Has the Chip Shortage Affected Automobile Safety?

For many people, living through the COVID-19 pandemic has been one of the most challenging phases of their lives. First and foremost, we worried about our safety and the health and wellness of our friends, neighbors, and loved ones. Thankfully, hospitalizations and death rates have now declined dramatically. Hopefully, elevated death rates from the illness are now a thing of the past.

The pandemic also brought understandable economic hardship to many people. While some were able to continue working from home, many people were not. Lockdowns, CDC guidance, and necessary quarantines caused many businesses to close and left many people unable to work. As we all know, the government stepped in and provided substantial assistance.

However, as life started returning to some level of normalcy and the economy opened back up, the country encountered many unexpected issues. One is a limited supply of computer chips for automobiles. In this article, we will examine whether the chip shortage has affected automobile safety.

Why is there a chip shortage for automobiles?

Industry observers cite a number of reasons for the shortage. Car manufacturers attempt to run lean operations and plan in advance for their chip needs. When the pandemic hit, they needed fewer chips in inventory and canceled and reduced orders for chips. When the economy improved, demand for new automobiles skyrocketed, and manufacturers did not have enough chips on hand to meet the demand. Therefore, they attempted to order more.

Unfortunately, the pandemic caused shutdowns in semiconductor plants, which reduced supply. Moreover, other industries, such as computers and gaming, also had skyrocketing demand. The chips for these and other products are more profitable than chips for automobiles. Therefore, microchip manufacturers meet their needs first.

How are semiconductors used in automobiles?

In this day and age, everything is becoming computerized, including our cars. While you may be aware that microchips are used in automobiles, many people are surprised to learn just how many automobile systems use them. An analyst interviewed by Consumer Reports estimates that new cars generally have two to three dozen microchips and that luxury cars can have 100 or more. Below are some examples of their uses:

  • ABS braking systems
  • Engine control
  • Airbags
  • Side mirror controls
  • Power windows
  • Power locks
  • Electronic system diagnosis
  • Lighting
  • Remote starting
  • Dashboard displays
  • Automatic collision warning systems
  • GPS

Has the lack of microchips affected safety?

As you can see from the list above, chips are used in important safety features on a car, such as ABS braking, airbags, and automatic collision warning systems. Therefore, it is normal to wonder if the chip shortage has been detrimental to automobile safety. In Australia, a safety agency has warned that it will cut safety ratings for cars if certain features are removed by the manufacturer.

There is no doubt that the chip shortage has caused manufacturers to leave some high end features off of cars. Automotive News Europe notes that some companies reduce technology on certain parts of the automobile or truck, giving the following examples (the original article includes make and model):

  • Use of non-digital instruments
  • Removal of a fuel economy feature
  • Omission of pre-installed navigation systems
  • Removal of “intelligent” rearview mirrors

Forbes and other publications mention that in some makes and models, some features such as parking assist and certain driving assistance features have been omitted due to chip shortages. While this does not necessarily make a driver less safe, it may reduce the level of assistance the purchaser of an automobile can obtain. Of course, the purchaser knows in advance exactly which features are included. 

What does this all mean for auto accidents?

It appears that manufacturers are doing their best to deal with the chip shortage by reducing production and by attempting to remove features that are not essential to safety. While manufacturing or maintenance issues can contribute to accidents, the majority of car crashes and resulting personal injuries are caused by the negligence of a particular driver.

If you have been injured due to the negligence of another driver, you are entitled to recover for your damages and made whole. We represent injured victims all across Oregon, and would be happy to answer any of your questions in a free consultation. Give us a call today.


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