Wednesday 5 September 2018

When Software Bugs can Kill: Dodge RAM 1500 Cruise Control Bug

A while back there was a scary moment where the cruise control in our 2016 RAM 1500 refused to release via any of the buttons on the steering wheel.

In that moment, rushing up on a vehicle fairly far ahead of us and going over a bridge, there were only a few options left:

  1. Brakes release the cruise
  2. Try and Power Down & Brake
  3. Ditch @ 100KM/H on a bridge bank

Fortunately, the cruise released when the brakes got hit, we were able to avoid rear ending the person in front of us, and in fact the cruise system crashed right after the brakes were applied.

When addressing the complaint with Dodge and the dealer there's the, "Oh, no we didn't realize there was a problem there" type of response.

Well, obviously there was a problem that needed to be addressed as the bellow letter shows.


So, being that the problem could be life threatening we took the truck in to have it flashed as soon as the above showed up and the dealer had a spot open.

Here we are a few weeks or more from the day the flash was done and the behaviour happened again this morning. :S

Fortunately, at that moment there was less panic and more "Oh, hopefully the brakes work to kick it off this time" happening. ;)

A call into the dealer and the service tech indicated they'd have a conversation with the service manager since the tech was not sure whether there would be a "re-flash" of the module or the problem would need to head further up the Fiat Chrysler Canada food chain.

The Customer Service Wall

It's understandable that companies try and hide their mistakes. Yet, time and time again it's been shown that companies that are up-front about mistakes made and changes made to mitigate or eliminate them happening again tend to do quite well. It seems the lawyers tend to win this argument, and the ridiculous cases that have forced the issue, to keep things relatively hidden.

For the end-user it's very frustrating to face that "Customer Service Wall" with virtually no hope of getting anywhere beyond the person standing in front of that wall. In this case, it's the "Service Technician" that is in front of the Wall.

The reality is that the Customer Service Wall is a very well designed system to keep the person/user who is essentially paying the bills as far away from the manufacturer/vendor as is possible.

The same is true of voice recognition systems that users/customers hit as soon as they call "Customer Service".

There is no lack of irony in the above two sentences.


Sadly, the situation with the Dodge software bug, which can be deadly, will remain a mystery for a little while longer. With a bit of awareness, and a good dose of caution, we will be able to mitigate the bug's release block and not hit anyone including the ditch.

But for now, we wait until the folks that do the programming can figure out where the bug really lies and hopefully fix it … without introducing an even deadlier bug.

Philip Elder
Microsoft High Availability MVP
Co-Author: SBS 2008 Blueprint Book !
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