive. In electronics manufacturing, some changes are permitted. Here's Flextronics policy [flextronics.com] on component changes.

  • by sigmabody (1099541) on Friday April 11, 2014 @09:05PM (#46730959)

    I could see two potential outcomes, if blaming engineers for product flaws becomes commonplace...

    First, engineers will (or should) demand an indemnity clause as part of their employment contract, where the company agrees not to blame them publicly for any product flaws, and/or take any action which would identify them. Depending on the repercussions for the test cases, this might become a necessity for employees.

    Second, I could see some significant lawsuits for slander, since the company is causing real (and substantial, and more importantly provable) financial loss for the engineers they blame for product deficiencies. Unless they have a pretty solid intentional negligence defense, they could (and absolutely should) find themselves paying out a few million more to each engineer they throw under the metaphorical bus.

    Companies are responsible for their products, not the people they employ to make/provide them. Companies reap the rewards when they work, and bear the responsibility when they don't. Absent malicious negligence, naming/blaming individual employees is irresponsible at best, and should absolutely expose the company to civil liability.

  • A mail outage isn't the same as a fatal design flaw.
  • Then I never want to work in a critical position that demands that I solve intractable problems. I think the real answer here is to quit overdoing the plumbing. Needed complexity is understandable. Needless complexity is stupid. Just because we can put the computer in control of everything doesn't mean we should.

  • NOT engineer's fault (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Everyone is SO fscking focused on the engineers. Yes, I am one. Here's my view:

    What about part inspection and quality control? That switch has a detent holding force spec. Does NOBODY inspect batches of switches? No random sample tests? Doesn't someone do a final check on the car? Someone sits in it and turns the key, right? Didn't anyone notice the detent force was lacking?

    If the switch detent holding force is this critical, then _EVERY_ switch should have been tested. It would be trivial to make

  • Tyler Durden

  • This is a self-serving move by GM.

    Perhaps the engineers named are responsible for the deaths caused by the faulty switch. Perhaps they are not. We don't know. But we can be certain that GM is naming these engineers in the hope that the public will blame and vilify them instead of the company.

    This is an attempt to evade corporate responsibility disguised as an act of transparency. Even if the engineers bear some responsibility for the faulty design reaching production vehicles, it should be impossible for t

  • "The next time your mail goes down, should we know the name of the guy whose code flaw may have caused that?""

    Two words for you: "git blame".

  • If one or two engineers can change a part as is claimed here, and the part actually get installed in the car without any warning flags are reaised, the control systems at GM are obviously not up to a minimal standard.
    The design would need to go through several stages before it reaches the car. Changes in a part require changes in the parts production. Can one or two engineers engineer authorize that? Me thinks not.
    And publishing the names of the engineers just show how spineless the management are.

    I sm
  • This isn't rocket science... why ask any scientist less qualified than an astronaut? GM built the lunar module, so NASA is very qualified to stall a car on the moon..
  • https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com]

    Management gets credit for rooting out the evil engineers and probably gets a bonus.

I've got a bad feeling about this.

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