Finding software bugs in your new car

Last month, I wrote a blog post on how software is changing the automotive technology. My blog post focused on how these new cars will change many aspects of the industry, such as supply chains, vehicle architecture, and big tech.

However, as efficient as these cars are programmed to be with connectivity, advanced driver safety systems and a consumer-centric ethos, the reality is that they are causing a lot of inefficiencies in the real world. An article published by the New York Times, shows how a lot of people are actually suing tech car companies for posing a danger to consumers.

The Problems

The article states there are thousands of car owners who have joined class-action lawsuits that accuse carmakers of selling vehicles with faulty entertainment and related systems. The article further explains that most complaints are around screens that freeze, flicker or go dark; sound that cuts out or unexpectedly blasts at high volume; reversing cameras that fail, and Apple’s CarPlay or Google’s Android Auto software which allow drivers to use their phones to navigate, communicate or listen to music and podcasts.

While these complaints may seem pesky, in reality plaintiffs have successfully argued that a malfunctioning dashboard display is a serious distraction and potential safety hazard.

The Lawsuits

For example, the article points out as specific law suits such as Subaru settling a lawsuit costing an estimated $8 million, including lawyer fees and an extra two years of warranty protection in 2020. Another example is Honda of America and its Acura subsidiary settling a similar class action for an estimated $30 million in Dcemeber, including extending the warranty on systems that buyers complained were flawed. Neither Subaru nor Honda admitted any wrongdoing. 

These are a few examples from a long list, and they point out a larger problem. Carmakers cannot keep up with ever-changing technology. For example, Apple introduces a new iPhone about once a year, and releases new versions of its operating system even more frequently, as does Google. And after each update on these smart phones, car makers get the complaint that CarPlay is not working.

Final Thoughts

While it is easier to develop a new phone than a car, there are some that blame both the carmakers and the tech companies themselves. Carmakers are not at software, and Apple for not doing enough to ensure that software updates work with older vehicles. 

But so far in these lawsuits, only the carmakers have been held accountable. But regardless of the blame, it is very dangerous for consumers to be in cars that may not be functioning properly. 

As technology keeps developing, we will have to wait and see if carmakers can keep up. 

The suits are a symptom of the automakers’ rocky transition to the digital age and their struggle to integrate the latest technology into vehicles, which must meet safety requirements that smartphones and other electronics do not.

By Anusheh Khan on 10/03/2022