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Communications of the ACM

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Automated Program Repair

automated robot holds box, code on screens, illustration

Credit: Visual Generation

Alex is a software developer, a recent hire at the company of her dreams. She is finally ready to push a highly anticipated new feature to the shared code repository, an important milestone in her career as a developer. As is increasingly common in development practice, this kind of push triggers myriads of tests the code must pass before becoming visible to everyone in the company. Alex has heavily tested the new feature and is confident it will pass all the tests automatically triggered by the push. Unfortunately, Alex learns the build system rejected the commit. The continuous integration system reports failed tests associated with a software package developed by a different team entirely. Alex now must understand the problem and fix the feature manually.

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What if, instead of simply informing Alex of the failing test, the build system also suggested one or two possible patches for the committed code? Although this general use case is still fictional, a growing community of researchers is working on new techniques for automated program repair that could make it a reality. A bibliography of automated program repair research has been composed by Monperrus.17


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