Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Total Recall

45 million.

That’s the number of vehicles recalled this year for just two separate events. Approximately 34 million vehicles were recalled for the Takata airbag defect back in May, and more than 11 million Fiat Chrysler vehicles were found to have one of several defects just recently. That’s nearly 50 million vehicles recalled in just a few months.

Last Thursday I wrote about the SPY Car Act, which is a legislative attempt to protect our cars from hackers. The very next day, more than 1 million Chryslers were recalled for software that was vulnerable to hacking.

You can head over to safercar.gov every day and see if there have been any new recalls since the day before. That page is rarely blank. On the day of this writing, there are four new recalls since the day before that affect more than 160,000 vehicles. 

Last April, the DOT Inspector General testified before Congress that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration had made improvements in detecting defects. About a month ago I wrote about an audit report from the Office of Inspector General that basically called NHTSA incompetent.

Bottom line: We have a problem here. A very dangerous, sometimes fatal, problem.

Do we blame NHTSA? After all, its job is to make sure these sorts of things are taken care of before they become a major problem. Even after showing improvements of doing its job efficiently, NHTSA was deemed inept a year later. There seems to be no accountability on NHTSA’s end.

On the other hand, in some of the more headline-grabbing cases, such as the 2014 GM recall and the latest Chrysler recall, investigations have found that the manufacturers are either intentionally delaying the recall process or are inefficient in their process.

Or is it the technology? In the case of Fiat Chrysler, the company found out after the fact that perhaps hackers are more advanced than they are. We have become so focused and reliant on all the cool new gadgets in our vehicles that we have forgotten about the single most important features of a vehicle: safety and reliability.

How about Congress? They are always eager to pass new laws and regulations that deal with installing new technology for our safety without properly going through the scientific method to determine if it will even work. After pressure from interest groups, Congress will demand manufacturers figure out how to implement these new technologies in a relatively short amount of time without costing consumers too much, and then we are appalled when something goes wrong.

While governments, agencies and companies are pointing fingers at each other, people are dying. It’s past time to figure out the problem and find a real solution.