Mercedes-Benz is recalling nearly 1.3 million vehicles but owners can skip a trip to the dealer with an over-the-air software update. In paperwork released Monday by the NHTSA, Mercedes said that owners with a "Mercedes Me" subscription service can opt out of a dealer visit by accepting a remote software update to remedy a faulty emergency location tracker.
The problem affects 1,292,258 models across the entire Mercedes-Benz and Mercedes-Maybach lineup, ranging from the 2016-2021 model years. But the issue is not for increasing the risk of a crash, as it is in most other recalls. Instead, the problem arises with the emergency call system after a vehicle crashes.
Under normal operation, the automatic eCall system places a call to emergency responders in the event of a crash, and the software relays the vehicle location to the responders. In testing, Mercedes found the software could send responders to where the car was last started, not where it crashed. The manual emergency call function, initiated with the push of an SOS button, is not affected.
First identified in a single case in Europe, and subsequently investigated on a broader scale, Mercedes identified that it wasn't related to the hardware architecture or its location in the vehicle, which can vary from model to model, but instead was an issue with the software design of the communication module.
It makes sense that a software issue can be repaired with a software update. Fixing a car without the inconvenience of having to bring it into the dealer is one of the big promises of the connected car. Mercedes isn't the first to fix a recall with an OTA and won't be the last.
Tesla issued over-the-air updates to restore functionality on some touchscreens in the Model S and Model X, but ended up recalling the older model vehicles two weeks ago at the NHTSA's request. In November, Tesla fixed a trailer brake light failure on the Model Y with an OTA.
In 2019, Mercedes-Benz issued an OTA to fix the eCall system on the 2013-2017 C-Class for showing the wrong date and time, but customers were encouraged to visit a dealership to make sure the update was accurate.
The current recall will be performed OTA unless the owner opts out and visits a dealer, or unless the owner does not have a Mercedes Me subscription. Owners with the Mercedes Me service can check the status of the update through the app or on the Mercedes Me site. Owners can expect notification of the recall by April 6. For more info, visit Mercedes' recall page.