BMW recently issued a recall affecting 45,500 cars due to a software problem that could leave certain models’ transmission in neutral rather than park when owners shut the car off, MSN Autos’ Exhaust Notes blog reported.
According to filings with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the Comfort Access keyless start option on 2005-2008 BMW 7-Series models may select neutral rather than park when the driver presses the start/stop button to shut off the car. The 7-Series is designed to switch to park automatically when shut off, but the flaw can prevent park from being engaged without the driver’s knowledge. However, when the start/stop button is pressed multiple times, a service mode that keeps the transmission in neutral is unexpectedly engaged.
This feature is not advertised in the owner’s manual, and it can easily occur by accident, Exhaust Notes said. The driver must press the button twice to fully turn off accessories such as the stereo that remain on when the engine is not running. Similarly, if the driver puts the car in neutral and shuts off the car while key fob is inside the slot, the transmission enters “Carwash” mode. This mode keeps the car in neutral, and even selecting the “P” button on the gear selector will not change it.
BMW claimed to have received 52 reported roll-aways from 2002 to 2012, resulting in 14 crashes and five injuries, although it attributed only eight of these incidents to an issue with the start/stop button. The company also said that an update to the software may not arrive until March 2013 and advised drivers to set the parking brake in all cases until then.
Another flaw in the Comfort Access system prompted BMW to recall 7,485 2005-2007 7-Series models, a number that AutoGuide noted constituted 15 percent of the 7-Series cars sold from 2005 to 2007. The flaw could make doors appear to be latched shut when they were not.
These types of embedded software issues have the potential to shake consumer confidence in the quality of automobiles and may lead to demands for improved development processes. As software systems become more integrated with car operations, drivers may seek reassurance that coding issues are not putting them in danger. To avoid these kinds of flaws, which can be costly to repair as well as damaging to a manufacturer’s brand, automakers may want to tighten their MISRA compliance and use tools like static analysis to prevent such issues from making into the field.
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