General Motors issued a recall for almost 13,000 Cadillac CTS vehicles, due to a software bug in the airbag sensor. Transportation-related software problems happen all the time.
The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) lists details:
GM is recalling 12,662 my 2009 Cadillac CTS vehicles for failing to conform to the requirements of federal motor vehicle safety standard no. 208, 'Occupant Crash Protection.' Under certain conditions, a software condition within the passenger sensing system may disable the front passenger air bag when it should be enabled or enable it when it should be disabled.
In a vehicle crash, if the front passenger air bag does not operate as designed, increased personal injury could occur.
I never cease to be amazed at the ubiquity of programmable technology in our daily lives; of course, more technology means increased opportunities for failure. As systems, including cars, become more complex, fully testing every component seems like an increasingly elusive goal.
This is hardly the first airbag software problem an automaker has faced. For example, earlier this year Volvo recalled 65,000 cars when a software problem caused airbags to deploy improperly. Also in 2008, Ford recalled 470,000 Mustangs because the “passenger-side frontal airbag could potentially deploy with greater-than-allowable force for a petite, unrestrained passenger.”
Airplanes are also subject to software and computer failure issues. Just last month, a Qantas jet plunged unexpectedly during mid-flight, injuring 70 passengers. A faulty data stream caused the problem.
The Australian Herald Sun reported:
The [Australian] transport safety bureau has already declared that the aircraft's air data computer -- or inertial reference system -- sent erroneous information to the flight control computer causing the autopilot to disconnect.
How can you protect yourself from software bug-related problems when traveling? Cross your fingers and hope equipment manufacturers invest the time and resources needed to more fully test their products before release.