back to article Toyota recalls 625,000 hybrids: Software bug kills engines dead with THERMAL OVERLOAD

Toyota has become the third car manufacturer in two weeks to recall its cars because of software problems, with over 625,000 Prius hybrids needing an upgrade to stop the engine suddenly cutting out. On Tuesday Jaguar Land Rover recalled 65,000 of its Range Rover models over a software glitch that caused the cars to …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    No one buy a Toyota any more.

    1. JeffyPoooh

      Re: Seriously

      The *only* thing Toyota had going for them was "Quality".

      No style. Ugly. Boring white goods.

      Tail pipes hanging below the car.

      Mediocre performance.

      Expensive for what they offer.

      People might see you in one.

      1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

        Re: Seriously

        The *only* thing Toyota had going for them was "Quality".

        That quality used to be a natural product of everything in terms of technology tested on real life customers in small volumes by Daihatsu on the low end and small vehicles and Lexus on the high end/luxury.

        It was real too. It may have been ugly, uninspiring white good created by a committee. But it was bombproof. You could rely on it.

        That system was terminated in 2005 and Toyota has never been anything like it used to be ever since. Stuff that should have been caught during R&D and live field trials continuously and repeatedly slips out in the field again, again and again.

        So now it is an ugly uninspiring white good created by a committee which is also unreliable to boot.

  2. redneck


    that's what you get for not programming in Ada ...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: ada

      You spelled 'machine code' incorrectly. Not assembler. Hand-tuned bits.

    2. Charles Manning

      Re: ada

      Ada isn't magic.

      It might help you with catching overflow conditions and bounds checking, but it won't help you with algorithmic issues.

      From all the analyses I have read, most software bugs are not coding bugs but requirement bugs. Ada does not fix requirements bugs.

      From the sound of this problem, it is a fairly common problem encountered with motor control. FETs, particularly big power FETs switch on and off slowly.

      Thus when you use them to modulate a signal with something like an H-bridge, you cannot turn one off and turn the other on immediately. To do so would mean they are briefly both on, causing overheating problems (as well as waste). What you need to do is turn one off, delay a bit for the FET to stop conducting, then turn the other FET on.

      There's obviously more to it than that, because the turn on rates depend on various variables such as temperature etc.

      Ada is not going to magically insert those delays for you or get timing right.

      1. fnj

        Re: ada

        I am old enough to remember before there were FETs. FETs brought absolutely BLINDING speed and incredibly low resistance in the on-state. What you have to be careful of, and you always did have to be careful of, is operating FETs in the region between full-on and full-off.

        When they are full-on, power dissipation is limited by I times R, where R is thousandths of an ohm. When they are full-off, power dissipation is limited by the incredibly low leakage current. What you don't want is to have them "sort of" on but not "full on". You can cook the bejeezus out of them in an all-fired hurry.

  3. Mondo the Magnificent


    ..up above the clouds Henry Ford looks down and shouts "Damned hippies, this what you get for driving an abomination!"

  4. nsld

    If only

    Guardian readers didn't exist we wouldn't need these automotive abominations in the first place.

    How anyone can feel a loss of performance in a Prius is a miracle in its own right, they are about as effective as a eunuch at an orgy and provide just as much pleasure as well.

    I doubt even a full Nismo work over could make a Prius enjoyable as a car.

    1. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge

      Re: If only

      Not sure if Nissan's going to "work over" a car for Toyota.

      1. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge

        Re: If only

        ...that's what they've got TRD for.

        I was under the impression that eunuchs were better lovers because of their staying power, so they'd presumably be reasonably popular at an orgy. Perhaps not the best analogy if that's true.

        Anyway I've ridden in several examples of the current and previous generation standard Prius and it's definitely not the car for me, however not everyone wants the same driving experience I do. Nobody thought to tell the taxi drivers around here what can and can't be done with a Prius though.

    2. codejunky Silver badge

      Re: If only

      @ nsld

      I have nothing against the brand nor the model but I did enjoy reading your comment and it did make me laugh.

  5. Killing Time


    I get that the tone of the article is pitched to provoke a response and true to form, like Pavlov's dog, the early responders act obligingly, however it is a fact and a reality of a 'quality' management system that 'corrective' and 'preventative' actions are taken.

    It is a reality for products over a certain price point and complexity from any organisation which conforms to a quality system. It's clear that all the manufacturers mentioned are taking steps rather than burying their heads in the sand.

    Better a recall at your convenience than finding yourself actually affected by an issue.

    This is a site with an IT and engineering bias, do the respondents work for organisations which produce perfect products or have systems in place which don't fail? No they don't.

    Come on, catch up with the real world!

    1. Andrew Moore

      Re: Quality

      It's better than getting the situation where accountants decide is cheaper to pay for the deaths than it is to cover the recall/repair costs (allegedly this happened with a particular brand of aircraft)

      1. Terry 6 Silver badge

        Re: Quality

        @ Andrew Moor

        Not aircraft ( or maybe also)

        Another car, 1970s

        Accountants decided the cost of being sued for killing customers was worth the money to protect the car's price point.

        It was the Ford Pinto - and if I remember correctly it was Ralph Nader's first consumerist campaign.

        The beancounters' evil plan was scuppered when the US courts started to award serious punitive damages.

        or for a detailed break down of the numbers ( second half of this article).

        1. Irony Deficient

          Re: Quality

          Terry 6, it depends upon what you’d meant by “consumerist campaign” — Nader was active a decade before the Pinto with his book Unsafe at Any Speed; one of its chapters was focused on the Chevrolet Corvair’s suspension.

          1. Triggerfish

            Re: Quality

            Don't know if it still is, but we were taught about the Pinto problem in design when I studied my Mech Eng.

          2. Terry 6 Silver badge

            Re: Quality

            @irony deficient

            Fair enough

        2. Nigel 11

          Re: Quality

          The DC10 cargo door problems surely came a close second to the Fort Pinto in terms of corporate misbehaviour in the face of an engineering defect that was killing people.

          Those of you too young to have ever experienced a DC10 should also know:

          It was designed with a 2-5-2 seating plan, rather than 3-3-3. I once had to fly the Atlantic in seat position 3/5. Thereafter, I asked the airline if the flight was a DC10 and if so, I found another flight or airline.

          It was designed with overhead baggage racks too shallow to take any normal carry-on bag, so you had to put your bag under the seat in front of you with your feet jammed in on either side.

  6. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    The count is rising

    Last year more than 5 million Toyotas, this year over 1.1 million shared between Toyota, Ford and Land Rover.

    Is this a game of Who Can fail The Hardest ?

    Seriously though, cars are more and more sophisticated and every single recall seems to be based on software issues affecting the hardware.

    I have no doubt that, contrary to Microsoft, Apple, Oracle or even IBM, actual engineers are at work on those software packages. I really would like to find something snarky to say, but somehow I think that these guys are really working their asses off, contrary to the pure software houses (ie the "you're holding it wrong" team).

    Vehicles exist in the real world. Phones, tablets and PCs exist in their own world. When you're confronted to actual physics, things aren't so simple.

    1. Charles Manning

      It might be a hardware issue.

      This could really be a hardware issue being fixed in software. In over 30 years as an embedded software developer I've fixed all sorts of electronic and mechanical defects in software. Heck, I've even fixed lubrication problems in software.

      What we have here is a component overheating due to being switched to fast. Most likely it does not happen in every car. Due to component variance, a part that works fine in 99% of the cars might have problems in 1% of cars.

      So they work around the problem by changing the software.

      Have they really failed?

      The car is not scrap. Just drive to the local Toyota dealership and they'll zap in the new firmware in 5 minutes while you have a coffee.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: It might be a hardware issue.

        "Just drive to the local Toyota dealership and they'll zap in the new firmware in 5 minutes while you have a coffee."

        That's if you make it there.

  7. Allan George Dyer

    Toyota, Ford and Land Rover are building a car together...

    You can't turn the engine off, it overheats and the doors now stay locked, so you can't escape the fire.

  8. Chairo

    Planetary gear transmission

    That is the one big disadvantage of Toyota's hybrid system. They use a unique planetary gearbox, where the gear ratio is set by an electrical motor. Actually it is a very elegant system (from an engineering point of view), but once the e-motor electronic is overheated, they cannot run on the combustion engine alone.

    Most other parallel Hybrid car makers use a more conventional automatic or robotised transmission and can still drive home if the electric drive-train fails. Redundancy is always a good idea, isn't it?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Planetary gear transmission

      Redundancy is always a good idea, isn't it?

      It's always an expensive idea, too, with greater complexity that invites more failures overall.

      1. Nigel 11

        Re: Planetary gear transmission

        Redundancy is always a good idea, isn't it?


        Nature decided that redundant kidneys were a good idea, and put a lot of low-level redundancy (or over-capacity) into our livers and brains. But when it came to the big pump, we got just one of them.

        There's also the joke about the right number of chronometers for a ship to navigate by. One is OK, if it's a good one. Three is overkill. Two is a very silly idea.

      2. Chairo

        Re: Planetary gear transmission


        Yes, adding more of the same increases cost and rarely makes sense, unless you are forced by law or for security reasons to do so. A trivial example would be bicycle brakes. Ever seen a bicycle with only a single brake?

        Often enough, however you have two different systems for economic or comfort reasons that can at least partially take over each other's job and give you the chance to get home without too much trouble. Toyota's hybrid system cannot make full use of the potential redundancy of the dual propulsion system that is a necessity for hybrid vehicles. You can drive fully electric for some distance, but you always need the electric motor, even if driving only on the combustion engine. Btw: this gearbox is also the reason, why driving a Prius feels quite strange at the beginning. The combustion engine speed does not correspond to the vehicle speed in the classic way. The planetary gearbox allows to run the combustion engine always in the optimal working point, which helps keeping the consumption down.

  9. Terry 6 Silver badge


    Until recently I had the Insight hybrid*.

    It was cheaper than the Prius and at the time I bought it even had marginally better fuel consumption .And Honda doesn't seem to have had this level of recall problem.

    But about 4 1/2 years into owning the car the fuel consumption deteriorated quite badly. From over 40mpg we found we couldn't get much over 30mpg for the same sorts of journeys.

    The dealerships's answer was that this was what Honda said we should be getting,at that point, so that was alright then. Presumably Honda must have known that this was an issue after four years of use.

    As the Americans say "Go figure".

    *No longer in production.

    1. deGuv

      Re: Honda

      @Terry 6

      I still have my 2009 Insight and use it daily 25 miles each way across country.

      Still returns a real 62 MPG. Still has a rubbish gearbox...

      1. Marvin O'Gravel Balloon Face

        Re: Honda

        If you want that kind of mpg you could always save yourself a lot of hassle and buy a Diesel focus.

      2. Terry 6 Silver badge

        Re: Honda

        Hmm, Mine also an 09 was used mainly suburban driving.

        We got 50 or so on motorway driving ( not mad speeds). Which was noticeably poorer than we got when it was newer.

  10. launcap Silver badge

    And meanwhile..

    My wife is still smug - a software change on her car[1] consists of changing the driver[2]..

    [1] MM 1000 (1966). 105K on the clock, still original engine.

    [2] Not me. I'm rather too tall to drive it with any degree of comfort. And the agricultural engineering of the suspension[3] isn't really to my taste.

    [3] Rear axle based on cart-spring technology.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Just another engineering error...

    SOS, DD in the automotive world where safety defects are considered acceptable by many. The recent rash of recalls is perpetuated by the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's (NHTSA), vindictive actions against Toyota due to false claims of unintended acceleration in vehicles which has been proven to be untrue. The black boxes showed the people were pressing on the accelerator instead of the brake.

    When NHTSA was proven to be wrong in their allegations of Toyota vehicles having unintended acceleration, they became vindictive and fined Toyota (who I don't personally care so much for) mega millions of dollars under the guise that Toyota misled NHTSA investigators or lied to investigators - which was never proven. As a result of the mega million Toyota fines all of the U.S. auto makers took note and started a landslide of recalls for safety issues that should have been resolved decades ago like ignition switch issues and other safety issues. For whatever reason Ford's ignition switch issues and BMW's X35i fuel pump failures which are listed on the NHTSA website as safety defects, were never fixed and neither company has been fined even though accidents have occurred and these are clearly serious safety issues.

    So expect a lot more U.S. safety recalls as auto makers have received the "memo" from NHTSA that NHTSA is financing their own existence with massive fines while doing a very poor job (according to Congress) of protecting the public from safety defects in automobiles.

  12. best_programmer

    Toyota: 81 514 issues in the code

    A story about the fact that the software is penetrating more and more in our daily life. However, with the comfort and usefulness come new dangers. Now we deal with the bugs not only sitting at the computer, but driving on a road.

    Read more

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