The ongoing computerization of vehicle systems has caused safety recalls at GM and Toyota. In the latest round of software malfunctions, new 2013 model Chevrolet Malibu cars can blow up the roof rail airbag for no reason or prevent the air bags from going off in a severe accident. Toyota’s Lexus luxury division is recalling its 2013 model GS performance sedans because a sensor can cause the electronically controlled steering wheel to be wildly out of place to where the front wheels are actually pointed. The Lexus recall is global.
The Chevrolet Malibu and Lexus GS 350 have computer programming that is the cause of the safety defects. In both cases, the safety defect was discovered during internal testing after the vehicles were on sale. The required National Highway Traffic Safety Administration filings, no accidents or injuries were reported by General Motors or Toyota.
General Motors initially tried to classify the problem as a service action, but NHTSA instead on a safety recall, apparently because of the seriousness of the potential consequences of defective airbags. The growing use of electronics in automobiles, not always reliable as computer programming recalls mount, begs the question as to why NHTSA does not require standardized data recordings in automobiles. Transient glitches are suspected in many problems but are virtually impossible to detect after the fact.