The percentage of vehicle recalls attributed to software problems tripled between 2011 and 2015, according to a new report from financial advisory firm Stout Risius Ross.
SRR's 2016 Automotive Warranty & Recall Report found that software accounted for just 5 percent of recalls in 2011 but 15 percent by the end of last year.
The analysis also said that hacking and collections of private data are likely to become growing threats as cars become increasingly connected and autonomous. Neil Steinkamp, who led the SRR's auto recall research, said that new vehicles can contain more than 10 times the amount of code in an F-35 joint strike fighter jet.
“When you have that much software in a car — and particularly when much of that software is relatively new — there are going to be some issues," Steinkamp said. "The key question is: What can the industry do to mitigate risks as cars become more reliant on software?”
The Car Connection's Bengt Halvorson wrote in Popular Science that routine, wireless software upgrades — like those currently offered by Tesla Motors — could help resolve those issues. The report tabbed the potential industry-wide savings from those updates at $35 billion.
SRR analysts, meanwhile, characterized the latest findings as the arrival of "a new era of heightened recall activity" and noted that regulators are responding with new tactics.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, for example, issued record civil penalties and used consent orders — a method employed by the Justice Department — in response to recent high-profile auto safety problems.