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Number 8 Knight Capital Group
In 2012, activities from Knight Capital Group caused a major disruption on the New York Stock Exchange. A code error in the firm’s automated systems meant it began trading erratically, when the stock market opened on August 1. Knight Capital started buying and selling millions of shares distributed among hundreds of stocks. It took roughly 45 minutes before the error was contained and, over that time, the company lost roughly $10 million per minute. By the next day, 75 per cent of Knight Capital Group’s equity value had been erased.
Number 7 Mars Climate Orbiter
The main problem was that a piece of ground software, supplied by Lockheed Martin, showed measurements in imperial units while the other trajectory calculation software used the metric system. Therefore, there was a discrepancy when it came to the orbiter’s thruster impulse. It was calculated in pounds-force seconds and interpreted in newton seconds. Calculations made after the error showed that the orbiter was on a trajectory that would have taken it within 35 miles of the surface.
Number 6 Ariane 5 Rocket
In early June, 1996, the Ariane 5 space rocket was lined up and ready for its maiden flight out of Kourou, French Guiana. The rocket was the joint effort of 20 European nations and reportedly cost about $8 billion to develop. At the time it was carrying four satellites into orbit. 37 seconds after the rocket took off, hurtling towards the sky, it started to veer off its path. The problem was that the rocket’s internal computers and software had been reused from its predecessor, the Ariane 4. They were tasked with monitoring onboard speed and orientation, but couldn’t cope with the newer model’s power. The rocket’s lateral velocity exceeded the limits of the guidance system’s computer.
Number 5 System Error
A computer error in California’s system caused 450 men to be released without having to report it. It was a consequence of the state’s January 2010 initiative to reduce overcrowding. What’s perhaps even more worrisome is that no further measures were taken about the hundreds of men who’d been released because of the error.
Number 4 Chinook Helicopter
In June of that year, the aircraft was flying above Scotland, in foggy conditions. Among the 29 souls on board were almost all of the UK’s senior Northern Ireland intelligence experts. However, further inquiries discovered another possible cause connected to the helicopter’s FADEC or Full Authority Digital Engine Control. At that time FADEC was being implemented on all Royal Air Force Chinooks.
Number 3 Failure in Dhahran
In February 1991, a software error meant the anti-ballistic system failed to detect an incoming Iraqi Scud. At the time, the Patriot system had been operational for about 100 hours. A software error caused its internal system to drift by a third of a second thus compromising its handling of timestamps. When coupled with the speed of the incoming Scud, the error translated to a miss distance of nearly 2000 feet. The radar had initially detected the Scud, but couldn’t track in real time where to look next. Therefore, the Patriot missile system made no interception attempt.
Number 2 Therac-25
Between 1985 and 1987, Therac-25 was involved in at least six accidents. The engineers who’d designed it were also overconfident in their work and didn’t resolve any reported software bugs.
Number 1 Boeing 737 MAX
Originally developed in the 1960s, the Boeing 737 is a twin-engine, narrow-bodied passenger airliner. The aircraft has undergone constant upgrades and updates so that it could adapt to the modern world of aviation. The 737 MAX was based on previous designs but featured aerodynamics and airframe modifications as well as new engines that were more fuel-efficient. The engines were placed higher and further forward than on previous models. Because of the difference in engine placement, the aircraft had a tendency to pitch-up during flights. Boeing thus implemented a new flight control system called the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System or MCAS. The main purpose of the software was to lower the aircraft’s nose, without the pilot’s intervention, whenever it was too high.