Howdy, Stranger!

It looks like you're new here. If you want to get involved, click one of these buttons!





Toyota Prius Software Problems

stevedebistevedebi LAPosts: 3,719
edited March 20 in Toyota
This is the place to discuss any software errors encountered by Prius owners. I'm starting this discussion because I think it is important, and should be discussed separately from the generic "Prius Problems & Solutions" discussion.

The Prius uses computers to a degree not seen before in a production vehicle. Pardon the cross post, but to start out the discussion, I wish to repeat part of post 134 from the "Problems and Solutions":

md_sailor, "Toyota Prius Owners: Problems & Solutions" #134, 22 Feb 2005 11:15 am

I was driving home last week in my 04 Prius, watching the mpg reading creep up to 48.0, when I stopped at a stop sign. Immediately after starting up, my dashboard lit up with multiple failure warnings, including "VSC", the red triangle around an exclamation point, a yellow circle with exclamation point, etc. The car continued forward, but just on battery power. Since I was only 2 miles from home I decided to continue, and made it into my driveway by coasting the last 1/2 mile.

The car then stopped and would not move forward. I turned it off and read some of the manual. After a few minutes, I pressed the "ON" button and this time the gas engine started, although the mass of warning lights stayed on. I got the car into the garage, where I left it running to charge the battery (garage door open of course). While I called Toyota, the car stopped.

After having it towed on a flatbed to Toyota the next day, the car was fixed by reprogramming the ECM (engine control module). So far there is no explanation from Toyota for the failure, I'm trying to work my way up to someone who actually knows something about the computers. My confidence in this car, and Toyota, was badly shaken by this incident.
---------------------------
The problem here is that there was a software error in the Prius. What most people do not realize is that it probably wasn't fixed by the dealer.

What happened: The Prius in question hit a point in the software code that caused the whole program to crash.

How it was overcome: The Toyota dealer installed the same program back into the car. There is no way that Toyota made a program modification and then put it back into the car.

This means that the Prius will fail again if those exact circumstance occur again. It also means that every Prius with that same software version may fail in the same fashion

There are only a couple of possibilities here:
1. Toyota already had a fix for the problem, and hadn't installed it in all cars. Possible, but unlikely.
2. Toyota simply put the old code back into the vehicle and hoped for the best. Probable.

Hopefully, Toyota at least had the smarts to download the entire memory contents (or enough code to troubleshoot the problem). A simple error code is not usually enough to determine why the code failed, only where it failed.

I find this troubling because the basic HSD technology and programming is now about 7 years old. It should not be hitting failure points like this.
«13456735

Comments

  • stevedebistevedebi LAPosts: 3,719
    It should be noted that the Prius, unlike the HCH, will not run without it's traction batteries. Once the batteries are below 20%, the car won't even start (software controlled, again).
  • Everything in your post seems to be on the money except, in my case, the car seemed to be capable of rebooting itself after an hour or so of blue-screen- of-death-like stupor. The state was much like that described by MD Sailor. My dealer certainly wasn't capable of modifying code. They did manage to coax an error message out of the computer related to low fuel. In their defence, the service department does offer a 15K mile service special (oil change, rotate tires, check brakes, maybe airfilter) for only $159.

    So how do we get action out of Toyota on this one.
  • stevedebistevedebi LAPosts: 3,719
    " So how do we get action out of Toyota on this one."

    Don't know. The best thing to do is report it to the National Highway Transportation Safety Board. They keep a database of problems reported by owners . If enough problems come in, they will start an investigation.

    Unfortunately, as cars (not just the Prius) get more dependent upon computers, the manufacturors get more and more like Microsoft. It is very expensive to do comprehensive testing, so they get it to where it works the vast majority of the time, then release it to let the public do the final testing.

    I'm not saying Toyota doesn't test their software or that they release with known problems; but every software house has to evaluate known problems before a software release, and one of the criteria is "how often will this occur"? If the answer is "very seldom", they may deem it not worth fixing at this time, especially if they are up agaist the wall to release the software so the company can sell cars.

    We can only hope they are at least getting downloads from the problem cars that will tell them what to fix later... but I doubt it, mostly because it would mean putting "debug" code into final software releases.
  • joebeattjoebeatt Posts: 50
    *** I find this troubling because the basic HSD technology and programming is now about 7 years old. It should not be hitting failure points like this. ***

    How long did it take Microsoft to get a stable version of Windows to the market? They released Windows 1.0 in 1985. The first version to be reasonably stable was Win2000. And even at this same moment I can't get the Windows time line on the Microsoft site to display properly and I'm using WinXP. It took Microsoft 15(!) years to get Windows more or less right. Buggy software IS a problem and nobody makes software that is 100% error-free.

    I think we will have to live with it. Without software modern cars, let alone the Prius, wouldn't exist. What we could maybe do is give Toyota as much feedback as possible. I hope they have a program to collect information on these kind of problems.

    By the way, if the software fails in your Prius you can still pull over to the roadside. The basic steering is still mechanical. I don't want to think about the effect of software glitches in a Boeing 777 or an Airbus 340.
  • gagricegagrice San DiegoPosts: 28,679
    How long did it take Microsoft to get a stable version of Windows to the market?

    Your analogy is not valid. Windows software is bombarded with software from outside vendors and hackers trying to make it fail. The Prius software is totally protected from outside influences and still it fails. If you are driving 70 mph down the Interstate and the car shuts off in heavy traffic you could cause an accident. If your computer gets the blue screen of death you just reboot and keep on surfin'. In the Prius you have to wait for a tow truck to come get you. If you are lucky enough to avoid an accident. What other cars beside the hybrids are plagued with these software glitches that cause the car to quit going down the highway?
  • joebeattjoebeatt Posts: 50
    My analogy is valid. The point I am making is that it is impossible to make software that is 100% bugfree. Windows failed all by itself for years, it didn't need hackers. My computer was not connected to the internet from 1985 to 1998 and still Windows failed 10 times a day.

    You say: "Windows is bombarded with software from outside vendors". Well, my computer wasn't bombarded because I would only run a few Microsoft applications on it. Furthermore the Prius computers also have to talk to embedded microprocessors in all kind of components.

    I agree that a Prius software problem can be more dangerous than a Windows problem, although that depends on what you use your Windows for. However that has nothing to do with the point I am trying to make and that is that 100% bug free software is an illusion and that you will always need time to reach a more or less stable version.

    Finally you ask: "What other cars beside the hybrids are plagued with these software glitches that cause the car to quit going down the highway?" Well, I had a Mercedes E320 that I had to bring in for a software patch. They had noticed that in some cases the BAS (brake assistant) would just fully lock the brakes for no reason. A few Mercedeses came to a grinding halt on the Autobahn. As far as I know it didn't cause any accidents, but it could have. I have also heard of BMWs having serious software problems.
  • gagricegagrice San DiegoPosts: 28,679
    A few Mercedeses came to a grinding halt on the Autobahn.

    That is a real problem. I like computers, I question if they belong in our cars. Failures happen but I have never owned a car that just failed. Even my worst cars since my first 1947 Pontiac always gave warning of impending problems.
  • joebeattjoebeatt Posts: 50
    Hi gagrice. I see your point, but the thing is that computers make our cars what they are today. I find it amazing how the car industry has made progress over the last 30 years. Last month a drove a car my father had 30 years ago and you can't imagine the difference it makes. Starting the engine, the steering, the brakes, the airco, you name it, it's all much smoother nowadays than it was before. To a large extent this is due to the fact that these things are now computer controlled.

    Of course the added complexity is a problem, but for me the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages. Furthermore I think that the cases where computers in cars saved lives (ABS, ESP, quicker response of engines to get out of a dangerous situation) far outweigh the cases where computers killed people because of software glitches.
  • Toyota is not investigating these failures properly, no one from Toyota with any technical knowledge about the computers has contacted me or reviewed the case. Instead, they had a person call me to say that they would not answer my detailed technical questions about the failure because this would involve "proprietary" information.

    The dealers just report that the car stopped, no further details are sent back to Toyota. The same software is just reloaded to replace the scrambled code in the Engine Control Module (ECM) and the customer is sent on the way. This is obviously In System Programmable (ISP) code, and it is getting corrupted when the computer fails. Not a good design and one that needs investigation. A conscientious company would work on the problem instead of ignoring it.

    I sent a two page FAX to Toyota Customer Service, FAX: 310-468-7814

    Does anyone have the direct contact info. for the Nat. Highway Safety Institute?
  • joebeattjoebeatt Posts: 50
    That's a shame md_sailor. Did you consider sending a fax and/or e-mail to Toyota headquarters in Japan?
  • stevedebistevedebi LAPosts: 3,719
    "Does anyone have the direct contact info. for the Nat. Highway Safety Institute?"

    I encourage everyone with a software problem to open a complaint with the National Highway Transportation Safety Board:

    http://www-odi.nhtsa.dot.gov/ivoq/

    Only by reporting the problems will the solution be forced on the manufacturors.

    Interesting, I just checked on the 2004 Prius and there were about 6 complaints of various problems that sounded like software / ECU related (car stopped dead, etc). In several cases, the dealer said the software had to be either updated or reprogrammed. For one thing there appears to be a TSB on the ECU software. BTW, that is about 1/5th of the total complaints registered for the 2004 Prius.
  • jkraft3jkraft3 Posts: 1
    Are there continuing software problems with model year 2005?
  • mb1mb1 Posts: 1
    Window was released in 1995 not 1985 are you thinking msdos? Sheesh get your dates right will ya? Lived it!
  • stevedebistevedebi LAPosts: 3,719
    Hmmm, I think the run-time version of windows 1.0 was available around 1986. I know I got MS Excel with Windows 2.1 run time in 1988. So I imagine the first version os Windows was around 1985-1986...

    Windows 95 was introduced in 1995... Windows was earlier.
  • PFFlyer@EdmundsPFFlyer@Edmunds Pennsylvania Furnace, PAPosts: 5,808
    I know it's easy to branch off into other trains of thought in the forums, but THINK CARS!! :)

    PFFlyer@Edmunds

    Moderator - Hatchbacks & Hybrid Vehicles

  • gagricegagrice San DiegoPosts: 28,679
    Your dates are right on. The issue is, the blue screen of death is nothing compared to your car stopping from 70 mph in the left lane, on the 405 freeway during rush hours. This is happening more than any other car I can remember researching. What has Toyota done to correct the software bug?
  • joebeattjoebeatt Posts: 50
    *** Window was released in 1995 not 1985 are you thinking msdos? Sheesh get your dates right will ya? Lived it! ***

    http://www.computerhope.com/history/windows.htm
  • Actually this did just happen to my husband yesterday outside DC on the HOV lanes on I-395, in a contruction zone. Talk about scary. The tow operator, as well as a Toyota salesman, both admitted that they've seen several of these models die like this within the last month.

    So, any advice on what to say/how to deal with the dealership on getting this fixed?
  • gagricegagrice San DiegoPosts: 28,679
    any advice on what to say/how to deal with the dealership on getting this fixed?

    Welcome to the forum. My advice would be the same as others on this thread have urged. Report this to the NHTSA soon. They will compile the reports and force Toyota to do something. Toyota will not let out how serious the problem is. Toyota may be working on it. Everyone that has experienced this so far were told by the dealership that they had not heard of any such problem. It sounds pretty widespread, and a very dangerous bug in the Prius firmware. Just reseting the system is not going to fix the problem, only put it off till another time. If it does not get taken care of before the warranty is up you may be facing a big repair bill, or in the case of one owner body work.
  • stevedebistevedebi LAPosts: 3,719
    "Actually this did just happen to my husband yesterday outside DC on the HOV lanes on I-395, in a contruction zone. Talk about scary. The tow operator, as well as a Toyota salesman, both admitted that they've seen several of these models die like this within the last month.

    So, any advice on what to say/how to deal with the dealership on getting this fixed?"

    That is the purpose of this thread. Contact the NHTSB and report the incident. When enough reports are accumlated, they will open an incident investigation. Once that occurs, it will hit the press, causing some publicity problems for Toyota.

    Unfortunately, I don't think Toyota put in any software error reporting capabilities (other than a simple error code, which doesn't help a programmer find the problem). Windows includes a feature that allows the user to send information back to Microsoft when something fails. Those reports provide exact data to the programmer, who then can work on the problem.

    Eventually, Toyota will probably have to insert code into the system that traps information about what the software is doing when it fails (or else they will program some special test cars with this information), in the hopes that they can find the problems.

    It would appear at this time that Toyota is merely reprogramming the Prius with the same (flawed) code that failed the first time.
«13456735
This discussion has been closed.