Semiconductor Shortage Prompts Removal of Car Safety Features

Semiconductor Shortage Prompts Removal of Car Safety Features
The growing semiconductor shortage has led automakers like Volkswagen and Cadillac to remove the BSM feature on certain models. | Image by Getty Images

Due to global supply shocks magnifying the shortage of semiconductors chips and cutting into profitability, some automakers have opted to remove several safety features that rely on semiconductor chips.

To keep business moving forward, vehicle manufacturers made cuts to equipping cars with safety components like blind spot monitoring (BSM) systems, proximity alerts, and semi-automated driver aids.

BSM systems track the space off of the rear quarter of most vehicles, which is known to hide approaching cars in the adjacent lane, according to Kelly Blue Book.

While not mandated by law, an IIHS study found that the system reduced lane-changing accidents by 14% and injuries from lane-changing collisions by 23%. Often paired with BSM systems, the rear cross-traffic alert (RCTA) can reduce backup crashes by 22%.

The growing semiconductor shortage has led automakers like Volkswagen and Cadillac to remove the BSM feature on certain models.

“While we don’t test for them in our vehicle ratings programs, these are useful technologies to have,” said Jessica Cicchino, vice president of research for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).

Jake Fisher, a senior director of automotive testing at Consumer Reports, claims automakers could produce more “low spec” models instead of expressly removing the BSM systems. “It’s unfortunate that the chip shortage may prevent a new model from coming with the latest safety features that can prevent crashes and injuries,” said Fisher. “After all, better safety is one of the leading reasons people decide to upgrade their car in the first place.”

Edmunds, an online marketplace and guide for car shoppers, advises car buyers to do their due diligence before finalizing their purchase. Edmunds was one of the first sources to report the removal of BSM systems and RCTA.

Ronald Montoya, Edmunds’ senior consumer advice editor, says shoppers can’t rely on the salesperson to know every single thing that is on the car. “I recommend looking at the window sticker because the feature will be deleted at the factory and noted,” he said. “That’s probably the best way to go about it.”

“When the materials aren’t available for some of the safety technology, it really shifts the burden onto the consumers who are already having a hard time shopping for a car,” said Cicchino.

With no relief from the semiconductor chip shortage in sight, the VP said she believes its consequences will be apparent for years.

Citing 2021 data showing Americans own their vehicles for an average length of 12.1 years, Cicchino said vehicles without chip-dependent car safety features will “stay in the fleet now that people keep their cars for more than a decade.”

Other optional features that automakers removed include heated seats, touchscreen displays, and fuel-saving cylinder-deactivation systems.

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1 Comment

  1. Ricky

    I hope US companies suffer hard and learn from the stupidity of going overseas to make products or relying on imports. By doing so, you left the country unprepared for events and its about time you learn the hard way that American made is the best. Also, just take the bloody chips out of the damn cars and let people drive with their eyes and ears instead of using the force. I want to buy a 4×4 truck, not Knight Rider. How lazy, weak and greedy have we become?


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