Any of us who has ever used a computer knows that software can misbehave. It freezes. It crashes. It stops us in our tracks. Not nearly all the time, but often enough to stamp its unruly mark on our lives.
So as automobiles morph more and more into computers on wheels with all their sophisticated information technology systems, should we worry that miscreant bits and bytes could literally drive us to a halt?
The world's largest carmaker Toyota has discovered that the answer is "yes."
It is recalling 1.9 million of its popular Prius models "because of a software fault that may cause the vehicle to slow down suddenly," the BBC reports. In fact, Toyota said:
"In limited cases, the hybrid system might shut down and the vehicle will stop, perhaps while being driven."
Toyota has identified more than 400 instances of the problem, primarily in North America and in its home country of Japan. It is recalling its latest Prius sedan, which the company started making in 2009. The Prius is a hybrid car that runs on both a gasoline engine and electric motors and is considered environmentally friendly because the electricity cuts down on the CO2 emissions of the internal combustion.
It seems as though "recall" has become Toyota's second name. It has yanked back over 20 million cars globally over the last two years, including thousands a few weeks ago in the U.S. because seat heaters could burn fabric. In 2010 it recalled over 10 million cars that could potentially accelerate out of control.
For manufacturing aficionados: It makes you wonder about the sacrosanct "lean" principles that rule global industry of all sorts, and for which Toyota has long been the demigod.
As for the Prius recall, Toyota said that no accidents or injuries have been reported. Let's hope it stays that way. Otherwise, the company will have redefined the term software crash.
Photo is from Toyota UK via Flickr
This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com