2014 is quickly becoming a precarious year to own an automobile. CNN released a detailed report in July about every General Motors recall in 2014, totaling more than 20 million affected vehicles. But General Motors isn’t the only big automobile company with major recalls. Among them are Toyota, Nissan, Honda, and Mazda. Problems stemmed from electronics-software programming to hardware issues.
Lessons learned? Although consumers have always had to keep an eye out for poorly designed cars (and companies with bad reputations), having more electronics in the car means consumers have to stay more vigilant.
Electronics afford many benefits: better fuel economy, safer conditions, and so forth. But even a good company sometimes gets bad electronics. And the mix of mechanical systems with electronics is fraught with challenge. Automotive engineers can't always protect us from part failure or unforeseen conditions. Or can they?
What lessons have engineers learned about how to design electronics for the automotive environment? We would like hear some of them from you. Post your comments below.
Here's a quick look at some of the notorious recalls involving car electronics.
Click on this image to view the recalls:
Unintended acceleration & electronic control unit
In a 2013 court case, embedded systems experts who reviewed Toyota's electronic throttle source code testified that they found the code defective, and that it contains bugs -- including bugs that can cause unintended acceleration.
"We've demonstrated how as little as a single bit flip can cause the driver to lose control of the engine speed in real cars due to software malfunction that is not reliably detected by any fail-safe," said Michael Barr, CTO and co-founder of Barr Group.
(Image: Barr Group)
— Alison Dorantes-Garcia is a freelance writer for EE Times. Susan Rambo contributed additional reporting.