The escalating complexity of automobiles is led in part by the escalating complexity of safety systems. The once dumb airbag that lived all alone inside the steering wheel, for instance, is now a family of smart airbags that might be able to detect the location of the passenger they’re meant to protect and how best to inflate in order to protect him. Beyond the increased sticker price, the cost of that technology is more things going wrong.
According to a story on AOL Autos there have been 22 recalls in the last six months due to airbags – covering more than 3.8 million cars up to 12 years old – compared to ten in the six months before. 15 of those have come this year, and at the current pace 2013 is on course to surpass the total of 23 airbag-related recalls of 2012. Malfunctions that led to the recalls have included airbags not deploying when expected, or deploying unexpectedly, or causing additional injuries and damage to occupants when they do deploy.
It can take suppliers, automakers and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration years to address the issue and initiate a recall, even after hundreds of complaints have been filed. On top of that, the increasing concentration of the supplier base and the move to global platforms means that what might once have been a localized issue is now a global one. Some look at the number of airbag recalls as a problem with the technology, feeling “it’s not working very well.” Others see it as the improved operation of the corrective system – more issues are being recalled because automakers are taking safety concerns more seriously.