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Automatic generation of high quality test sets via CBMC

14 pagesPublished: May 15, 2012


Software Testing is the most used technique for software verification in industry. In the case of safety critical software, the test set can be required to cover a high percentage (up to 100%) of the software code according to some metrics. Unfortunately, attaining such high percentages is not easy using standard automatic tools for tests generation, and manual generation by domain experts is often necessary, thereby significantly increasing the associated costs.

In previous papers, we have shown how it is possible to automatize the test generation process of C programs via the bounded model checker CBMC. In particular, we have shown how it is possible to productively use CBMC for the automatic generation of test sets covering 100% of branches of 5 modules of ERTMS/ETCS, a safety critical industrial software by Ansaldo STS. Unfortunately, the test set we automatically generated, is of lower "quality" if compared to the test set manually generated by domain experts: Both test sets attained the desired 100% branch coverage, but the sizes of the automatically generated test sets are roughly twice the sizes of the corresponding manually generated ones. Indeed, the automatically generated test sets contain redundant tests, i.e. tests that do not contribute to reach the desired 100% branch coverage. These redundant tests are useless from the perspective of the branch coverage, are not easy to detect and then to eliminate a posteriori, and, if maintained, imply additional costs during the verification process.

In this paper we present a new methodology for the automatic generation of "high quality" test sets guaranteeing full branch coverage. Given an initially empty test set T, the basic idea is to extend T with a test covering as many as possible of the branches which are not covered by T. This requires an analysis of the control flow graph of the program in order to first individuate a path p with the desired property, and then the run of a tool (CBMC in our case) able to return either a test causing the execution of p or that such a test does not exist (under the given assumptions). We have experimented the methodology on 31 modules of the Ansaldo STS ERTMS/ETCS software, thus greatly extending the benchmarking set. For 27 of the 31 modules we succeeded in our goal to automatically generate "high quality" test sets attaining full branch coverage: All the feasible branches are executed by at least one test and the sizes of our test sets are significantly smaller than the sizes of the test sets manually generated by domain experts (and thus are also significantly smaller than the test sets automatically generated with our previous methodology). However, for 4 modules, we have been unable to automatically generate test sets attaining full branch coverage: These modules contain complex functions falling out of CBMC capacity.

Our analysis on 31 modules greatly extends our previous analysis based on 5 modules, confirming that automatic test generation tools based on CBMC can be productively used in industry for attaining full branch coverage. Further, the methodology presented in this paper leads to a further increase in the productivity by substantially reducing the number of generated tests and thus the costs of the testing phase.

Keyphrases: automatic test generation, Bounded Model Checking, branch coverage, safety-critical systems

In: Markus Aderhold, Serge Autexier and Heiko Mantel (editors). VERIFY-2010. 6th International Verification Workshop, vol 3, pages 65--78

BibTeX entry
  author    = {Emanuele Di Rosa and Enrico Giunchiglia and Massimo Narizzano and Gabriele Palma and Alessandra Puddu},
  title     = {Automatic generation of high quality test sets via CBMC},
  booktitle = {VERIFY-2010. 6th International Verification Workshop},
  editor    = {Markus Aderhold and Serge Autexier and Heiko Mantel},
  series    = {EPiC Series in Computing},
  volume    = {3},
  pages     = {65--78},
  year      = {2012},
  publisher = {EasyChair},
  bibsource = {EasyChair,},
  issn      = {2398-7340},
  url       = {},
  doi       = {10.29007/zbb8}}
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