Toyota is recalling all of the 1.9 million newest generation Priuses worldwide due to a software error, the Japanese automaker announced recently. The recall affects model year 2010 through 2014 Priuses. It marks a shift in Toyota's public approach to automotive safety and underscores the increasingly complex nature of onboard vehicle software systems, experts noted.
The problem that occurs in the latest generation of Priuses is tied to software settings that could damage transistors in the hybrid systems, causing them to overheat, the company stated. The error could set off warning lights and in some cases even cause the system to shut down while the car is being driven, prompting the vehicle to stall. The manufacturer said no accidents or injuries from the error have been reported. Owners can take the car to a dealer to fix the issue.
Of the customers affected, around one million are in Japan, approximately 130,000 are in Europe and the other 713,000 are in the United States, where the Prius is the most successful alternative engine car on the market and one of the most popular passenger vehicles in general. Last year, Toyota sold more than 234,000 Priuses in the U.S., and it is the most sold vehicle of any type in California, the Los Angeles Times noted.
A changing automotive landscape
In one sense, the recall is notable because it marks a shift in Toyota's approach toward handling safety issues publicly, experts noted. The company has paid billions of dollars in fines and legal fees in the United States to handle fallout from recalls in 2009 and 2010. While safety recalls were not traditionally publicly acknowledged in Japan, where legal risks from owners are lower, the company has adjusted its approach and become more proactive in initiating recalls in recent years.
The recall is also important, though, because it highlights the growing complexity of today's vehicle software systems, analysts told The New York Times. With millions of lines of code governing cars' electronic systems, the potential for error is increased.
"Cars are getting more complicated," Jack R. Nerad, the executive editorial director at Kelley Blue Book, told The New York Times. "Twenty years ago, we weren't having software glitches."
As automakers seek to avoid widespread recalls of millions of vehicles like the one affecting Priuses, they can look to strengthen their software development process with approaches like source code analysis. With static analysis software, it's possible for developers to ensure they're meeting MISRA compliance standards and catch errors that could manifest as recall-worthy flaws later on.
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