MADISON, Wis. — General Motors announced Friday (Sept 9) that it is recalling nearly 4.3 million vehicles worldwide over a software defect discovered in air bags.
GM said, “The sensing and diagnostic module that controls air bag deployment has a software defect that may prevent the deployment of frontal air bags in certain ‘rare circumstances.’”
The flaw has been already linked to one death and three injuries.
GM’s newly disclosed airbag-related recall, however, is separate from those caused by airbags supplier Takata, which dogged the entire automotive industry – involving as many as 14 automakers – in recent years.
In Takata’s airbag case, the heart of the issue was the airbag’s inflator, a metal cartridge loaded with propellant wafers, which in some cases has ignited with explosive force.
In contrast, in describing GM’s latest recall, the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) wrote in a notice that “in the affected vehicles, certain driving conditions may cause the air bag sensing and diagnostic module (SDM) software to activate a diagnostic test” that would prevent the air bag from deployment in the event of a crash.
But why couldn’t GM find the software defect prior to shipping their vehicles?
Roger Lanctot, associate director in the global automotive practice at Strategy Analytics, told us, “Of course GM, like every other auto company and its suppliers, conduct extensive tests — both physical and virtual — of all of their systems prior to deployment.”