Lexus owners were left flummoxed on Tuesday after a software update disabled their cars’ GPS, climate control, and radio system. Following the update, the central control panel would fail to boot up, flicking between a purple screen and an error message. The issue hit Lexus models from between 2014 and 2016.
According to the BBC, some drivers found that disconnecting the car’s battery and reconnecting solved the issue for a few hours, only for it to return soon afterwards. Lexus has reassured drivers that it is working as fast as it can to find a more permanent solution.
Unfortunately, it’s a problem that may become all the more common as cars get smarter and in-car entertainment systems take on more functions. The Tesla Model S comes with a giant 17-inch touchscreen computer capable of handling web browsing, navigation, and even battery charging stats.
Tesla has even sent out updates that make cars smarter than ever. A recent software package gave owners the ability to “summon” their cars, automatically opening the garage door and driving to the curb. Some car fans have even linked the Tesla to their Apple Watch, giving them the ability to summon from their wrist. An update to the “summon” function that went wrong, however, could have even bigger consequences than the issues that hit Lexus owners.
Although it seems that issues like these would put people off the self-driving car revolution, buggy software may not turn out to be too much of a life-threatening issue. Adrian Flux, who has introduced the U.K.’s first driverless car insurance policy, has revealed it would require drivers to remain alert at the wheel to take over at any time. Unfortunately, that means no falling asleep in the driver’s seat, but on the other hand it means drivers training themselves to take control at a moment’s notice. Major issues with failing software would ideally be averted by human drivers intervening.
Nonetheless, car software is incredibly complicated, and as it takes on more responsibilities, the pressure to ensure that everything works will increase. “There are typically more lines of code in a car than an aircraft, and you only have to get one part wrong for it to cause these types of problems,” Professor David Bailey from Aston Business School told the BBC.