A Scottish man felt like he was being “kidnapped” when his electric vehicle (EV) apparently developed a way of its own over the weekend.
Brian Morrison, 53, was on his way home from work when his £30,000 MG ZS suffered a “catastrophic malfunction” on the A803 towards Kirkintilloch, near Glasgow.
He was very scared when The brake pedals stopped working and the Chinese-designed and built car began driving on its own at 30 miles per hour.
Due to mobility limitations, Mr Morrison was unable to jump out of the car, which only came to a stop when it was deliberately driven into a police van.
Fortunately, no one was injured – but the incident raises questions about whether the same problem could affect other electric vehicle users.
Speaking to MailOnline, Professor Roberto Metere, a computer scientist and safety lecturer at the University of York, said: “It is a rare but potential danger that could well happen to other drivers.”
Brian Morrison, 53, was on his way home from work when his £30,000 MG ZS suffered a “catastrophic malfunction” on the A803 towards Kirkintilloch, near Glasgow
Although it’s difficult to say exactly what caused the problem, there may be a problem with the “data bus,” the EV’s communications system that transfers data within a computer, or even a remote security attack.
“My best guess is that the car had a faulty synchronization of communications between the main software system and the sensors,” Professor Metere said.
“The cause could be a malfunction or ‘overload’ of the bus communication system.”
“The car could not stop because such an error would not allow other commands to be sent to the main system, which could not process them.”
Unlike traditional gasoline cars that use friction brakes, electric vehicles use a system called “regenerative braking” that involves the car’s computer.
“In general, electric cars should be as safe as diesel or petrol cars in terms of their braking system,” Amin Al-Habaibeh, professor of intelligent engineering systems at Nottingham Trent University, told MailOnline.
“Electric cars have a regenerative braking system to slow the car by absorbing the car’s kinetic energy to recharge the car’s battery; This could save significant amounts of energy and make the car more efficient.”
Tom Stacey, automotive expert at Anglia Ruskin University, pointed out that brake failures can occur in all types of vehicles but are rare.
“Research has shown that electric vehicles are more likely to pass an MOT, which includes brake tests, than combustion engine cars,” he told MailOnline.
“According to the law, all electric vehicles will have a handbrake that is separate from the main braking system.”
It is unclear whether Mr Morrison had that option.
The driver described the start of the incident: “As I approached a roundabout I realized something was wrong and I wanted to slow down but I couldn’t.”
Gunwant Dhadyalla is director of the Automotive Electronic Systems Innovation Network, a trade organization covering electronics in the automotive industry.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, he said electronic systems in cars were “very complex” and despite “tremendous” testing, errors leaked out in rare cases.
“Today you can find up to 100 million lines of software code that power these vehicles. So it’s possible that a bug like this will get fixed if your test systems aren’t really state-of-the-art,” he said.
“When you test systems, you often write your specifications about how things are supposed to work and test against those specifications.”
Mr Dhadyalla added that “complex interactions” – two or three things happening at the same time and not being anticipated – can lead to “misbehavior” of the vehicle’s software.
Ultimately, however, it can be difficult to recreate the exact conditions that caused the problem in the first place.
“It’s very difficult to create these complex interactions and then recreate them to find the bugs,” he said.
“This kind of thing isn’t necessarily limited to electric vehicles.”
The MG ZS is produced by the Chinese car manufacturer SAIC Motor, but appears under the British brand MG
He added: “The electric vehicle industry needs to be aware of this as the additional use of electronics and higher voltage systems cause new types of failures.”
The MG ZS is produced by the Chinese car manufacturer SAIC Motor, but appears under the British brand MG.
MG Motor UK has acknowledged the incident and will investigate the cause of the serious malfunction of the electric vehicle.
In a statement, MG Motor UK said: “We have urgently attempted to contact Mr Morrison so that his vehicle can be fully inspected by our engineering team.”
“We are taking the matter very seriously and will do everything we can to clarify the matter quickly and comprehensively for him after contacting him.”
How environmentally friendly are electric cars REALLY? Experts reveal how they compare to petrol versions
Electric vehicles (EVs) are often touted as a green solution to the climate crisis, but one of Britain’s most famous car enthusiasts disagrees.
In an article for the Guardian published in June, comedian Rowan Atkinson says that electric propulsion “doesn’t seem to be quite the environmental panacea that it’s made out to be.”
Electric vehicles are powered by lithium-ion batteries, which require “lots of rare earth metals” and large amounts of energy to produce, he claims, citing research from Volvo.
Atkinson, who expresses his love of cars and has a degree in electrical and electronic engineering, said he feels “betrayed” by electric vehicles and thinks it’s “maybe better to keep your old gas car than to get an electric car.” buy”.
MailOnline takes a look at some of the issues and speaks to experts to find out whether electric vehicles’ green reputation is really being overstated.