I had a user ask me this question. We know that cars break down, but that's because of something physical (unless software is involved!).

I tried to answer that software is a much younger industry, but the user countered with "didn't the automobile industry become much more stable than and reliable with less people?".

I also tried to answer that software is more complex, but the user countered that there are many thousands of parts that make up a car. People that design and build cars generally just know their component(s) very well, but they still all end up working together as an end result.

So, why isn't software as reliable as a car?

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    Which car? Some are much more reliable than others. – Zoot Jan 28 '11 at 22:18
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    If somebody was almost done assembling a car when their boss came over and says "oh hey, the customers would like us to attach a jet engine to it, can you have it done in a couple days?", cars would be pretty unreliable too. – Adam Lear Jan 28 '11 at 22:23
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    Software is reliable. It's just the big enterprisey software that isn't. Have you ever seen a TV crash? Me neither. – zneak Jan 29 '11 at 5:30
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    There are laws to enforce learning to drive before being allowed to drive a motor vehicle. Additionally there are many courses on how to drive that are targeted at the under-educated so that they don't crash. There are no such programs for learning to use a computer and as such, the under-educated populous crashes with regularity and blames it on the programmers. – zzzzBov Jan 29 '11 at 8:09
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    Just compare number of injuries caused by software and by cars, and you will see that software is far more reliable than cars. – mouviciel Jan 29 '11 at 9:24

31 Answers 31


How many are there car designers? 10,000 top? - they are talented and they know what they're doing.

How many are there software programmers? 30 millions? - and many of them have no idea what they're doing, take for example PHP programmers, you can learn PHP and write your first program in less than a few hours.

If software was to be written only by 10,000 of the best programmers, then it would be as reliable as cars are.


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