A dangerous defect arising from a suspected supplier quality deviation that can cause short-circuits and vehicle fires was identified by a vehicle manufacturer in September 2020. The defect is caused by brake fluid leaking into the hydraulic electronic control units (HECUs). The remedy involved replacement of the HECU if brake fluid is found within it. In May 2021, the vehicle manufacturer issued another recall for the same affected vehicles requiring installation of a new multi-fuse in addition to replacement of the HECU. There are nearly 465,000 2013-2015 model year vehicles affected by these recalls.
- "Due to suspected supplier quality deviation issue, brake fluid may leak internally inside the HECU, which, over time, can result in an electrical short circuit. An electrical short circuit in the HECU increases the risk of an engine compartment fire while parked or driving.”
- "Although [OEM] is unaware of any fires occurring while parked, [OEM] recommends that vehicle owners park their vehicles outdoors and away from other vehicles or structures until the recall repair has been performed."
- The vehicle manufacturer received eight customer complaints prior to the first recall and one dealer report, which prompted the second recall.
- First Recall (2020)
- Second Recall (2021)
Fuel system defects have been on the rise over the last 10 years across various vehicle manufacturers. There were 95 fuel system-related recalls reported between 2011 and 2015 and 126 fuel system related recalls reported between 2016 and 2020, a 33% increase between these five-year periods. In addition, recalls being initiated without reported field events (e.g., deaths, injuries, warranty claims, etc.) have also been observed within the last year. In June, a vehicle manufacturer recalled nearly 90,000 2019 and 2020 model year vehicles due to fuses (to low-pressure fuel pumps) failing, which can cause vehicles to stall. This defect was identified during vehicle production while filling the fuel system.
- “…quality investigations have identified that there may be a risk that the 15A fuse to the low-pressure fuel pump could blow. This was identified initially at the factory when filling the fuel system with petrol and also in some cases in the market.”
- Part 573 submission for this recall
In June, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) launched a page on its website providing information about its Whistleblower program. This program allows employees or contractors of a motor vehicle manufacturer, part supplier, or dealership to provide information to NHTSA regarding potential safety defects, non-compliance with Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards and violations of the Safety Act.
- “The agency is currently working on a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to formalize its Whistleblower program. However, potential whistleblowers need not wait for the NPRM and can already provide information to the agency. Whistleblowers have legal protection and retaliation and may receive a monetary award without the rule being finalized.”
- Access the Whistleblower website
- NHTSA Enhances Transparency of Whistleblower Program
On June 29, the NHTSA mandated that manufacturers (vehicle and equipment) and vehicle operators report crashes if Level 2 advanced driver assistance systems (ADA) or Levels 3-5 automated driving systems (ADS) were in use at the time of the crash. NHTSA issued this mandate under a Standing General Order.
- “Level 2 ADAS is an increasingly common feature on many new vehicles and provides driver assist functions that combine technologies, like lane centering assistance and adaptive cruise control, where the vehicle is able to control certain aspects of steering and speed.”
- “ADS-equipped vehicles, which are able to perform the complete driving task in limited circumstances, are not currently sold to consumers but are in limited use on public roads around the country for testing, ride sharing, and goods delivery.”
- NHTSA Orders Crash Reporting for Vehicles Equipped with Advanced Driver Assistance Systems and Automated Driving Systems
On July 1, the NHTSA launched a new recall dashboard for automotive recall data. Previously, NHTSA provided this data through data files which required downloading and importing into a database to analyze. The new recall dashboard displays the data via tables and visualizations and allows users to filter on specific categories such as NHTSA ID, manufacturer, component, etc.
The NHTSA issued an update regarding traffic safety in the U.S. during the COVID-19 pandemic to include data from the fourth quarter for 2020. The updates include, but are not limited to:
- Travel Patterns:
- “National Q4 data showed an increase in the proportion of the population who stayed home, with highest marks for the year of 29% in November and 28.9% in December.”
- Seat Belt Use:
- Data showed “an increase in the ejection rate in most of 2020 after week 10, when the COVID-19 public health emergency was declared.”
- “The majority of increases in ejections occurred in males, with the largest increases occurring among those 18 to 34 years old.”
- Alcohol and Drug Use:
- “Compared to Q4 2019, prevalence of cannabinoids in seriously or fatally injured drivers was significantly higher in Q2 and Q4 2020, and the prevalence of opioids was significantly higher in Q2 and Q3 2020.”
- “There was roughly a 15% increase in speeds among the slowest (1st percentile) vehicles on those roads through the last half of 2020. While the real change in speeds might have been a few miles per hour, this is still a safety concern.”
- Access information about "Behavioral Research"
- Prior report (3Q2020) document number: DOT HS 813 069
- Updated report (4Q2020) document number: DOT 813 135
The Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) issued a press release that outlines the various advertising campaigns led by states aimed at improving traffic safety as driving patterns return to pre-pandemic levels. The advertising campaigns focused on seat belt safety, speeding and the dangers of driving under the influence.
- “Of particular concern to GHSA and its members is evidence that unsafe driving behaviors – speeding, drunk and drugged driving, distraction, and not buckling up – increased during the pandemic. Adding more vehicles to the road at a time when dangerous driving is rampant is a recipe for more crashes, injuries and deaths.”
- “Just last week, GHSA released new data indicating 2020 is projected to have seen a dramatic 21% increase in the rate of pedestrian deaths, the largest jump in the history of federal record-keeping.”
- "States Ramp Up Traffic Safety Initiatives Ahead of Deadly Summer Travel Season"
Upcoming Events – Automotive Recall and Transportation Safety