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Software fault forces Ford recall

One of my safety correspondents has sent this, found at
It's sad to see yet more safety critical software allegedly failing with
fatal consequences. This should encourage us to continue our efforts
to promote software reliability based on secure foundations (unlike
much industry practice).

Software fault forces Ford recall
By: Andrew Thomas
Posted: 13/12/2000 at 15:10 GMT

Car giant Ford has instigated a recall of 110,000 Explorer and
Mountaineer sport utility vehicles because of a programming glitch in
the car's cruise control equipment. 

A month ago, Ford denied claims in a UK TV show that cruise
control problems had caused a number of Explorers to accelerate
suddenly without warning. At the time, the company blamed the
problem on floor mats becoming entangled with the throttle pedal. 

The Channel 4 programme, broadcast on 15 November, alleged that
in 1998, British motorist Chris Merrick had died when his Explorer
ran out of control and that a number of US motorists had also fallen
victim to runaway Fords. 

At the time, Ford said it there was no evidence of engine controls
being to blame for 'unintended sudden acceleration' or faults with
cruise control systems. It admitted that complaints about the vehicles
not slowing as expected had prompted a recall in 1998, when
incorrectly fitted floor mats beneath the pedals were replaced. 

Today, Mike Vaughn, a spokesman for Ford in Detroit, told The
Register that the programming of a chip in the powertrain control
module was suspect. "In this case, it is the way it was programmed,
not the way it was designed or manufactured," he said. "The fix is
simply to reflash or reprogram it at the dealer." 

The Explorer was also involved in a number of fatal accidents
caused by the failure of Firestone tyres, which are also subject to a
recall. The cruise control was intended to limit the vehicle's top
speed to 100mph, the Firestone tyres being rated safe up to
106mph. The software fault could have allowed this maximum speed
to be exceeded. 

Vaughn added that Ford was not aware of any crashes, tyre-related
or otherwise, that had been caused by the defective software. ®