Florida residents may be surprised to learn that some of the vehicles currently offered for sale in American showrooms contain far more computer code than the F-35 Lightning II fighter aircraft. While sophisticated collision prevention systems and autonomous vehicle technology have been hailed by companies like Google and Tesla as the way forward towards an accident free self-driving future, research conducted by the financial services and advisory firm Stout Risius Ross has found that such systems are also largely responsible for a recent surge in vehicle recalls.
SRS researchers found that the percentage of vehicle recalls related to problems with software shot up from 5 percent in 2011 to 15 percent in 2015. This figure could have been even higher had millions of cars not been recalled in 2015 because of potentially deadly airbags and faulty ignition switches. The SRS research concluded that regular over-the-air software updates, such as those offered by Tesla, could reduce recalls and save the auto industry as much as $35 billion each year.
Automakers may be more willing to listen to this kind of advice now than they have been in years past. The recent surge in recalls led to an outcry from concerned consumers and prompted the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to levy record fines. The Japanese parts manufacturer Takata was fined $70 million in November 2015 for concealing evidence about airbag safety, and Fiat Chrysler was ordered to pay fines of $175 million for failing to report safety data and mishandling recalls.
Car manufacturers who fail to take all reasonable steps to protect consumers from automotive defects may also face auto product liability lawsuits. Personal injury attorneys may initiate litigation against manufacturers on behalf of consumers who have been harmed, and they may seek significant compensation in cases where the carmaker involved knew about a potentially dangerous defect and failed to take appropriate action.