Dan O’Dowd, Dawn Project Founder
Dan has built operating systems for the U.S. military’s fighter jets and some of the world’s most trusted organizations such as NASA, Boeing, and Airbus. His company, Green Hills Software, also helps automotive companies achieve safety and security, including that necessary for production-level automated driving systems, offering operating systems and development tools designed to address software security threats.
Dan has been a pioneer of making safety-critical software systems unhackable for the last 25 years. Dan graduated from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in 1976 with a Bachelors of Science in Engineering. Now Dan is a recipient of the Caltech Distinguished Alumni Award, which is the highest honorary which Caltech bestows upon a graduate. It was at Caltech that his passion for computers began to flourish.
After graduating he worked on developing some of the first embedded development tools for microprocessors. He used them to develop software for Mattel Electronic Football, which was the must-have Christmas toy of 1977. Dan then joined National Semiconductor in 1978 to design the architecture for the NS32000 32-bit microprocessor that was used in the Global Surveyor that went to Mars, and then mapped the whole surface of Mars.
Dan has also produced an unhackable laptop for the FBI, as well as an unhackable cell phone for the military. In an era where cyber espionage and cyber-attacks are among the largest threats to national security, the ability to secure our safety-critical infrastructure from external attack is paramount.
In 2021, Dan founded The Dawn Project, a public safety advocacy group campaigning to ban unsafe software from safety critical systems, which could be targeted by military-style hackers to cause chaos to our society.
The aim of The Dawn Project is to stop the use of commercial grade software in safety-critical systems. The first phase of this initiative is to convince the technology giants to adopt the principle that software that was not originally developed as safety-critical software must not be used in safety-critical systems.
The Dawn Project’s first campaign is targeting Tesla’s Full Self-Driving (FSD) software. The Dawn Project has conducted extensive safety tests of Tesla FSD, revealing a series of safety critical defects which endanger the public on a daily basis. Dan has publicised these safety critical defects in a series of full-page advertisements in The New York Times, together with a nationwide television ad campaign and Super Bowl commercial.
In The News
27 May 2022 – Dan O’Dowd interviewed by The New York Times in an interview with Blake Hounshell, discussing his nationwide television ad campaign which accompanied his Senate campaign bid in April 2022, together with his mission to make computers safe for humanity.
13 November 2022 – The Washington Post interviews Dan O’Dowd and examines regulators and politicians increasingly scrutinising Tesla’s Full Self-Driving software. Dan also discussed the Dawn methodology to ensure that all safety critical software is developed in a secure manner.
16 April 2022 – Politico covers Dan O’Dowd’s Senate campaign to make computers safe for humanity. Dan’s Senate campaign broadcast Tesla’s reckless deployment of its Full Self-Driving software to an audience of millions across California and nationwide, bringing national attention to this vital public safety issue.
29 June 2023 – Founder of The Dawn Project Dan O’Dowd was interviewed on CNBC discussing the dangers of Tesla Full Self-Driving after The Dawn Project’s live safety tests revealed that Tesla’s self-driving software will run a stop sign and almost cause a collision.
13 February 2023 – The Los Angeles Times reports on The Dawn Project’s public safety announcement broadcast during Super Bowl LVII, broadcasting a litany of critical safety defects in Tesla’s Full Self-Driving software to millions of viewers. The commercial shows the Full Self-Driving running down child-sized mannequins, driving past a stopped school bus and hitting strollers in a parking lot.
- The world’s leading authority on cybersecurity and software safety, reliability, and performance.
- A unique ability to design and manage software development for any computer system that ensures that it will never fail, it can’t be hacked, it will outperform the competition, and every bug can be found.
- Forty five years of unmatched depth and breadth of hands on, day-to-day experience developing software for the most safety-critical and security-critical systems in every industry, from deeply embedded systems to enterprise IT.
1976: California Institute of Technology:
- Bachelor of Science in Engineering
1976: Began developing The Dawn Methodology:
- To write software that never fails and can’t be hacked
1977: Designed and wrote Mattel Electronic Football software:
- The must have Christmas toy of 1977
1978: Designed a new microprocessor:
- Sent it to Mars to map the entire Martian surface at high resolution and transmit Mars Rover data back to Earth
1982: Founded Green Hills Software
- Started with an $86,000 angel investment
- Never took another investment
- Hired the best of the best programmers
- Made a profit every year
- Bought out the angel investor at 50,000% ROI
- Made a billion dollars
1982: Designed, managed, and wrote the best compilers
1985: Used the compilers to rescue the Macintosh (and Apple Computers) at Steve Jobs’ request
1991: Designed and managed development of the best debugger
1995: Designed and wrote the only operating system that never fails and can’t be hacked
- To secure our nuclear forces
- To fly all our intercontinental nuclear bombers: B1-B, B-2, B-52
- To fly all our fighter jets: F-35, F-22, F-16, Eurofighter
- To fly a dozen models of military and civilian helicopters
- To fly our commercial airliners: Boeing 787 & Airbus A380
- To secure top secret encryptors, radios, and communications
- To run BMW, Daimler, GM, Chrysler, Fiat, and Peugeot cars
- The highest NSA software security certification: EAL6+
- The highest FAA software safety certification: DO-178C Level A
2009: Unhackable desktop computer:
- Designed and managed development of an unhackable multi-level secure desktop computer for the intelligence community
2017: Unhackable cell phone:
- Designed and managed development of an unhackable cell phone
2018: Unhackable laptop:
- Designed and managed development of an unhackable laptop for FBI agents
2021: Founded The Dawn Project:
- The Dawn Project’s mission is to make computers safe for humanity
In 2021 Dan O’Dowd founded The Dawn Project, which campaigns to ensure all software in safety-critical infrastructure is secure and to make computers safe for humanity. The first danger The Dawn Project is tackling is Elon Musk’s reckless deployment of unsafe Full Self-Driving cars on our roads.
The Dawn Project launched its campaign in January 2022 by publishing a full-page advertisement in The New York Times, offering $10,000 to the first person who could name another commercial product from a Fortune 500 company that has a critical malfunction every 8 minutes.
Following the findings of safety tests, The Dawn Project launched a series of full-page ads in The New York Times reporting on our tests that found Tesla Full Self-Driving would:
- Fail to stop for child-sized mannequins crossing the road
- Fail to obey ‘Do Not Enter’ and ‘Road Closed’ signs
- Drive around stopped school buses with their stop sign arm extended and lights flashing
- Repeatedly hit a child mannequin in a stroller
In February 2023, The Dawn Project broadcast a public safety message during Super Bowl LVII, warning that a Full Self-Driving Tesla would:
- Run down a child in a school crosswalk
- Swerve into oncoming traffic
- Hit a baby in a stroller
- Go straight past stopped school buses
- Ignore ‘Do Not Enter’ signs
- Drive on the wrong side of the road
The Dawn Project’s ad was broadcast during the game to millions of viewers, politicians and regulators in Washington D.C, and state capitals including California, New York, Texas, Florida and Georgia.
Dan O’Dowd for California Senate
As part of his campaign highlighting the dangers of Tesla Full Self-Driving, Dan ran for Senate in California in April 2022 on the single issue of banning Full Self-Driving, bringing his message and campaign to an audience of millions.