Is professional practice at risk following the Volkswagen and Tesla motors revelations?

With the world in economic crisis the headlong drive for efficiency and effectiveness together with resulting profit is the watchword. Such pressure might have resulted in real gains but has also led to unscrupulous or reckless actions. The tempering of such drive with ethical consideration is often neglected until there is a detrimental event causing public outcry which in turn places pressure on the actors to account for the reasons the event had occurred. This cause and effect map is commonplace. The Volkswagen emissions scandal and Tesla Motors public beta testing of the Autopilot software in their cars illustrate the drive for efficiency and effectiveness without proper ethical consideration. This paper focuses on the role of software engineers in such situations. An ethical analysis of the two cases is presented using the Software Engineering Code of Ethics and Professional Practice. The findings, together with previously published analyses, are used to draw general conclusions and recommendations about the efficacy of the software engineering profession.

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