Mazda 3 bug can cause the car to activate emergency brake system

Owners of 2019 and 2020 Mazda 3s could be caught out by a bug in their car’s emergency braking system. Reports suggest that thousands of Mazda 3s could be affected by a bug which causes the car’s Smart Braking System (SBS) to automatically engage when driving under normal conditions.
A 2019 Mazda 3
The braking bug affects a number of 2019 and 2020 Mazda 3s. Photo: Vauxford via Wikimedia Commons

New cars come with all sorts of electronic driver aids and safety features. Computers now allow drivers to get around safer than ever before.

But the use of increasingly complex computer systems in cars comes with a couple of drawbacks. Not only are new cars practically impossible to work on at home, besides the absolute basics, they’re also susceptible to computer errors.

As we’ve reported before, self-driving cars have a number of vulnerabilities which could be exploited by hackers.

Now that computers automatically control many aspects of a new car’s vital systems, computer bugs lead to some bizarre situations, which would have been unimaginable 20 years ago.

That’s what’s happened with the newest generation of the popular Mazda 3.

The Mazda 3 braking bug

As reported by Engadget, a bug in the Mazda 3’s Smart Braking System has been causing cars to automatically brake.

According to Mazda, the bug is a result of “incorrect programming of the SBS control software.”

Under normal circumstances, the Smart Braking System does not activate unless the car detects as a person or obstacle in its path.

Mazda 3 Brake
Unexpected automatic braking poses a significant safety risk. Photo: Mr.TinDC via Flickr

This is an important safety feature which undoubtedly makes the car safer for pedestrians.

But the recently discovered bug can cause the car to incorrectly detect an obstacle in its path when there’s nothing in the way.

According to Mazda, “there is a warning alarm sound and warning message displayed in the multi-information and active driving displays when this defect occurs.”

Obviously, this poses a significant safety hazard under normal driving conditions. Sudden unexpected braking can hurt the occupants of the car and potentially cause a pile up with vehicles behind.

How will Mazda deal with the bug?

As the bug has the potential to cause a serious accident, Mazda will be keen to sort the issue as quickly as possible.

The manufacturer says bug affects fourth-generation Mazda 3s, equating to a total of 35,390 2019 and 2020 models in the US. Luckily, it says the defect hasn’t resulted in any deaths or injuries.

Manufacturers often detect defects in their cars, so there are well-established protocols in place to deal with recalls.

Mazda 3
Mazda is working on updates to fix the braking bug. Photo: Alexander Migl via Wikimedia Commons

In this case, Mazda has filed a Part 573 defect notification with the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Notifications should be going out to owners of fourth-generation Mazda 3s on 17 February.

According to reports by AutoBlog, the fix will be different depending on individual cars Some older cars will need to have their entire instrument panels replaced to solve the bug. By comparison, newer cars will only need a software update to fix the SBS issue.

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