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Government Transportation IT

Safercar.gov Overwhelmed By Recall For Deadly Airbags 120

darylb writes "The NHTSA's safercar.gov website appears to be suffering under the load of recent vehicle recalls, including the latest recall of some 4.7 million vehicles using airbags made by Takata. Searching recalls by VIN is non-responsive at present. Searching by year, make, and model hangs after selecting the year. What can sites serving an important public function do to ensure they stay running during periods of unexpected load?" More on the airbag recall from The New York Times and the Detroit Free Press.
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Safercar.gov Overwhelmed By Recall For Deadly Airbags

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  • Slashdot Effect (Score:5, Interesting)

    by QuadEddie ( 459328 ) on Tuesday October 21, 2014 @09:58AM (#48195577)
    Is a website buckling under load? Let's publish more articles about it and drive more traffic to their site!
    • by Megane ( 129182 ) on Tuesday October 21, 2014 @10:07AM (#48195675) Homepage
      The best way to counteract the Slashdot Effect is to do what Slashdot did and make a horribly unusable beta.
      • The Obamacare site had the same problems.

        Oh, you mean for Slashdot to put out a shitty beta and randomly throw people into it, thereby driving visitors away. That might work.

    • by sinij ( 911942 )

      This isn't dotcom bubble days, if /. can crash a website they are doing something majorly wrong.
       
      Now lets proceed to share "up the hill both ways" stories and lament how ACs these days don't know what is good for them.

      • You mean 1999 wasn't just a few years ago? *Looks at watch* Shit, you're right. I need to take a shower.
      • Web hosting is still sold much the same way as over 10 years ago: multiple clients sharing a host, or a dedicated server for much more. Now we have virtual servers too, which have a lot of access and security benefits but are ultimately the same as the first option for load balancing. And if you want anything more, get multiple dedicated servers and a dedicated sysadmin. It's an awful lot of money for the mere possibility of way more web traffic than you've ever imagined would visit at once (note: your stat

    • Is a website buckling under load? Let's publish more articles about it and drive more traffic to their site!

      It was buckling before it hit Slashdot; but yes they should be able to do better.

      • by Skater ( 41976 )

        Why? You'd have the gov't spend money to overbuild or be able to scale a website for the one time every few years it gets overloaded? Seems like a waste of money to me. It does just fine 99.9999999% of the time.

        The other issue was that all the news articles said things like, "X Million Hondas Recalled!" As a Honda Accord owner, I clicked on the article and looked, only to discover it was for rather old Accords (nothing newer than like 2003; ours is a 2012). Others probably went to safercar.gov instead

        • Or you buy something that can scale. You notice you're getting a bunch of server errors, throw more servers on it. There are plenty of companies that can do this now.

        • Why? You'd have the gov't spend money to overbuild or be able to scale a website for the one time every few years it gets overloaded? Seems like a waste of money to me. It does just fine 99.9999999% of the time.

          The other issue was that all the news articles said things like, "X Million Hondas Recalled!" As a Honda Accord owner, I clicked on the article and looked, only to discover it was for rather old Accords (nothing newer than like 2003; ours is a 2012). Others probably went to safercar.gov instead, only to find it didn't apply. (That headline should have been in the favorite clickbait poll. "X Million Cars from 1998-2003 recalled!" would have been better, but...fewer clicks!)

          Recall applied to many more than just Hondas, and many different model years even outside the 1998-2003 years you quoted. So sure, car's model may not have had an issue, but many others did.

          Also, safecar.gov forwarded to the other site so that didn't really make a difference.

          Finally, I would expect any organization that has a mission like that of the site in question to be prepared should a major issue like this happen, primarily because it could happen at any time and they are the central source of i

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Scale.

    It's a known problem with known solutions.

    • by tibit ( 1762298 )

      The "enterprisey" scalability is probably an entirely overblown and over-the-top approach for such a simple web app. All of the executable and the data needed to serve this app fits comfortably in memory, all at once. You don't need anything fancy. The "effort" needed for lookups and generation of the replies is really tiny, as long as you use a solution that is compiled (or JITed). I'm pretty sure any modern multicore desktop machine would easily handle all of the load and completely saturate a couple giga

  • that sells your car. Talk to the garage, they will have notification.

    • that sells your car. Talk to the garage, they will have notification.

      That is much more time consuming, and less accurate, than just clicking on a website.
      Also, many of us are aspies, and we prefer to use an impersonal website, rather than interacting with a human.

      • by geekoid ( 135745 )

        A) It's more accurate.
        B) You can send the dealer a email
        C) Online isn't working.

        And no, many of you do NOT have Aspergers syndrome. Some do. No more here then anywhere else.

        Most of you are just passive aggressive ass hats.
        I am around people with Aspergers syndrome every day. I don't know of any that can't use a phone to call someone they don't know.

        • by umghhh ( 965931 )
          you know some so you know'em all??? wow - great that it works for you.

          If you do not have to cope with the problem in your head yourself then maybe you should not talk for those that do. Besides I do not have impression that passive-aggressive and asperger are mutually exclusive. Sitting in my mom's cellar can make anybody aggressive or passive-aggressive or whatever DSM authors think is diagnosable.

      • by jp10558 ( 748604 )

        You know, there is a solution to even this (not liking cold calling people, even if it's a business and they expect random calls). I don't have any diagnosed mental issues, but I do dislike calling people in general. I think it started when I worked collections for a year and a half. That basically made me not want to call people to some extent. It's minor, but still.

        Anyway, on to the solution: Virtual Assistants. There are services for all price ranges starting as low as $10 a month. You can submit a web

  • by sunderland56 ( 621843 ) on Tuesday October 21, 2014 @10:06AM (#48195661)

    Why should the government be the main source for recall information? Shouldn't that come from the manufacturer/importer?

    Pass a law saying car companies must have recall information easily accessible on the web. The extra cost for the companies (which have large splashy advertising sites already, backed by a decent server infrastructure) will be next to nothing. However, this will save the government money; they can just put up a static page with pointers to the individual manufacturer's sites.

    • Why should the government be the main source for recall information?

      One central point of information.

      Shouldn't that come from the manufacturer/importer?

      They do but most people ignore the mailings or emails. However, by pointing to a web site, that somehow triggers people into looking (considering how much people are online to begin with).

      Besides, if you're buying a used car, this is an easy way to see if it is on a recalled list since you wouldn't have been notified by the manufacturer.
      • by adolf ( 21054 )

        OP's question, stated differently:

        Why should the government be the main source for recall information on the Internet ?

        Your response:

        Besides, if you're buying a used car, this is an easy way to see if it is on a recalled list since you wouldn't have been notified by the manufacturer.

        My thoughts:
        If I'm buying a used car, presumably I know who manufactured the car because the car will be littered in badges proudly proclaiming who, exactly, built and may have subsequently recalled some part of the car. Whethe

        • by JimMcc ( 31079 )

          Ford has it available. Go to http://owner.ford.com/ [ford.com]

          Perhaps others do as well.

        • by nbauman ( 624611 )

          Auto manufacturers are required to report potential safety-related defects to the federal government. That information is a public record, so they have to put it on *.gov. That's easier than filling freedom of information act requests.

          You should be able to go to kia.com, etc. but when you're dealing with life-threatening defects, it's a good practice to have a backup.

          And as we know from the medical industry, it's a matter of judgment as to when you have enough reported defects to make a statistically signif

          • by adolf ( 21054 )

            Some people have found that government sites are relatively accurate, compared to the other sources, or at least more accountable.

            There can be no source more accurate or accountable than the manufacturer, as they are the body charged with implementing the recall, and are also the ones with $billions at risk.

            Which of the following is more accurate:

            A. A group of people reading the same newspaper
            B. An orator reading the same newspaper to the same group of people
            C. A transcriptionist transcribing the orator

        • by mjwx ( 966435 )

          My thoughts: If I'm buying a used car, presumably I know who manufactured the car because the car will be littered in badges proudly proclaiming who, exactly, built and may have subsequently recalled some part of the car. Whether a Kia or a BMW or a Lincoln, I should be able to go to kia.com, bmw.com, or whatever, and find the recall information.

          You cant trust a manufacturer to be truthful. I mean look at the recent GM ignition recalls. They waited until it killed serveral people before they did anything.

          • by adolf ( 21054 )

            You cant trust a manufacturer to be truthful

            Re: Fight Club. In most instances, they (manufacturers) are the ones instituting the recall, presumably based on numbers and figures.. NHTSA (I'm in the US) will document the recall if it is justified, and the manufacturer is always the one paying for for parts and work and documentation and mailings and phone calls and....

            In some cases, it seems the NHTSA will suggest -- or in egregious cases, demand -- a recall, but in -all- cases it is a manufacturer recall.

            I

    • Well now I understand the somewhat cryptic letter about the passenger side airbag recall I received a few weeks back. It just mentioned there was a problem with the passenger side airbag with my car and that the dealer did not have the parts on had at the moment to service the recall for all vehicles and that I would be sent a letter later informing me of when I should schedule an appointment to take care of the issue. And for those wondering this is for an E46 BMW ('98-'05 3 series). So go pester your deal
    • by geekoid ( 135745 )

      They aren't. You can also call the dealer.

    • Pass a law saying car companies must have recall information easily accessible on the web.

      Just looking up Toyota, Ford, and GM (all USA), each allows you to go to their respective websites and type in a VIN to let you know if there's a recall associated with your vehicle... So while there isn't a law to that effect, they already have this. If you're too lazy to go to the manufacturer's site to look up your vehicle by VIN for the 1 or 2 vehicles you may own, either from the government or the manufacturer, then I don't know what else can be done. This is on top of the paper mail and e-mails yo

    • Your an idiot. Foremost where do you think the government gets money? The people, so its really about saving the tax payers money. If we mandate each car company create their own recall infrastructure and website and support staff, that will drive up the price of automobiles, costing the tax payers money. In this instance, a centralized source of information managed by one group makes more sense instead of duplicating the work over every car manufacturer. Laws that increase costs to tax payers, ie stupid r
  • by NotDrWho ( 3543773 ) on Tuesday October 21, 2014 @10:12AM (#48195717)

    Takata, remember when it used to be about the CRAFTMANSHIP, man? Back in the early days, you used to make airbags because you had a PASSION for it. Then the money came, and the drugs, and the women. Pretty soon, it's like you didn't even care anymore about the quality of the airbags. You were just living for the next party, the next line of coke, the next paycheck. The work suffered, man. And you chased off everyone in your life who really cared about airbag engineering and manufacturing. You just pushed them right aside, didn't you? And so now comes the crash.

    It's time to rethink things.

  • Did the same company design this site that did the federal healthcare.gov? You'd think that after that disaster they'd be looking at ways to handle spikes of traffic.

  • Specifically, they need to make the car company responsible for every single repair of every single recalled vehicle.

    As in, if they sold a faulty product, they have to fix it, whether it is a a set of brakes that don't work, or a window that won't open.

    Basically, we end the 'buyer beware' system for new cars.

    • by tomhath ( 637240 )

      make the car company responsible for every single repair of every single recalled vehicle

      Car manufacturers in the US are responsible for repairs.

      • No. They notify you and you can decide to come in or not. They pay for it only if you ask.

        So if you refuse to do anything - or the car company says they can't fix your car for another 90 days, your car remains broken.

        Chances are you won't stop driving the vehicle until then and they won't pay for a replacement.

        Quite a few people ignore the recall and then sell the car to some poor shmuck who never received the recall note.l

        • by enjar ( 249223 ) on Tuesday October 21, 2014 @12:11PM (#48196841) Homepage

          I've received a few recall notices over the years for the cars I own. I followed the instructions on the form, made an appointment with the dealer, dropped the car off, then they did their thing. I never had to pay a dime.

          You might be confusing a recall with a technical service bulletin. They are not the same, although a TSB can turn into a recall in certain cases -- and that happened in one case, for which I was refunded the money I'd paid for the service. All the recall notices I've received have had language on them to this effect, that if you repaired the car on your own dime (and can product a receipt) that they will reimburse you.

          And if you buy a used car, it's probably worth the time to check for recalls. It's a similar situation for any consumer product you might pick up off Craigslist or from a private sale. We have a couple of kids and children's products are also notorious for this, since there's quite a "hand me down" / "cash sale" market that exists when your kids outgrow something and you don't need it any more.

        • by Cramer ( 69040 )

          So, in your world, jackbooted thugs show up and forcefully remove your car to have recall service(s) performed? It is, and always will be, the responsibility of the current owner to get anything wrong with the car fixed -- recall or not.

    • by bws111 ( 1216812 )

      WTF are you talking about? The car companies ARE responsible for fixing this. And every new car comes with this thing called a 'warranty', which means the manufacturer is responsible for defects in a new car. And many (most? all?) states have 'lemon laws' for when warranty repairs are not enough.

      • Monetarily yes, but not legally. That is, when you buy a used car, it may have been repaired, or not. No way for you to tell.

        Why? Because they are not legally required to FIX the car, just legally required to offer to fix it.

        But that can't be a big problem right? I mean, most cars get fixed, right?

        No. They don't. Most cars are never fixed. The problems are often small - so it has a half second delay in the brakes, who notices/ Or it has a small tendency to roll over, no big deal.

        In Europe, that

        • by bws111 ( 1216812 )

          And just how do they fix ALL the cars? Do they come and tow the car out of your garage if you don't get to the dealer in a fixed amount of time? Or do they make it illegal for the owner to drive the car until it is fixed (which puts a burden on the owner, not the manufacturer)?

          And if you buy a used car, you can STILL go to the dealer and see if there are any outstanding recalls on the vehicle.

          • by Anonymous Coward

            In Europe they tow your car away if you exceed the recall deadline. It's a huge racket.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    This specific recall with air bags was expanded into areas with high humidity. The recall system with selective recalls based on the current environment is flawed. Your recall notice and letters are based on where you car is registered the day the recall becomes active. If your car spent the first 10 years on the Florida coast and you moved 1 week before the recall, if your car was 10 miles away from a state that was effected and travel into that area every day of the week for week or pleasure, if you ar

    • Doesn't appear to apply to mine but...

      It came from north of Vancouver BC, in the mountains. And from the look of the underside spent half it's buried in snow. But now is in Spokane for the last 6 months after living in the mountains for 7 years. It's not that humid here so not a problem, right?!?

      Not exactly comforting, all these recalls lately seem to miss me by a model year.

  • Be competent? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by h4ck7h3p14n37 ( 926070 ) on Tuesday October 21, 2014 @10:41AM (#48196003) Homepage

    How about building your tech stack so that it can be scaled up/down on-demand? I'm using Rackspace and we have dedicated servers along with cloud servers. I can add or remove cloud servers as needed and also have the load balancers updated.

    If you're just doing reads against a database, it's straightforward to add additional replicas (we use MongoDB with replica sets, don't have enough data for sharding yet). If you need to do any processing, then you should build a grid compute system where you can just add additional compute nodes. We're using RabbitMQ along with Celery. Granted, this strategy ignores issues like a saturated network, but our provider is responsible for dealing with that.

    • by geekoid ( 135745 )

      And it all that free?

    • How about building your tech stack so that it can be scaled up/down on-demand? I'm using Rackspace and we have dedicated servers along with cloud servers. I can add or remove cloud servers as needed and also have the load balancers updated.

      All this appears to be doing is asking basic questions and executing trivial database lookups. Is there a reason why even a single server should not easily be able to handle world wide demand by itself?

      More importantly what is with this failure mode of delay followed by blank screens? Seems like crappy design leading to snowballing collapses.

      If you're just doing reads against a database, it's straightforward to add additional replicas (we use MongoDB with replica sets, don't have enough data for sharding yet). If you need to do any processing, then you should build a grid compute system where you can just add additional compute nodes. We're using RabbitMQ along with Celery. Granted, this strategy ignores issues like a saturated network, but our provider is responsible for dealing with that.

      Can always count on technology to help us dig even deeper holes for ourselves.

    • by tibit ( 1762298 )

      This is a site serving what amounts to static content with simple lookup. There's zero reason to even use a database outside of startup. On startup simply put it into a native data structure in your programming environment of choice, and be done. MongoDB with replica sets, my ass, that's just crazy. The whole lookup application could be a couple of files on a CDN, a single executable and a single bootstrap data file. And syslog somewhere to listen to the traffic updates. It could run on a VM image with a do

    • by tlhIngan ( 30335 )

      How about building your tech stack so that it can be scaled up/down on-demand? I'm using Rackspace and we have dedicated servers along with cloud servers. I can add or remove cloud servers as needed and also have the load balancers updated.

      If you're just doing reads against a database, it's straightforward to add additional replicas (we use MongoDB with replica sets, don't have enough data for sharding yet). If you need to do any processing, then you should build a grid compute system where you can just add

      • The question that was posted reads, "what can sites serving an important public function do to ensure they stay running during periods of unexpected load?"

        Yes, it's total overkill for this particular case, but that wasn't what was asked.

      • So they need to spend thousands or hundreds of thousands of dollars for a situation that crops up ... virtually never? And you want to talk about "government waste"?

        Nope. That's exactly the problem solved by a cloud. Pooling server resources between a large number of content providers averages the demand between all of them, so each content provider can pay for their average demand while also supporting their maximum demand.

        Let's not overcomplicate this - it just means hosting your service on Amaz

    • So, for how many years now has it been that computing on demand has existed? Enterprises use it, hobbyists use it. There is no reason public information can't be served from commercial web farms -- spin up enough instances to handle the traffic bubble, spin them down again when the panic subsides. And it's acutally pretty cheap -- cheaper than having the government maintain its own server farm. Now, there may be certain sensitive data sets that should not leave government servers -- OK, so the .gov coul

  • Oh, "airbags." No more buttered scones for me, I'm off to play the grand piano. Pardon me while I drive my car with airbags!

  • Well (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Richy_T ( 111409 ) on Tuesday October 21, 2014 @10:44AM (#48196039) Homepage

    What can sites serving an important public function do to ensure they stay running during periods of unexpected load?"

    Not be created and run by government which has very little interest in ensuring the success of legislation which has already passed. There's the next election to think about, don't you know and those pesky Republians/Democrats [delete as applicable] are going to destroy the world if you don't vote in our slightly less scummy candidate.

    • by geekoid ( 135745 )

      Considering you homepage link I wouldn't cast stones if I were you.

    • Since when are glitchy and unresponsive web sites exclusive to governments?

      It took Amazon about 8 years to figure out how to get through Christmas shopping season without blowing up.

      Even earlier AT&T's phone system would routinely crash on Mother's Day.

      Handling large scale distributed demand surges is a non-trivial problem.

      • by tibit ( 1762298 )

        For what amounts to read-only data, it's a trivial problem with multiple, trivial solutions.

  • Hard to understood why people continue to use inherently slow and glitchy application stacks to run their sites.

    Starting with java and piling on interpreters and frameworks to the point it takes a minimum of 1GB just to start tomcat stack for even trivial applications not even counting data tier something has gone terribly wrong. Once started performance running through mazes of redundant abstraction on top of redundant abstraction leaves precious little room to make up for inevitable developer laziness wi

  • by Anonymous Coward

    but millions of cars are affected. Of course thousands if not millions of people will be using a web server after a U.S. government issues a safety advisory or any other government website that opened recently. Look at healthcare.gov.

  • Always the same thing when the engineers are pushed out of the decision process, and the bean-counters take over. Pathetic.

  • Am I the only one that thinks having an exploding bag in your car is a dumb idea from the beginning? No doubt they have saved some lives, but how many of those people would have been ok with just seatbelts? Also how many people were injured by airbag deployment (in properly working airbags, not these defective metal-spewing airbags!) that would have otherwise been unharmed?

    • Over a 10 year period from 1990 - 2000 only 175 people were killed by airbags while over 28,000 saved lives can be attributed to the addition of the airbag to the seatbelt. There are also a huge amount of people who still think that seatbelts don't apply to them, and an airbag might actually save them. While we could argue for the cleansing of the gene pool, I'll still take those odds. http://lmgtfy.com/?q=airbag+sa... [lmgtfy.com]
      • by sjames ( 1099 )

        I do wonder though if the seatbelt is in good working order and buckled, perhaps the airbag shouldn't deploy or at least it should have a much higher threshold before it deploys. Most airbag injuries are in low speed 'crashes' (some might be called bumps) where the seatbelt would be more than adequate. Cars already detect unbuckled seatbelts, so it's more logic but not more hardware.

  • OMG rush to the site! WAIT!!!1!!! Maybe ebola took down the sites! Or maybe the airbags are packed with ebola! PANIC!

    Or you could just call your car's brand's local dealership and have them run your VIN.
  • Any critical system should run at 90% idle if it is going to handle peak demands. When the bean counters insist on scaling based on average load instead of peak usage, things always come crashing down.

    • by ediron2 ( 246908 )

      I agree, but net traffic peak isn't suited for well-engineered designs. Maximums become absurd. When building a bridge, design is for maximum load x a safety factor (10, often). You put weight points equalling a fleet of big heavy trucks (65,000lbs GVW) on the bridge model, bumper to bumper, and do static/dynamic loading. You model 120-mph winds, or 150 or whatever.

      The archtype here is 'slashdotting'. Peak load isn't a value you look up in a handy reference. It isn't an estimate or '10x what you've see

  • Stop calling it an "unexpected load".

    That's bullshit. If you're operating a site that serves an entire nation, this kind of load should be expected any time there is a reason for people to be accessing your site. This shouldn't be a "holy shit, that many people own cars???" moment. This load should be completely expected. It's a peak load, not an unexpected load. Your system needs to be able to handle peak load.

    And it's not limited to government sites. When the Nexus 10 was launched, it took me all da

  • > What can sites serving an important public function do to ensure they stay running during periods of unexpected load?

    I dunno...maybe ask how google and yahoo and amazon do it, instead of going with the standard government formula for developing websites, which is clearly NOT WORKING.

    I think one could make a case for government website development being a parable for many, perhaps most, government supplied services. If the government doesn't directly benefit, (ie, IRS) it can't be done in reasonable ti

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