It was November 7, 2014 when The New York Times published a shocking article that revealed exactly how unsafe our roads are. The subject? Takata's airbag recall crisis. Called "the largest and most complex safety recall in US history," it affected vehicles made by 19 automakers and 85 million American airbags. Major companies, from Honda to Mercedes-Benz, were forced to issue recalls for their vehicles. And, although the problem started 3 years ago, it's tripled in size over the past year.
And this is only one of America's recall crises. Auto recalls hit 53.2 million in 2016 — that's an all-time high. However, the government doesn't collect or keep data on the number of auto recalls and how dealerships deal with them. This lack of data means that many of the Americans affected by the Takata airbag scandal or concurrent recalls don't even know their car is in recall. Similarly, Americans don't know how many of these recalls have been taken care of, and how many cars are driving around their roads putting everyone in danger.
There's a need to track recalls that the government isn't filling — and that's why independent companies are filling in the gaps with machine learning. They start with enormous quantities of unstructured recall data, made up of billions of transactions. Then, they cull, process, and organize it — for example, they can determine if a certain vehicle qualifies for a recall and who its current owner is, even if it has been re-sold multiple times. Then, they can notify the owner of the car, find the closest dealerships to them, and get their car in for a quick fix. Silicon Valley startup Recall Masters [www.recallmasters.com], a pioneer in recall machine learning, calls this process "digital forensics" — since its machines pore through transactions, pick up digital "clues," and solve the problem.
Companies like Recall Masters are taking millions of unsafe cars off the road, and by doing so, saving hundreds of millions of lives. They're stepping in where the government hasn't — mitigating the effects of crises from the Takata airbag scandal to more simple fixes. And they're making driving safe again.
Americans who want to join the movement and check their recall status can go to: http://www.motorsafety.org/ and enter their vehicle's VIN number to see if their vehicle is eligible for a recall.