Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Ford, Toyota to Reprogram Hybrid Brakes, Software to be Fixed in Recalls, car moving, moving cars

Both Ford and Toyota are recalling their hybrid cars with similar braking issues. The big news of the day is that Toyota will be announcing a recall of its Prius to do a programming fix on its breaking system. Ford, while not calling it a recall, is doing a similar reprogramming of the breaking system on its Fusion and Mercury Milan hybrids.

In hybrids, the brakes are used to recharge the batteries when you get the car moving forward, but reverts to conventional stopping functions when the brake pedal is pushed down. The problem with the Prius appears to be that the brakes are slow to change over from recharging mode to stopping-the-car mode. The Fusion/Milan brakes are having much the same problem, which may be a bug of the type of regenerative braking system used in hybrids.

New technologies sometimes need some time to get all the bugs out, and drivers of this first major wave of hybrids may essentially be beta-testers. When Ford and Toyota are having the same type of problem, it might be the technology that did them wrong rather than a particular in-house problem.

Toyota will want to get back to moving cars out to dealers as soon as possible, and this doesn’t help matter. However, if it is a programming fix, it should be easier to administer and could be done in a few minutes rather than the half-hour estimated to fix the brakes on the non-hybrid cars in Toyota’s fleet.

What other glitches does Toyota have? At this rate, Murphy’s Law would say at least one more bug has to come out.