By on December 20, 2019

2019 Mazda 3 sedan - Image: Mazda

A system designed to detect obstacles on the road ahead and automatically apply the brakes is acting up in current-generation Mazda 3 vehicles. Seems it’s seeing things that aren’t there.

On Friday, Mazda announced a recall of 35,390 Mazda 3 sedans and hatchbacks in the U.S., spanning the 2019 and 2020 model years.

The company claims the defect contained within its Smart Braking System (SBS), known more generally as automatic emergency braking, can cause vehicles to come to a sudden stop. This obviously poses a risk to occupants, as the driver of a following vehicle might be caught off-guard (though perhaps not, if they’re driving a similarly equipped Mazda).

From Mazda:

Incorrect programming of the SBS control software may cause the vehicle to falsely detect an obstacle in front of the vehicle while driving. In certain cases, the SBS control software may automatically apply the vehicle brakes to prevent or reduce damage from a collision, even though no collision is imminent. If the SBS automatic emergency braking system unexpectedly activates while driving, the risk of a rear-end crash from a following vehicle may increase. There is a warning alarm sound and warning message displayed in the multi-information and active driving displays when this defect occurs.

The automaker claims it doesn’t know of any injuries or accidents stemming from the phantom brake applications.

With its new-for-2019 Mazda 3, Mazda sought to take the compact sedan and hatch upmarket, part of the brand’s premium-minded makeover. Part of that effort included greater standard content, as well as the option of all-wheel drive. Sadly for Mazda, instant sales success did not follow.

The model performed badly in 2019, leading the company to offer even greater levels of content for 2020 — including automatic emergency braking, which became standard kit on all trims.

[Image: Mazda]

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33 Comments on “Phantom Braking Leads to Mazda 3 Recall...”


  • avatar
    ToolGuy

    This is related to Tesla-hits-vehicle-in-its-own-lane, but just different “tuning”? Neither situation is good of course.

    Speaking of hard braking notification, was about to ask about the “blinking CHSML” but I see that TTAC already crushed this topic:

    https://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2016/10/piston-slap-21/

  • avatar
    Felix Hoenikker

    On the cars we own, the only driver assist feature is blind spot monitoring on the 2019 Infiniti QX50. This can be turned off as desired via the settings screen. My wife likes the feature and it’s her car so it stays on. My question to the B&B who have more driver assist features is it possible to turn off these features selectively? Or better yet, set the sensitivity of things like automatic braking with a slider bar on the settings screen. I like the ability to customize the settings on my computers and cars.

    • 0 avatar
      sgeffe

      Yes. I can turn off any of the nannies. And in fact, the lane-keep assist functionality has to be activated at each ignition cycle. (And the adaptive cruise has to be turned on, if not set, for LKAS to work. In Mazda’s case, you probably have to turn the cruise switch on at every ignition cycle, where the cruise status is retained in the Hondas between cycles.)

      However, since I’ve had my Accord (purchased in June), I’ve had no false alarms on the auto-braking, or any of the other nannies that would pose a threat to surrounding drivers if it failed, and this morning, I changed lanes on the freeway without a signal, and didn’t have my wrist twisted off as a result — that lane-keep assist can be easily overridden with little extra pressure on the wheel, just as the adaptive cruise and auto-brake can be overridden with the throttle if necessary.

    • 0 avatar
      MBella

      Can’t speak for all manufacturers, but any tht I’ve been involved with, the autonomous braking could not be deactivated. Even if the warnings are off, it can still trigger.

      • 0 avatar
        sgeffe

        You’re probably correct about the auto-brake. Too lazy to look it up in the O/M right now. The lane-keep, BSI, and rear-traffic monitors are defeatable for sure, and the setting to switch the adaptive cruise to normal cruise control will also be retained between ignition cycles, though you then may lose the option to use the LKAS.

  • avatar
    slavuta

    This is where small sales numbers come handy. On the other note, F### the “nannies”

    • 0 avatar
      SPPPP

      Wow, the fact that they actually recalled this warms my heart. I had heard about these problems, but I figured it would be too controversial to admit that a driving aid had a flaw.

      • 0 avatar
        SlowMyke

        I think it’s less controversial than letting someone die or get injured because their mazda 3 stomped the brakes in front of an F-350. Besides, i think if the government comes knocking, there’s not much choice in recalling or not. Unless you really want to fight it, which would draw even more negative publicity.

  • avatar
    bullnuke

    That low number of 35,390 covers pretty much all of this continuously failing “premium-minded” model that they’ve been able to sell in 18 months or so.

    • 0 avatar
      stuntmonkey

      That’s roughly 1900 cars per month. That’s like peak Acura ILX numbers….if ever. Go figure, create a higher-than average premium ‘sporty’ sedan, it does the same numbers as a similar concept that went before it.

      • 0 avatar
        Art Vandelay

        I would love an ILX that was simply started with a civic SI and offered the type R as an option, but a decent looking body akin to the current ILX. Give it a name too…like I don’t know…Integra maybe? It may canabilize some Civic type R sales, but they would be paying more and it would bring in buyers like me. I’d probably own one if it didn’t look like it spun out in a 1990’s sport compact magazine. Heck if it just looked like that I may buy it…it would still look better than the current mess.

    • 0 avatar
      slavuta

      Mazda luxury model plan is a dead end. People just started to recognize that Mazdas are good-driving cars, zoom-zoom.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Many of the B&B know better, believing that recalls are an over-laywered mfr trick to get you back into the dealer to buy a new car, steal your personal ID, or some other nonsense.

    So if it hasn’t happened on your car, don’t worry about it. /s

  • avatar
    tankinbeans

    If somebody is going to slam into your backbottom because the car brakes abruptly, they were falling too closely to begin with.

    • 0 avatar
      sgeffe

      Probably what the cops would say, yes: assured clear distance, failure to maintain.

    • 0 avatar
      SPPPP

      Sure, that’s technically correct. But you might be pretty annoyed if you were driving the following car. If the car in front goes to full braking on an open road, are you sure you will be able to stop in time?

    • 0 avatar
      Jagboi

      They may have been following too close, but that doesn’t help if you end up with whiplash or worse injuries when they plow into you.

      The vast majority of drivers are following too close if a car in front of them does full emergency braking with no warning, especially at highway speeds.

    • 0 avatar
      rpn453

      True. But every time I go for a drive, there are dozens, if not hundreds, of times where I could get myself rear-ended if I did a sudden full-ABS brake event for no reason. I’d rather it just not happen.

    • 0 avatar
      Art Vandelay

      True, but impeding traffic due to failure to maintain your vehicle in proper operating condition can also get you cited. And frankly, while it may not be the vehicle that does the rear ending that gets the citation, if it were me the “driver” and the manufacturer would be receiving calls from my lawyer.

  • avatar

    I just let my Fusion to get access to WiFi (or WeeFee how French who invented Internet, WiFi and Interplanetary flight spell it). I added SYNC_ to white list on my server and Fusion immediately started to download something from Internet and sent internally stored data to its overloads in Ford.

    Now after reading this article I start getting nervous. What I have done!

  • avatar
    Tele Vision

    I will never own a car with automatic braking. Fact. Also, I don’t know how to use the cruise control in either my 2010 F-150 or my 2007 CTS-V. Also fact. I’ve never used the system in either car. I may be a Luddite but I’m happy with it.

    • 0 avatar
      Steve65

      Cruise control takes a good driving habit, and automates it for you, freeing up attention for other tasks.

      Adaptive cruise control takes an exceptionally bad and rude driving habit, and automates it for you, causing you to be even more disruptive in traffic than an ordinarily semi-conscious driver.

      • 0 avatar
        blppt

        I *hate* adaptive cruise…especially if the trim level you have technically doesnt have the ‘adaptive’ option, it still will brake on the slightest highway grades to maintain speed. Meaning anybody behind you will see your brake lights come on for apparently no reason other than your speed inching above the set mark.

        And there’s no way to disable the braking part either.

  • avatar
    digitaldoc

    As a Mazda CX-5 owner, I undoutedly have the identical, or very similar system to the Mazda 3. More than once it has false braked, when the lane was open ahead of the car. The dealership replaced the camera, and I dialed down the sensitivity, but overall the radar beam sent out seems to be simply too wide. Would like to see this recall extended to the CX-5’s as well as this has been a problem I have experienced, and others as well on Mazda forums.

  • avatar
    rpn453

    I thought all new cars do this. My wife’s 2019 CRV has done it once.

    • 0 avatar
      Art Vandelay

      no, they don’t “all do that”

    • 0 avatar
      sgeffe

      Not one false alarm on my 2019 Accord.

      All the nannies are set to the defaults. I’ve only taken the auto-light sensitivity down one notch because around dusk, the lights would come on when going under an overpass, and then the lights would go off; the sensor is relocated higher in the car than on my previous car because it doubles as the sensor for the auto-brights.

  • avatar
    gasser

    I had this happen to me once in a 2016 Hyundai Genesis on a very narrow, winding 2 lane road, with cars parked on both sides. This road was winding enough that, since I used it daily, I turned off the LKAS because it constantly alarmed. I now have a 2019 Mercedes GLC and no problems with Autobrake, or BSM. This model lacks the LKAS so who know how well that might work, or not.

  • avatar
    TheOtherGoose

    I’m sorry to hear that others have experienced what I did when I owned my ’19 Mazda 3. As pointed out by the owner of a newer CX-5, it may be due to the camera angle being too wide. Whatever the reason, I stand by my opinion that such systems should be under control of the driver. I realize that user-defeatable safety systems will lead to lawsuits. Unfortunately, there’s no safety system out there that is idiot-proof.

    On a related note, how long have there been airbags and we’re still dealing with shrapnel/etc from Takata? I don’t like the idea of being sacrificed on the altar of perceived safety improvements…

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