Over-the-Air Updates Prove Their Value In New Mercedes B-Class Electric Drive Recall

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Back in May, Toyota issued a recall on its Rav4 EV for a Tesla component recall related to an issue with the shifting where the car would suddenly shift back into neutral. This was related to a bug in the software provided by Tesla for their hardware.

Specifically, as Green Car Reports reported: “The affected vehicles may spontaneously shift into neutral while in motion, resulting in a complete loss of motive power.”

2014-Mercedes-B-Class-Electric-Drive-2. Image credit: Kyle Field | CleanTechnica
Image credit: Kyle Field | CleanTechnica

Oddly enough, a recently issued recall notice for most Mercedes B-Class Electric Drive vehicles out on the road today (which my wife drives) seems to indicate that the exact same thing has happened again, based on the details in the recall for recent Mercedes B-Class Electric Drive vehicles (which also have a drivetrain built by Tesla). Check out the links at the bottom of the article for full details on the recall, but here’s the quick rundown:

“Mercedes-Benz USA, LLC (MBUSA) is recalling certain model year 2014-2015 B-Class Electric Drive vehicles manufactured November 21, 2013, to May 26, 2015. Due to a communication error within the electric drive system, the electric powertrain unit may shut down, temporarily immobilizing the vehicle and resulting in a loss of propulsion power.”

The upside of this is that it’s a quick software fix, but it calls attention to a few good things and a few… how do I say this… opportunities for the industry:

  1. Over-the-Air (OTA) Updates Make Things Easier. Tesla has over-the-air updates in its Model S and Model X and leverages it extensively for both the mundane updates (tuning improvements, autopilot data sharing back and forth, gui updates, bug fixes, etc, etc) to the point where it has become a major feature. Customers are used to this, having used smartphones and computers which are constantly begging for updates, so it feels natural and high tech, which is great for the perception of the car.
  2. Not Having OTA Updates Is Not An Option With EVs. Electric cars are still relatively new, as are many of the innovations that they bring along for the ride. With that, there is an inevitable learning curve, and being able to correct that remotely with a silent push update is a great way to learn through the curve without having to pay out the nose or inconvenience customers with trips to the dealer. It’s a bit surprising that the Mercedes B-Class Electric Drive doesn’t have OTA updates, as the software was built by Tesla and it does have data connectivity built into the car. Maybe Mercedes will fix that outage after the huge expense of this manual fix (please!), as anyone with a Mercedes B-Class Electric Drive who wants this important bug fixed has to bring it in to a dealer.

    2014-Mercedes-B-Class-Electric-Drive-7. Image credit: Kyle Field | CleanTechnica
    Image credit: Kyle Field | CleanTechnica
  3. Tesla Hit The Nail On The Head With Its Design (Again). I don’t recall any other auto manufacturers allowing/building/enabling/using OTA updates in its cars, but when Tesla brought it, it just seemed like such an obvious idea. Now all of the sudden, cars that don’t have the feature seem a bit antiquated… like they’re stuck in the stone age — a flip phone in the age of smartphones.
  4. The Auto Industry Is Undergoing A Period Of Hyper-Innovation. This may be obvious to those of us in the trenches, but the sheer number of improvements and the pace of innovation in the auto industry today is unparalleled in history. Electric cars have been around for eons — that’s not new. However… they have not been able to do 0-60 in 2.6 seconds. They have not been the fastest cars in their classes. They have not been able to get 275 miles per charge. People have not been able to drive 275 miles in 4 hours (or less) without any air pollution (yes, this requires solar/renewable power). People have not been able to check the status of their cars from their phones. Cars didn’t drive themselves. We have always sucked the tailpipe emissions of the guy in front of us… that’s the American way, right? No thanks! 5 stars has been the best safety rating available (until now). Cars don’t stop themselves. I could go on and on (for a few more minutes at least) but I think you get the idea. This is breakthrough. This is happening now and it’s amazing. Just look at the Tesla Model X for a few minutes and decide for yourself:
press02-model-x-front-three-quarter. Image courtesy: Tesla
Image courtesy: Tesla


NHTSA recall search results for the Mercedes B-Class Electric

The actual recall report

Manufacturer Notice to Dealers

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Kyle Field

I'm a tech geek passionately in search of actionable ways to reduce the negative impact my life has on the planet, save money and reduce stress. Live intentionally, make conscious decisions, love more, act responsibly, play. The more you know, the less you need. As an activist investor, Kyle owns long term holdings in Tesla, Lightning eMotors, Arcimoto, and SolarEdge.

Kyle Field has 1659 posts and counting. See all posts by Kyle Field