back to article Ford recalls 433,000 cars: Software bug breaks engine off-switch

Ford is recalling 433,000 of its cars as they suffer from a software bug that could prevent drivers from turning off their engines. The affected models include some 2015 Focus, C-MAX, and Escape vehicles. If you're unlucky, turning the ignition key to the off position and removing the key, or pressing the engine stop button, …

  1. Jamesit

    Turning a key should NOT be under software control! Who ever did that should be fired.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      and fired at...

      with rotten eggs

    2. Martin Summers

      What happens when there's no key? I believe most Ford's don't come with one any more. I'm not sure I'd like that personally!

      1. Martin Summers

        Lol, I get a thumb down for asking a question and stating a fact. I will cry myself to sleep tonight.

        1. Mark 85

          Ah.. you bad-mouthed Ford by saying you didn't like it. So it was either a Ford lover or a bot or some poor lad in Marketing tasked with reading comments to articles mentioning Ford.

          1. Martin Summers

            @Mark 85 Oh I see, bless 'em, I wasn't criticising Ford, rather the keyless system, so the bot or Ford devotee or whatever can sleep easy tonight.

            1. Martin
              Headmaster

              @Martin re downvote.

              I suspect you were downvoted because of your errant apostrophe (Ford's).

              It wasn't me, by the way.

      2. Phlip

        My Fiesta has 'key less' operation. It's great - very convenient. I wouldn't buy a car without it.

    3. joed

      Absolutely. Today cars control basic functionality through centralized computer (instead of autonomous simple modules). Against all logic, single point of failure plus all the problems of bad software etc. Nobody asked for this (maybe programmers - you know, job security) but we'll all pay the price when something goes wrong. I guess cars got too reliable otherwise so planned obsolescence and complexity had to be added.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        we'll all pay the price when something goes wrong.

        Some of us are already paying (in the $$$ sense).

        I have a diesel with the usual accessories in the exhaust.

        Something in the exhaust management setup isn't right and it lights a warning light sometimes. You take it to the dealer who does the computerised diagnostic thing and says No Fault Found so you ignore it till next time. Eventually you realise that the warning light turns itself off even if you don't go to the dealer so you start ignoring the warning and stop going to the dealer.

        I've had this car three years and until now all it's wasted has been time for a trip to the dealer. Now it's out of warranty, a similar (but not identical) symptom is costing me £50+ for yet another "No Fault Found" (despite the warning light having been on).

        I can understand a sensor or electronics failure causing genuine warnings and diagnostics.

        I can see no excuse for a warning light lighting with no diagnostic info being recorded.

        A different, slightly newer, car from the same manufacturer had a more serious problem - it would spuriously put its automatic gearbox in neutral while driving along, and light the gearbox warning light. It seemed to be associated with the front facing emergency proximity sensors which apply the brakes if an object too close to the car is detected at low speeds. Disabling the emergency braking system made the not 100% repeatable fault go away, re-enabling it made it come back (albeit still not 100% repeatably).

        Are modern manufacturers incompetent, the dealers ill-informed, or both?

    4. BillG
      Devil

      Turning a key should NOT be under software control! Who ever did that should be fired.

      I worked with Ford. This does not look like something a Ford engineer thought of, instead it looks like a non-engineer manager thought of this over the objections of the engineers.

      1. Mark 85

        non-engineer manager = marketing type. More than likely it was along the lines of "all the cool kids will want this..."

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Was this intended behavior or not?

        "This does not look like something a Ford engineer thought of, instead it looks like a non-engineer manager thought of this over the objections of the engineers."

        Surely this is plain and simple unintended behaviour ie a design or implementation error that wasn't detected by analysis, by review or by testing?

        If it was an aircraft incident at least there'd be a full and frank investigation and a full and frank report. Maybe we need those for the automotive industry too, without going to the extremes of the Toyota denials followed by court case followed by $billion penalties.

  2. Stevie

    Bah!

    We used to achieve this function with a relay. I don't ever recall ever having to replace one, nor did I ever have one stick "on".

    1. Evil Auditor Silver badge

      Re: Bah!

      You're right, of course. But in those days cars used to be stolen.

      What, they still are you say? Bugger.

    2. JP19

      Re: Bah!

      "I don't ever recall ever having to replace one, nor did I ever have one stick "on"

      I do - in a Ford as well.

      Leaking telescopic radio antenna trickled water down the wiring onto a starter motor interlock relay mounted to the side of the passenger footwell. A rusty sludge built up in the relay housing eventually shorting the contacts and powering the starter solenoid.

      The starter solenoid circuit back fed to the ignition so the locked car sitting on my drive just started itself one rainy afternoon. I thought someone was stealing it. The only way I could stop the engine and starter motor was to disconnect the battery.

      1. joed

        Re: Bah!

        So? At least you had the option to disconnect battery (this can actually kill modern car) or pull the fuse for antenna/motor. On the bright side - no more telescopic antennas today.

  3. xerocred

    In other news...

    3 people were found starved to death driving around mountain view in a Google car made by Ford. Police say the occupants tried to stop the car but a software bug killed them.

  4. mr. deadlift
    Joke

    systemd strikes again!

    or not, i dont know

    anyone know anything about Ford's s/w constituents/OS' in these vehicles?

    almost half a mil is a fair whack though.

  5. Evil Auditor Silver badge

    Software error?

    Possessed by evil spirits! Or how many lines of code did a Plymouth Fury from the 50s have?

    Then again, there's probably not such a clear cut between possession and software errors...

  6. Spaceman Spiff

    Gee. This is one of the reasons why I don't buy American cars! THEY SUCK!

    1. Evil Auditor Silver badge

      A lot of cars, American or not, suck. That leaves you to choose from cars with supercharged engines or electric ones. But frankly, a lot of them suck, too. Get a bicycle!

    2. 404

      Some, not all, American cars suck. Everybody sells cars that suck. Long ago, in the before time (pre-internet), a friend of mine was paid for a repair job with a 77(?) Lancia with bad tail lights. Cool little exotic for Bumfuck, Arizona. Sexy even. No big deal, right? Incorrect. Damn thing had a unified ground on the engine firewall with a +/- wire to every damn thing. Everything. We spent two days tracing wires and never did get the brake lights working consistently.

      Why oh why would someone *not* use a chassis ground for simplicity and weight savings of all_that_extra_wire?

      1. Alister

        1977 Lancia

        Why oh why would someone *not* use a chassis ground for simplicity and weight savings of all_that_extra_wire?

        Um, because it's a 1977 Lancia... that rusts away before your very eyes in most European countries.

        In the UK, it used to be quite common to deliberately bypass a chassis earth (ground) connection, and fit separate earth wiring, as the only way to deal with a myriad of weird faults caused by bad earths.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      If American cars suck, how about this one?

      "This is one of the reasons why I don't buy American cars! THEY SUCK!"

      Readers might want to wander over to Electronic Engineering Times and read their coverage of the court case where the real causes of a rash of "uncommanded acceleration" in Toyotas were revealed by expert witnesses with access to some Toyota documents.

      Is Toyota an American company? How does a billion dollar penalty for poor design sound?

      How does trying to fool the public (and the US Government) with ridiculous claims about "wrong kind of floor mat" and "sticky pedals" sound? What they really had was very poor hardware and software design. Maybe Ford went to the same school; Toyota were for a long time held up as the way to do things right.

      http://www.eetimes.com/document.asp?doc_id=1319966

      Prof Phil Koopman (Carnegie Mellon University) was an expert witness at the trial:

      http://users.ece.cmu.edu/~koopman/pubs/koopman14_toyota_ua_slides.pdf

      1. Paul Crawford Silver badge

        Re: If American cars suck, how about this one?

        That report about Toyota's software is truly shocking - so many mistakes that are in the "just out of Uni and never worked on something serious" level and a corporate arrogance (or ignorance) that the system fails on so many of the safety guidelines in the automotive industry's own MISRA standards.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: If American cars suck, how about this one?

          It's shocking on two different levels actually:

          1) The content of the report i.e. the appalling engineering (and engineering management) practices that were permitted, in a company that used to be held up as an example of "this is how to run a high quality engineering business". I don't think they even had the option of blaming subcontractors, 787-style (though it's not 100% clear).

          2) The awareness of the report. How many people are aware of what Toyota have been shown to be up to? Not just bad engineering practice, but misleading Government and public as to why "uncommanded acceleration" might have been happening. Why is there so little coverage of this outside the specialist press? Even in the "IT" press it's had very little coverage (doesn't run Windows on x86, therefore not relevant? Surely not that simple.).

          On a slightly different note, MISRA's intended goals are great but their connection with industry reality seems a litle (how shall we say) "limited". From what I've observed it's a great platform for a handful of small specialist businesses to use to promote their products/services. I'm thinking it should be rather more than that.

          Thanks for reading, and spread the word.

    4. joed

      Honestly, American cars used to have "stigma" of overly simple design. No fancy BS, easy to fix (but prone to breaking) etc. This was then, now all cars are built for global market, kitchen and sink included for "free". Complexity comes at a price though.

    5. Kev99 Silver badge

      About the only cars not full of computers are from India and North Korea.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        I think it's time to get my Morris Minor back on the road...

  7. Winkypop Silver badge
    Coat

    You can have any state you want

    As long as it is On...

    My overalls -->

  8. badmonkey

    The Focus etc

    are not "American" cars.

  9. badmonkey
    Devil

    The Focus etc

    are not "American" cars.

  10. Squeensnex

    I'm sorry, Dave...

    I'm afraid I can't do that.

  11. jake Silver badge

    My solution:

    Restore an older car. Ground-up restos are spendy, true, but it's still far cheaper than purchasing a new car. And you get to pick the electronics, horsepower (and the rest of the drivetrain, brakes, suspension, wheels & etc.), interior, yadda, to suit yourself!

    Works for me, anyway :-)

    My fleet doesn't have a vehicle younger than 1970[1], and I'd have no issue driving any of them cross-country & back.

    [1] With the exception of the Peterbilt, which is a whole 'nuther kettle o'worms ;-)

    1. richardcox13

      Re: My solution:

      > Ground-up restos are spendy, true, but it's still far cheaper than purchasing a new car.

      Does that include accounting for your own time at a decent rate?

      I doubt it.

      1. jake Silver badge

        @ richardcox13 (was: Re: My solution:)

        "Does that include accounting for your own time at a decent rate?"

        If you consider meditation a "decent rate", then yes ;-)

        Besides, according to the IRS, my time is valueless.

      2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: My solution:

        "Does that include accounting for your own time at a decent rate?"

        People who have fun in their lives and like to spend their recreation time on hobbies don't think of a monetary return on the time spent. Do you claim travel expenses based on the cost of the mode of transport then add your hourly work rate on top? How much do you charge yourr wife for taking the rubbish out? How much does she charge you for cooking? (stereo-tping, I know, but hey!)

        Not everything has a monetary value. Not even money.

    2. Kev99 Silver badge

      Re: My solution:

      Shoulda bought a K-Whopper.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Unusual for Ford

    The problem is usually trying to get the bugger to start.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ford - powered by Atmos

    Who knew

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    And again ..

    .. there is an argument for a cut-out switch.

    This is exactly why I prefer a normal, boring ignition key. I have worked FAR too long with computers to allow them to have absolute control. Before anyone starts telling me about airplanes, that software is subject to an entirely different level of quality control - and sometimes that still goes wrong too.

    1. VinceH

      Re: And again ..

      "there is an argument for a cut-out switch."

      Or: pop the bonnet, disconnect the battery, get back in the car and stall it. (I had to do that on an old Suzuki SJ for a few days many years ago, and I assume it'll still work on modern cars!)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: And again ..

        My first thought was... "so what, just stall the engine", but then I remembered that a lot of american cars have automatic gearboxes (stick shift is too difficult), and it's pretty tricky to stall an auto.

        Disconnecting the battery will certainly help with that, but I hate to think what a modern car would be like with such an unsmoothed 12v supply to all the electronics. (battery normally acting like a big smoothing capacitor)

      2. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

        Re: And again ..

        get back in the car and stall it.

        You're assuming a clutch, I think. Most US cars are automatics, much harder to stall.

        1. Moeluk

          Re: And again ..

          Or...do what you do when a turbo diesel blows an oil seal and runsaway...

          Cover the air intake with something relatively airtight... like a plastic bag, or some socks.

          Man its fun watching that happen, although i'd imagine shit scary if it happened to you.

          1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

            Re: And again ..

            Man its fun watching that happen, although i'd imagine shit scary if it happened to you.

            It's scary enough watching from nearby, I don't think I'd like to open the bonnet and look for the air intake while the engine was attempting to self-destruct. CO₂ fire extinguisher emptied through the grille, perhaps?

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: And again ..

        Or: pop the bonnet, disconnect the battery, get back in the car and stall it. (I had to do that on an old Suzuki SJ for a few days many years ago, and I assume it'll still work on modern cars!)

        The reason I want a kill switch is not because I would have a problem with going under the hood when the car is stationary, but when the electronics decide to take me for a ride. This is not a new idea, apparently it has already happened. All eco cars, for instance, have CVT drive trains which are electronically controlled so you don't have a clutch to disengage the engine. When your drive by wire goes haywire, an electronic pushbutton thing is not really going to cut it, or the engine.

        Clutch or kill switch, or no sale. Personally, I would have expected this requirement from vehicle certification agencies, but they appear to be asleep at the wheel..

  15. skswales

    Was driving a Renault Clio hire car in Spain this year with an awful auto engine-off feature to save the planet or some such. Excellent featurette there - with the engine in auto-off, pull out the ignition 'key' module and the damn engine starts again! And the Engine Stop button then doesn't work 'cos the 'key' isn't in! Similar featurette is that with the engine on, you can pull the key and then be unable to stop the engine with a button push. Hope there is some g-force sensing stuff so that when the 'key' is ejected in a crash you can shut the bloody car down...

    1. JeffyPoooh
      Pint

      Renault

      Countries that allow their workforce to enjoy a glass or three of wine at lunch should not be permitted to write software.

      1. Dagg Silver badge
        Flame

        Re: Renault

        >Countries that allow their workforce to enjoy a glass or three of wine at lunch should not be permitted to write software.

        You mean like the UK, we always just wandered down the road to the pub for cob and a beer. I was always more productive after lunch.

        The US on the other hand with these "brown bag" lunch meetings, total waste of time and always started the afternoon in a bad mood wanting to kill some sodding project manager who considered lunch to be "free unproductive time".

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Why

    Why would anyone buy a Ford anyway? Aren't they utter shite?

    1. Canecutter

      Re: Why

      Yeah. I'm on my third Ford.

      Found On Road Dead

      For Only Rum Drinkers

      Fix Or Repair Daily

      Ford Owners Recommend Datsun

      Fastest On Race Day

      Crazy, eh?

      But for utter shite, Fords don't seem to be any worse than any other make, and I've had to fix them all.

      As for having a kill switch, I just wish vehicle manufacturers would consider that. Put in a kill switch that both kills power to engine ignition and computers, and shuts off the fuel supply. Thus when you hit the kill switch, the engine has no chance of running until you want it to again.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Why

        Install your own then, dumbass.

        1. Canecutter

          Re: Why

          "Install your own then, dumbass."

          I take it you're a Fordnatic, then. I doubt you love Fords more than I do. I am a second-generation Ford fanatic, actually. My father is a Ford fanatic.

          But while I was plugging for the manufacturers to put a kill-switch and fuel shutoff switch as OEM equipment in new cars, I dare say you have indeed put an idea into my head. I think I will install such a kill switch. You never can tell when it'll be needed.

          Off to the drawing board for me!

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Inertia switch for fuel cutoff?

        Do all European cars (vans?) in the last few years not have a motion-sensitive fuel cutoff mechanism which WILL operate as a result of sudden changes in vehicle motion ? Ie there's an inertia switch somewhere in the car and if the inertia switch fires as a result of a sudden stop, the fuel is cut off? Is it compulsory or optional?

        Is there a similar requirement in the US?

        How difficult/expensive/unpopular would it be to have a 2nd switch, acessible from the cabin, that can also drive the (already existing) fuel cutoff mechanism?

        Many passenger-carrying commercial vehicles already seem to have an externally accessible fuel cutoff switch.

        Note that the usual fuel cutoff mechanism won't help in the case of a diesel engine which for some reason is burning lubricating oil, which does happen. Hence the earlier suggestion of blocking the air intake.

        1. Canecutter

          Re: Inertia switch for fuel cutoff?

          "Note that the usual fuel cutoff mechanism won't help in the case of a diesel engine which for some reason is burning lubricating oil, which does happen. Hence the earlier suggestion of blocking the air intake."

          Yeah. That. There's nothing worse than a diesel engine that's so worn that it's started burning oil. The only way to stop run-on is indeed to block the engine's air intake. I've had to pull apart diesels that truly destroyed themselves by run-on. Not a pretty sight.

  17. Kev99 Silver badge

    Computer needed to off the engine? Get Real

    I agree with Jamesit. The only connection there should be between the ignition switch and a cars computer is a circuitbreaker or resister to keep the computer from being fried by a power surge. The ignition switch should simply be that, a switch. Nothing else. Turn the key to on and the power is turned on. Turn the key to off, all the power is turned off.

  18. ThePianoMan

    Kill switches are fitted as standard by GM and Ford...

    But only on the development vehicles ('Mules'). During a vehicle's early development, I am sure we all know the kinds of stuff that can go wrong with untested hardware, software, etc. So they fit a BRS (http://www.catb.org/jargon/html/B/Big-Red-Switch.html) for Health and Safety reasons. Never seen one used, but I was never involved in the really early/hairy stages of powertrain development.

  19. Frank N. Stein

    This is why I love my 96 Volvo 850. None of that "connected" tech nonsense. Not of that keyless ignition/start button malarky. And since it's so old, the mileage at 307,070 miles, and it's not the turbo model, no one but me wants it. You can have all that modern connected tech in car. I shall pass on that, particularly from Ford, Jaguar, and Land Rover...

  20. AK2020

    Ford sucks. Had my car to years. 3 recalls fixed and now the problem i have going on their gonna tell me pretty much aint nothing they can do. Stalling while driving now it wont start at all. Im done with ford. Giving the car back cause at this point i dnt feel safe!!!

  21. AK2020

    Ford Sucks 2019

    Already had 3 major recalls and now im expering stalling while driving and now it wont start at all. Its a shame. Their trying not to say its a recall but i know better. Ford Sucks. Im giving it bk and i will make sure to NEVER purchase a ford again!!!

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