Airbags are complex devices that must deploy within a fraction of a second, between the time a vehicle strikes an external object and the rider hits the front or side of the car interior. It better work right or your life is in real danger.
But unfortunately, software dependability can make this a real challenge.
On April 28, 2008, Volvo issued a recall affecting about 65,000 2008 M.Y. Volvo V70 and XC70s. The reason lies with a software problem that delayed the triggering of the side-impact air-bags in case of impact. Only European market vehicles were affected. Volvo Cars has been owned by U.S. Ford Motor Co. since 1999.
General Motors issued a recall of almost 3,000 Cadillac CTS vehicles 2009 model – due to a software bug in the airbag sensor:
GM is recalling 12,662 my 2009 Cadillac CTS vehicles for failing to conform to the requirements of federal motor vehicle safety standard no. 208, ‘Occupant Crash Protection.’ Under certain conditions, a software condition within the passenger sensing system may disable the front passenger air bag when it should be enabled or enable it when it should be disabled.
In a vehicle crash, if the front passenger air bag does not operate as designed, increased personal injury could occur.
Transportation-related software problems happen all the time. Chrysler issued a recal for Jodge Nitro and Jeep Wrangler 2007 model:
On certain vehicles, the totally integrated power module (TIPM) was programmed with software that may allow the engine to stall under certain operating conditions. This could cause a crash without warning.
How can you protect yourself from software bug-related problems driving your car?
Well, if car equipment manufacturers continue to suffer financially as they currently are, they are unlikely to invest the time and resources needed to more fully test their products before release. Let us just hope we will not have to report a disaster caused by transportation-related software problem soon.