Mr. Ko Won-jun, 46, who bought a new Granger earlier this year, recently had a bizarre experience. He was driving slowly down the road when a beeping sound suddenly cut him off. A sensor in the front of the car misidentified an obstacle. There were many people on the internet who had experienced the same thing. The manufacturer, Hyundai, fixed the problem with an 안전놀이터over-the-air update.
Jang Min-hee, 55, who bought a Mercedes-Benz S-Class last year, is frustrated by the eco-start-stop feature that shuts off the engine while in standby. The feature is supposed to turn off when the car is stopped and restart when the accelerator pedal is pressed, but her car often requires her to press the start button again due to a software error. Zhang received a notice from the service center to update the software of the powertrain control unit.
In recent years, as automobiles have become increasingly software-driven, more and more consumers are complaining about stalling. In the past, car failures were mostly mechanical and physical defects, but in recent years, electronic and electrical equipment have become more common. These are new problems that have arisen as the number of so-called software-defined vehicles (SDVs) has increased.
Kia recently unveiled the SDV technology applied to the EV9./Provided by Kia
According to the Automobile Recall Center operated by the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, and Transport on Tuesday, a total of 367 recalls and free repairs occurred from January to May this year (242 free repairs and 125 recalls), of which 172 (132 free repairs and 40 recalls) were software-related. This is 43.3% of all repairs and recalls. Free repairs are for defects that don’t have a significant safety impact, while recalls are for safety-related defects.
Five years ago, in the first five months of 2018, there were 154 recalls and free repairs, but only 19 (12.3%) were software-related. “As software accounts for a larger share of automobiles, the number of related issues is increasing,” said an industry insider.
At Hyundai, which has been working to transition to SDVs under the leadership of Hyundai Motor Group Chairman Chung Eui-sun, 33 of the 48 free repairs this year (68.8%) were for software issues. Recalls accounted for 5 out of 14 (35.7%).
The car with the most software repairs and recalls is the Grandeur (7th generation), a midsize sedan launched last November. It has received 12 free repairs so far this year, with 10 (83.3%) of them due to software issues. The two recalls were both software-related.
GM’s new software platform, Ultify. /Courtesy of GM
Imports are also seeing an increase in software defects. At Mercedes-Benz, 35 (61.4%) of the 57 free repairs and recalls (42 free repairs and 15 recalls) through May of this year were due to software issues. Mercedes-Benz had no software issues in the same period five years ago. BMW had 22 recalls through May of this year, 14 (63.6%) of which were software issues. Six of the 16 free repairs (37.5%) were software-related.
Software issues are relatively easy to fix with over-the-air updates, upgrades, etc. and take less time to resolve than mechanical or physical failures. However, software issues are harder to detect early on and less predictable than mechanical failures.
The industry looks at how quickly manufacturers can find and fix software problems and their causes as a competitive advantage. In the past, engine performance, ride quality, and fuel efficiency were measures of automotive technology, but in the era of SDVs, the ability to troubleshoot software issues is a measure of a manufacturer’s capabilities.
“Due to the nature of software development, there are always problems and unpredictability, so it is a challenge for automakers to resolve them quickly,” said an industry insider. “It is easier to repair than mechanical failures in the past, but frequent software failures can cause a loss of trust.”