Car Owners Keep Complaining About Software-Related Problems

All those lines of computer code in cars increases software technical service bulletins and recalls.

Car Owners Keep Complaining About Software-Related Problems

Posted in News

— Car owners have learned over the past few years the consequences of turning vehicles into computers with tires, namely with the noticeable increase in software-related complaints and recalls.

The complexity of cars is overwhelming to the human mind when you realize all the software needed for the average car. But for a luxury vehicle the lines of computer code can be outright scary when compared to other complicated machines.

The total software code in a U.S. F-22 Raptor fighter jet consists of about 1.7 million lines of code. A Boeing 787? Less than 7 million lines of code. A luxury car? That car you are driving can easily consist of 100 million lines of computer code and lots of software that can go wacky when it chooses.

The results of all that computer code can be seen in a study conducted by J.D. Power concerning software-related complaints and recalls. According to the study, in the past five years alone, vehicle owners have filed more than 2,000 software-related complaints with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Common defects caused by computer software typically create problems related to the powertrain, electrical systems, engine cooling and vehicle control systems.

J.D. Power says at least 189 software recalls have been issued in the past five years causing 13 million vehicles to be brought back to dealerships. Additionally, most of these recalls (141) were serious safety recalls concerning a crash risk and 44 recalls were ordered for defects that could cause injuries.

Some software complaints eventually lead to recalls, and just by checking the recall section of it doesn't take long to see all the recalls ordered to update or upgrade software. However, J.D. Power found owners kept complaining about software-related problems even after the recall repairs were performed.

For example, a third of owners who reported problems with navigation systems had their software upgraded, but 55 percent of those consumers said the upgrade didn't fix the problems.

Then there are those technical service bulletins (TSBs) many car owners never hear about because the bulletins aren't legally considered recalls. A TSB is used by a manufacturer when it suspects a car problem after hearing complaints, then sends a notice to dealers about what to do if a customer complains.

J.D. Power says it found a link between TSBs and software problems, causing an average of 58 software-related TSBs per year between 2006-2010 increasing to an average of 160 per year from 2011-2015.

The study indicates software-related complaints will only increase because the pattern is already established and we haven't reached the stage of self-driving cars. Yet.

Have a complaint about the software in your car? Add your complaint here, about any vehicle.