Report: Software Issues Have Tripled Auto Recalls In The Past Five Years

by Andy Szal

A recent analysis of auto safety data identified a sharp increase in the number of vehicle recalls attributed to software problems rather than parts defects.

The 2016 Automotive Warranty & Recall Report from financial advisory firm Stout Risius Ross added that the results reflected the arrival of “a new era of heightened recall activity.”

The SRR report said that software-related vehicle recalls accounted for 15 percent all recalls by the end of 2015, up from just 5 percent in 2011. In addition, as the auto industry moves toward Internet-connected and increasingly autonomous vehicles, analysts pointed to new risks such as hacking and private data collection.

Neil Steinkamp, who led the firm’s auto recall research, said that new vehicles can contain more than 10 times the amount of code in an F-35 joint strike fighter jet.

(AP Photo)

“When you have that much software in a car — and particularly when much of that software is relatively new — there are going to be some issues,” Steinkamp said. “The key question is: What can the industry do to mitigate risks as cars become more reliant on software?”

The Car Connection’s Bengt Halvorson, writing in Popular Science, suggested that the regular software upgrades currently offered by Tesla Motors could be one solution. He noted that the SRR report tallied the potential savings to the industry from over-the-air updates at $35 billion.

Analysts also said that regulators are responding to the new recall environment with new strategies.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, for example, issued record civil penalties and used consent orders — a method employed by the Justice Department — in response to recent auto safety problems.