There were a wide-variety of errors, faults, and general IT-related ooftas to choose from last week. But GM’s recall of 370 000 of its 2014 model year Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra full-size pickup trucks, in order to update their software and reduce the likelihood that their exhaust systems will overheat and catch fire, caught our eye. According to the Detroit News, “When [a] truck idles, it should use two cylinders…but because of a software glitch, the recalled trucks idle with most of the cylinders. That causes the vehicles to overheat and leads to the fires.” So far, there have been eight reported fires, but no injuries.
All of the affected trucks have V-8 engines, but the recall is also being extended to trucks with V-6 engines. Owners should be on the watch for a continuously yellow “check engine light” and an “engine power reduced” message on the vehicle’s information center, the News reported. GM is also telling truck owners not to leave their trucks to idle unattended, which they may do especially in colder climates while warming them up.
The recall is a bit of an embarrassment for GM, because the Silverado, a highly popular and profitable product for GM, is also one of three finalists for the North American Truck of the Year award that is to be announced later today. [Update: the Silverado did win Truck of the Year.] Owners of the affected vehicles will be notified later this week about when they can come in for the software update. The procedure should only take 20 minutes or so to complete.
Your Flight Will Take Off When We Locate the Crew
The recent cold and wintery weather has made flying in the U.S. and Canada a most unpleasant experience for many travelers. While the weather has been responsible for over 20 000 canceled flights and 40 000 delays since the first of the year, Bloomberg News reported that problems with United Airlines’ Crew Communication System (CCS), which is used to communicate schedules and other information to its onboard personnel, has added to the woes. According to Bloomberg, on 30 December 2013, all 10 200 of the airline’s pilots were shifted to the crew communication system previously used only by Continental Airlines pilots. You may recall that United and Continental merged in 2010, and that the merger of their automated reservation systems wasn’t the smoothest on record. Further complicating the transition was a CCS software update designed to comply with a new federal requirement, which came into effect on 4 January, that limits the number of consecutive hours a given pilot can be on duty.
However, Bloomberg reports, since the shift, the CCS has been prone to crashing and displaying out of date crew scheduling information. As a result, the system has lost track of crews' whereabouts, left them stranded, or made them late for flights, leading to both flight cancellations and delays, Bloomberg claims. United acknowledges there have been some technical issues with the CSS, but denies it has lost or stranded crews. United told Reuters that most of the reported crew problems were due to weather, not CCS, issues.
In other air travel news, a software problem with check-in counters coupled with bad weather meant hours of delays and several flight cancellations over the weekend at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport. The cause of the software issue, which was cleared up early Sunday morning, was not given by the airport's spokesperson.
Stock Market IT Reliability Not Trending Upward
Stock traders had hoped that 2014 would bring fewer of the exchange and other stock-related “glitches” that plagued them throughout 2013. Alas, last week saw fresh problems reported with the NASDAQ Options Market, as well as online brokerage firm E*Trade. While the former lasted for less than 30 minutes, the E*Trade outage lasted for nearly 5 hours. The causes of both outages are reportedly still under investigation.
Finally, the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) website and supporting systems continues to make news. According to the Washington Post, the ACA website development and support contract for prime contractor CGI will not be renewed. Instead, the maintenance contract will be given to Accenture under a sole-source contract. CGI insists it was not fired; let's just say it wasn't rehired due to the underwhelming quality of its work.
GM Issues Software Update to Reduce Fire Risks to Pickup Trucks
United Airlines Has Problems with its Crew Communication System
NASDAQ and E*Trade Suffer Outages
Of Other Interest …
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.