Ford Motor Company announced two recalls in the past week that will require the owners of some 695 000 Ford vehicles to visit their local dealerships to receive software updates to their SUVs and trucks. On Friday, Ford announced that it would be recalling 692 500 Ford Escape small SUVs and C-Max gas-electric hybrids from the 2013-2014 model year to fix a problem in what the company calls the vehicles’ “safety canopy” (“an air bag that deploys from the ceiling near the windows to protect an occupant’s head in a side impact crash or rollover”), according to a New York Times article. The article notes that, according to Ford, a computer software issue could result in delayed deployment of the safety canopy in certain rollover events.
The Associated Pressstates that the Escapes in the recall were built from 5 October 2011 through 14 February 2014, while the C-Max vehicles (which make up about 10 percent of the recall) were built from 19 January 2012, through 24 February 2014. Ford stated that no injuries or deaths have been reported related to the issue.
In addition, Reuters Newsreported last Monday that Ford is also recalling 3976 of its F-250, F-350, F-450 and F-550 Super Duty trucks from model year 2015 that are equipped with 6.2-liter gasoline or 6.7-liter diesel engines and 6R140 torque shift transmissions (pdf). According to Reuters, a “transmission control software error could cause the vehicle to engage ‘reverse’ for a little over 1 second when the driver believes he or she is shifting from ‘park’ to ‘drive.’”
No injuries or deaths have been reported related to this software issue either, Ford reported. Updates for both the Escape and Ford truck software problems should be available at authorized dealers sometime next month, Ford indicated.
By my informal count, some 5.87 million vehicles have been recalled world-wide since the beginning of the year to correct either software or mechanical (including insect-related) problems that a software fix is being used to mitigate. About 2.8 million of the vehicles in that group have been called in to correct improper airbag deployment.
A big question being raised is that, with so many recalls of all types now taking place (there were 581 recalls involving 22 million vehicles in the U.S. alone last year), how many used and rental vehicles, let alone original owner vehicles, are being driven without ever having their software bugs fixed?
Robert N. Charette is a Contributing Editor to IEEE Spectrum and an acknowledged international authority on information technology and systems risk management. A self-described “risk ecologist,” he is interested in the intersections of business, political, technological, and societal risks. Charette is an award-winning author of multiple books and numerous articles on the subjects of risk management, project and program management, innovation, and entrepreneurship. A Life Senior Member of the IEEE, Charette was a recipient of the IEEE Computer Society’s Golden Core Award in 2008.