Recall Trend Highlights Electronic and Safety Systems

Pre Collision System OffA disturbing trend appeared in the recalls we tracked since our last newsletter. Six recalls were issued involving automated electronic systems, including safety systems directly and indirectly. And they simply got more troublesome through the course of the month.

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  • First, GM recalled 51,000 Spark, Sonic models for radio, warning glitch. The warning glitch included chimes that would warn of the keys left in the ignition or of a seat belt that is not in use.
  • Next, Nissan recalled 14,595 vehicles for a sticky start/stop button. In hot temperatures, the engine start/stop button in affected vehicles may stick inside the button housing.
  • Ford then recalled 433,000 vehicles for a faulty body control module that can prevent affected vehicles from turning off, even if the key is removed from the ignition or stop/start button has been pressed.
  • Ford followed that up with a 393,623 vehicle recall for electric power steering assist systems that may shut down due to a sensor fault.
  • EyeSight Off Indicator SymbolSubaru then recalled 72,000 cars with its EyeSight active safety system for a brake light switch that can interfere with the software that triggers the automatic braking.
  • And finally, as we were putting this item together, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles issued a recall to address remote hacking of some of its vehicles – after hackers took control of Jeep remotely!

Right now, manufacturers expect drivers to put their safety in their hands in an ever expanding universe of new electronic systems. Over time, car makers fully expect that drivers will eventually agree to cede all control of their cars to the car itself, and thus to its manufacturer.

Power steering that could shut off? Braking that is to rely on the car “seeing” what is ahead? Cars that can’t be shut off or a start/stop button that is stuck? Cars that fall under the control of hackers??

We had better get this right, and while the recalls in these cases are supposed to set things right, things need to be a whole lot righter than they are now. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is actively involved in research into in-vehicle crash avoidance systems, vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communications that support crash avoidance applications, and self-driving vehicles themselves. We truly hope they have their eye on the ball. These kinds of problems need to be addressed before systems hit the streets – before recalls are needed!

And here’s a question we have not seen asked: When your car gets to truly driving itself, will this mean that the manufacturer will then hold accident liability? Hell, do they now for current automated safety systems? Will we get to cancel our auto policies down the road?

We’ll find out soon enough.

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