Honda recalls 175.000 hybrids due to software problem

July 13, 2014 // By Junko Yoshida
For the first time, an automobile company has conceded that a software glitch in electronic control units could cause cars to accelerate suddenly, forcing drivers to scramble to take emergency measures to prevent an accident. Honda Motor Co., citing software problems, announced that it is recalling 175,000 hybrid vehicles in Japan.

Honda revealed that some hybrid versions of its Fit and Vezel subcompacts could suddenly accelerate without warning.

A Honda spokesman in Tokyo told Bloomberg that unintended acceleration incidents have caused property damage, but no injuries or deaths thus far. The recall affects only vehicles that were sold in Japan.

Anthony Anderson, a UK electrical engineering consultant, told EE Times, "To the best of my knowledge, this recall is the first occasion on which any car manufacturer has admitted publicly to a link between a software malfunction and sudden acceleration and issued a recall to fix the software."

Not coincidentally, Toyota Motor Corp. is busy settling several hundred lawsuits contending that its vehicles inadvertently accelerated. The carmaker has never acknowledged the software issue. Instead, it blamed dozens of injuries and deaths on loose floor mats, sticky accelerator pedals, and driver error.

The only time Toyota's defective software faced public scrutiny occurred in last fall's Bookout v Toyota Motor Corp. trial. An Oklahoma County jury found Toyota liable for a crash and awarded $1.5 million of compensation to the driver, Jean Bookout, who was injured in the crash, and $1.5 million to the family of a passenger, Barbara Schwarz, who died.

After the jury verdict, Toyota Motor Corp. reached a confidential settlement with the victims to avoid punitive damages.

"Honda, by acknowledging its mistakes, is much more likely to survive than companies that push problems under the floormat and claim that the problems do not exist," Anderson said.

This article originally appeared on EE Times