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"Oh, what a feeling" (of acceleration)

From the Associated Press: US launches criminal probe into Toyota safety

WASHINGTON - Federal prosecutors have launched a criminal investigation into Toyota Motor Corp.'s safety problems and the Securities and Exchange Commission was probing what the automaker told investors, the company disclosed Monday. Newly released internal documents showed that Toyota officials visited with U.S. regulators years ago who "laughed and rolled their eyes in disbelief" over safety claims.

... The government could be looking into product safety law violations or whether Toyota made false statements to a federal safety agency involving unintended acceleration or the Prius braking system, said Peter Henning, a law professor at Wayne State University in Detroit. The SEC is seeking documents related to unintended acceleration as well as to its disclosure policies and practices, Toyota said.

... House investigators said they believe Toyota intentionally resisted the possibility that electronic defects caused unintended acceleration in their vehicles and then misled the public into thinking its recalls would fix all the problems.

Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., who will run Tuesday's hearing, said documents and interviews demonstrate that the company relied on a flawed engineering report to reassure the public that it found the answer to the problem.

In a letter to Toyota, Stupak said a review of consumer complaints shows company personnel identified sticking pedals or floor mats as the cause of only 16 percent of the unintended acceleration reports.

Some 70 percent of the acceleration incidents in Toyota's customer call database involved vehicles that are not subject to the 2009 and 2010 floor mat and "sticky pedal" recalls.

In a letter to NHTSA, Stupak's committee raised questions about whether the agency lacked the expertise to review defects in vehicle electronics and said NHTSA was slow to respond to 2,600 complaints of sudden unintended acceleration from 2000 to 2010.

Stupak's committee wants to know if Toyota took advantage of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administrations "slow" response to these sudden acceleration complaints by participating in a recall that only involved floor mats, rather than vehicle electronics. In an internal memo obtained by the government, Toyota officials claimed that the limited recall -- as opposed to an extensive investigation of the vehicle electronics and subsequent recall/repair of the electronics systems -- had saved Toyota an estimated $100 million.

Unfortunately US government ownership of Chrysler (9.85%) and General Motors (61%) has severely tarnished the appearance of impartiality with respect to any future government investigations of Toyota or any other automobile manufacturer that could be considered a competitor of Chrysler or GM. Such is the price of industrial nationalization. However, these incidents, and the NHTSA's involvement, date back at least to 2004, long before the government became financially entangled with GM or Chrysler.

If there truly is a problem with the electronic acceleration controls in these automobiles, then Toyota owes its customers a complete recall/repair plan to correct the problem. They should also be subjected to criminal penalties if it is discovered that they purposefully ignored the problem simply because government watchdogs were slow to act. Such behavior obviously violates commonly accepted "good faith" standards for manufactures of consumer goods.

Perhaps the biggest irony in this case is the high probability that Ford Motor Company would end up capturing the biggest piece of any market share that Toyota might lose.


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Comments (46)

I've never owned a Toyota, ... (Below threshold)
bobdog:

I've never owned a Toyota, but I find it hard to believe that a company this large and good enough to gut GM and Chrysler would be as stupid as is alleged by the AP news report. It seems to me that Toyota rose to first place by paying more attention to quality and safety than any other company in the industry.

A bunch of Japanese fat-cat executives sitting around the board room laughing about hiding a serious safety problem is just too big a stretch for me. I think it's more likely that a bunch of American fat-cat executives and politicians snarking it up about sticking it to Toyota is far more likely. Think like Bob Beckel or Alan Colmes for a minute.

I frankly suspect that it is far more likely that AP has been leaked newsy morsels and has reported them like a union press release like they usually do.

Democrat House member. From Michigan. TV cameras. GM and Chrysler. Inside baseball. United Auto Workers. Non-union. Bush-league journalist. Shiny object. Unsupported salacious bits released just before congressional hearings. What's that spell?

I've got no axe to grind here, but I'll believe it when these allegations are proven, not based on unsourced rumors insinuated by AP.
Toyota isn't this stupid.

Modern autos use computers ... (Below threshold)
Mac Lorry:

Modern autos use computers to manage the engine, shift the transmission, engage 4-wheel drive if so equipped, modulate the breaks for ABS and traction control, and run the throttle. In models with electronic power steering, the computer modifies the steering boost depending on speed and can even boost in one direction to help a drive recover from a skid. Electronic stability control hooks all these elements together to help keep the vehicle under control and between the ditches.

There's a whole bunch of software and interdependent systems using input from numerous sensors that measure the vehicle's motion, driver inputs, and current settings. Engineers have to consider how the software will respond under every conceivable set of conditions including the failure of sensors and actuators. Even then, the system needs to incorporate Fail Safe systems wherever possible and that's where Toyota has dropped the ball.

For example, on many Toyota models you can hold down the throttle with one foot and press the break with the other foot and the engine continues to respond to the throttle just like older cars with mechanical throttles do. Maybe that was the goal, but it's not fail safe and brands like Honda put the engine in idle whenever the break is pressed regardless of throttle position. If the throttle gets stuck or the computer gets confused pressing the break petal puts the engine in idle mode, period.

Another example is on models with a start/stop button rather than a key. On a Toyota you have to hold the button in for 3.3 seconds to kill the engine while driving. That's a long time when the throttle is stuck and most people react by repeatedly and rapidly pressing that button, but it does no good in a Toyota. On other makes repeatedly and rapidly pressing that button kills the engine, which shows other manufactures have done a better job of making these complex systems fail safe.

Maybe Toyota engineers were too confident in their ability to produce bug free software to run such complex systems, or management didn't want to take to extra time to incorporate fail safe system. It might not be easy to retrofit older models and that might be why Toyota has been trying to avoid such a recall.

This is sorta like having y... (Below threshold)
Don L:

This is sorta like having your entire family on your murder trial jury...

The kangaroos are biting at the leash already for the court to open.

mac, even with a spell chec... (Below threshold)
epador:

mac, even with a spell checker, you can break the brakes.

I find it hard ... (Below threshold)
I find it hard to believe that a company this large and good enough to gut GM and Chrysler would be as stupid as is alleged by the AP news report.
Even large, successful corporations can undergo significant changes in management philosophy that, while evolving gradually, may have consequences that appear sudden to outsiders.

In fact, the larger the corporation the longer it can take for the consequences of an unwise shift in priorities to filter through the institution and become apparent to the market. And when they do, their effect can be like that of a tsunami entering shallow water -- all the effects of all those gradual internal changes pile one on top of another and turn into a disaster.

If Toyota's customer base tolerated a lot of small disappointments because of brand loyalty and an unwillingness to believe the company had really altered course, it may have led Toyota management to believe the changes were okay -- right up to the end.

Epador - see, there are bug... (Below threshold)
Mac Lorry:

Epador - see, there are bugs in everyting.

<a href="http://hotair.com/... (Below threshold)
wolfwalker:

Something stinks about this whole Toyota recall business ... and I don't mean the car exhaust.

Mac -Design a syst... (Below threshold)
JLawson:

Mac -

Design a system to be foolproof, and you end up generating new and improved fools who are DEPENDENT on the 'safety' feature not failing... which usually results in "Hey, Bubba - watch this!" moments later on, leading to Darwin Award applications.

Maybe it's just me, but the idea of driving with one foot on the brake (even lightly) and the other one on the accellerator just seems wrong. (Of course, I learned to drive with a clutch. And my dad made QUITE sure I didn't even THINK about using my left foot for the brake.)

There's no computer in any car that'll replace the judgement of the driver behind the wheel. Maybe part of the problem is we expect things to be completely safe, no matter how we might misuse them. This leads (imho) to a complacency which turns the brain off to the very real dangers of the world around us. ("Hey, I can text and drive - I've got air bags and wear a seat belt!")

Driving is risky - it requires constant attention and judgement of the situation to avoid becoming a statistic. To expect the car to do everything isn't realistic at all.

That doesn't mean there aren't possible problems from design flaws - but at some point the driver's got to be aware of what he can and can't do with his vehicle, and what to do when it all goes fubar.

Barry siezer is at it again... (Below threshold)
914:

Barry siezer is at it again.. If you cant beat them, cheat them.

Is this about uncontrolled ... (Below threshold)
James H:

Is this about uncontrolled acceleration of certain Star Wars figures?

Mac-WRT the off bu... (Below threshold)
Brian The Adequate:

Mac-

WRT the off button, having to hold it in for a time is a feature not a bug.

You don't want to turn the car off while moving, even if the throttle is stuck, because you will lose both power braking and steering. In the worst case scenario (I don't know if Toyota vehicles do this despite owning a Sienna) the steering wheel locks up when the engine is turned off.

People need to be taught to put the vehicle into neutral and come to a stop before turning off the engine if the throttle sticks.

Also, if the power off button does not require a deliberate and thought out act to turn off the engine, it increases greatly the risk of people turning off their engines accidentally and losing control of the moving vehicle due to the loss of steering and brakes.

Toyota has had a long histo... (Below threshold)
hermie:

Toyota has had a long history of devotion to quality assurance and engineering excellence (and no, I don't work for them. I never even owned one. I prefer Hondas.). I believe that this is a coordinated effort by the unions and Obama to force Toyota out of the US market by using over the top Alinsky-like tactics. The public isn't buying the fear tactics, so now the government is trying to create fear in the hearts of Toyota management by pushing criminal charges. The object: Force Toyota into being subjected to 'oversight' by the UAW or an Obama 'czar' (basically a UAW toady); which means an increase in union membership and eventual ruination of Toyota.

It seems to me that the iss... (Below threshold)
bobdog:

It seems to me that the issue here isn't an engineering issue at all. We can spend all day talking about design issues, but that's not what's going on.

The issue is the political aspect of all this. The insinuation is that Toyota management knew about a serious safety problem with their product long ago and cynically continued to ship cars around the world so they could make millions. That's what the AP article is suggesting, that's what Detroit public relations weasels are whispering to everybody who will listen, and that's what our sanctimonious legislators are all wet about. Nothing like a good scandal to take attention away from their own legislative malfeasance. Look! Over there! See the shiny object! Run to it! Run!

Seriously, think about it. These aren't Pintos or Corvairs, and Toyota isn't so stupid that they would jeopardize their position as the world's biggest and best international auto company by pushing products they know are defective. I'll be very surprised if this turns out to be the case. Like most Washington scandals, there will be breathless accusations and finger-pointing in Congressional hearings, smug expert testimony from Detroit insiders, hysterical editorials, and angry posturing before the Washington TV cameras.

And absolutely no proof beyond concocted insinuations. Pure Kabuki theater.

JLawson, <blo... (Below threshold)
Mac Lorry:

JLawson,

Maybe it's just me, but the idea of driving with one foot on the brake (even lightly) and the other one on the accelerator just seems wrong.

Street racer types back off the adjustment for the rear brakes (drum type) and then hold the car with the front brakes while spinning the rear tires to warm them up for more traction prior to a drag race or to show off. Other than that, there's no real purpose for allowing simultaneous brake and throttle in a modern computer controlled car. Unfortunately, Toyota does allow this. Had Toyota incorporated the failsafe that Honda and other makers use then a stuck accelerator pedal would be a minor incident rather than a potentially fatal accident.

There's no computer in any car that'll replace the judgement of the driver behind the wheel.

That's true when it comes to judgment, but apart from expert drivers the computer can do a better job in managing full braking and in skid recovery. That's why ABS is now standard as is stability control. The problem is when a computer bug results in invalid throttle or steering boost commands. Without a failsafe system the driver is just along for the ride at that point.

As manufacturers incorporate more and more computer controls into our vehicles it's imperative that these systems are designed to be failsafe and that the drive can override errant computer commands.

Bobdog -It kind of... (Below threshold)
JLawson:

Bobdog -

It kind of makes me wonder what would happen if the leadership of Toyota said "Sorry, we're busy fixing the problem" when Congress demands they show for hearings. Yeah, the folks inside the beltway would scream and hyperventilate, but so what? Realistically, they can't lynch Toyota without active cooperation - so why not just passively resist?

"Sorry, Tuesday's not good... in fact, the rest of this month and next are just slammed. Let's see... Late April might be possible, but you're going to want some time for your preening and posturing and histrionics... hmmm... we've got a full week clear in late July. That work for you?"

Now, I suppose they could go "We're not going to allow any Toyotas to be sold in the US!" - but that'd go over REAL well. I don't think there's any sort of way it could be played in the media that would get much support at all - I think it'd be seen as a very transparent grab for GM market share.

Thats right. Kabuki theatre... (Below threshold)
914:

Thats right. Kabuki theatre with Barry behind the curtains and the condescending libs questioning while drooling smugly with glee at thier newest potential takeover.

Brian The Adequate<bl... (Below threshold)
Mac Lorry:

Brian The Adequate

WRT the off button, having to hold it in for a time is a feature not a bug.

That's true and such buttons work the same way on similar Nissan models, but Nissan did some research and found that in a panic people react by repeatedly and rapidly pressing the Start/Stop button rather than holding it in. On a Nissan you can either hold the Start/Stop button in for several seconds to kill the engine while driving, or you can rapidly press that button three or more times. No one is going to inadvertently rapidly press that button three or more times. Nissan was thinking failsafe; Toyota had their head up their ass.

It's easy to get software to work in its primary mode where inputs are within their expected ranges. It takes real skill to produce software that anticipates ALL possibilities and acts appropriately. When inappropriate outputs can put lives in danger the only responsible solution is to add failsafe mechanisms, such as the brake putting the engine in idle mode or the Start/Stop switch responding to a drive who's in panic mode.

I wonder what the level of ... (Below threshold)
ODA315:

I wonder what the level of hysteria would be if the UAW represented Toyota's workforce.

It seems to me tha... (Below threshold)
Mac Lorry:
It seems to me that the issue here isn't an engineering issue at all. We can spend all day talking about design issues, but that's not what's going on.

Yes, the immediate issue is political and/or legal, but engineering is at the heart of the issue. If engineering didn't matter than all manufacturers would be experiencing similar rates of unintended acceleration or steering issues (Toyota Corolla). The only way for Toyota to recover in the long run is through better engineering.

"Without a failsaf... (Below threshold)
JLawson:
"Without a failsafe system the driver is just along for the ride at that point."

And as I said - you make a foolproof, fail-safe system, you'll find improved fools (like the street racers in your example) that'll figure out ways around it so they can do neat stuff and win Darwin awards.

Other than that, there's no real purpose for allowing simultaneous brake and throttle in a modern computer controlled car.
There's no real purpose to NOT have it available, aside from accomodating the dead-footed folks who have lousy driving habits in the first place. That's the point behind driver training - to keep stupid stuff like that from becoming a settled habit.

If you depend on the computer to do the thinking for you, when something hits you'd BETTER have some appropriate response programmed into the computer. Having the car do the thinking for you leads to you not thinking at all.

Odd, the arguments defendin... (Below threshold)
DJ Drummond:

Odd, the arguments defending Toyota on the assumption that Toyota cares more about quality and safety than do American companies. It's just a strange reverse version of the old Russian 'noshi'.

For example, back in the 1990s, Audi made a sedan that would start the car automatically at times, even throwing into gear. The company denied the claims for almost a year, despite dozens of lawsuits. In the end, the company discovered that a feature meant to allow a driver to remotely start his car worked on a frequency that caused the car to start when certain radio frequencies were used. No one ever said Audi did not care about safety, but the deny-deny-deny impulse that was hated so much during Ford's Pinto scandal was very much in evidence. Fact is, just about every car maker has had some major foulup. The question is what the media chooses to cover and how the company deals with the problem when it first shows up.

Toyota knew about 2005 that it had a chance to close the gap on GM for top automaker in the world. To achieve that goal, Toyota made several major changes in its operations, including licensing new plants without direct supervision by Tokyo-experienced managers. Also, material was now to be inspected at fabrication sites before delivery to factories, and only visual inspections were done at factory prior to installation. As a consequence, from 2006 on Toyota could no longer maintain the same QA standards that it had used from 1991-2005, not incidentally the same period where Toyota made its greatest gains in quality reputation.

Also, a 'Nightline' report aired Monday night showed a demonstration by a Southern Illinois professor

(http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/video/test-driving-toyota-9917789)

of how the acceleration problem can be caused in a way that prevents brake application, and - critically - leaves no record in the computer files of any problem. Toyota, it should be noted, has no interest in the professor's demonstration, possibly because it conflicts with what their engineers say but also because they have their own issues with listening to someone from a another country.

ABC News also discovered a little Enron-like activity at Toyota; an internal memo bragging on how much money Toyota saved by delaying US safety investigators, and by insisting the problem was due to floor mats when evidence of far more serious problems was known.

http://abcnews.go.com/Business/wireStory?id=9903458

Waddaya know, turns out the Japanese can be greedy and unethical too?

So you actually have to go ... (Below threshold)
JLawson:

So you actually have to go in and short things out for the uncommanded accelleration?

Hmmm.

Well, that's one way to produce it. Do we issue a recall on professors now?

Mac, you obviously know mor... (Below threshold)
bobdog:

Mac, you obviously know more about auto design than I do, and I read your comments with interest.

But that's not the purpose of the hearings in Washington. The hearings are about shaming Toyota for the TV cameras. ODA315 above got a piece of it: if it was a domestic, unionized, Democrat campaign contributor, our Congress Critters would be wailing a different tune.

But Toyota is a bunch of foreigners. Scab shop. Not from Detroit. Non-voters. Competitors to Government Motors, probably responsible for destroying GM and Chrysler, not to mention the heartbreak of psoriasis.

Congressmen can waive their arms around and appear to be pro-consumer. "News" media can turn it all into a scandal and buy some eyeballs. Unions can pull strings behind the scene and hurt their scab shop enemies. Even the White House is invested in this and has an interest in making Toyota look as bad as possible. The NHSA gets to forget about the 2600 complaints about runaway acceleration that it's been ignoring for the past five years and appear to be "responsible" by attacking Toyota.

And now it's a crisis. It's a perfect storm. Off with their heads!

Mac-Good point abo... (Below threshold)
Brian The Adequate:

Mac-

Good point about the Nissan vs Toyota system. Does the Nissan system keep the brakes and steering operational in the fail safe / Panic off mode?

DJ-

I agree with the main point for post #21, but I do have a question. Do you have a reference for the Audi issue? My memory of the Audi sudden acceleration was that both the courts and the NTSB investigations found that all of the Audi incidents were due to driver pedal misapplication, not equipment issues. Not challenging (Heaven knows my memory can be flawed)just interested.

I do have a bias toward Toyota, because compared to the Dodge Caravan we had before the Sienna, the Sienna is much better engineered. If it is true that Toyota decided to risk their reputation and customers lives to increase short term profits, then I am very disappointed. Also as my locale has a Camry assembly plant, if Toyota sales suffer so does some friends and neighbors.

DJ, you have a different ta... (Below threshold)
bobdog:

DJ, you have a different take on things than I do. I hadn't seen your last post.

I have little respect for "research" done by ABC or any of the other New York networks since the faked pickup truck explosion scam years ago. The one firm opinion I have about these "news" organizations is that they have to fit whatever they find out into 22 minutes, and more often than not start with a conclusion and work backward, hoping that the Joe Sixpack can't or won't figure it out. The scandal's the thing they care about.

And university professors don't impress me at ALL. See Climate Change.

Have there been bad actors from the industry in recent years? Have there been design mistakes from every auto maker in the world? Sure.

But is it the design mistake or the "cover up" that has everybody so excited? Separate the design problems from the food fight taking place in Washington. The engineering problem is merely the excuse for more congressional grandstanding from our betters.

Danger: Don't get between Henry Waxman and the TV cameras.

Point is, JLawson, the prof... (Below threshold)
DJ Drummond:

Point is, JLawson, the prof was able to duplicate the effect of the behavior, even down to the system not recording the incident despite being designed to do just that.

It disproves several major claims by Toyota engineers, and since there have been fatalities in accidents caused by this problem - is anyone here stupid enough to believe that the State Trooper killed in a Camry acceleration accident in 2009 just 'forgot' about his parking brake, as Toyota engineers claimed, or that a floorpad under the accelerator would prevent the brakes from working? Isn't it more likely - a lot more likely - that Toyota's cost-savings programs, which began at the same time as these problems began to occur, are to blame?

One thing I think is very strange, is the assumption that Americans are less careful about safety than someone from another country? Ford's F150 fires were a disaster last year, and since the F150 is Ford's best-selling truck, what kind of moron would seriously suggest that Ford doesn't care about their trucks catching fire? Yes the Pinto scandal was horrific, but really, that was three decades ago, and I seem to have noticed Fords are much better now than in the past, both for safety and for performance. Look at the recalls, lawsuits for design defects, and accident rates (and survival rates) for the major automakers, and frankly the US brands look pretty good. Call me strange, but I think the average US carmaker plans to put out a safe, quality car, at least as much as any other nation does. Are we really going to say that Japanese corporations are more ethical than US corporations?

On what evidence?

Look, my wife and I drive a Honda, so I am not all that big on Ford, GM, or the other brands, and I am still thinking about getting a Tacoma this year. But I don't go 'fluffy rainbow unicorn' when I think about corporations; Toyota is out to make money, and it's a big freaking company, which means they have a lot of people working and they will inevitably have the problems that every large company has to address.

It just doesn't make sense to assume that if Toyota is having problems with its safety, that the cause must be someone else.

Brian, I'd have to go back ... (Below threshold)
DJ Drummond:

Brian, I'd have to go back and look, but I do remember at least one court case involving the Audi 5000 where the car started itself in the garage while the driver was asleep in her bedroom.

Bobdog, your point about professors is well taken, but this is a hard science issue, and the professor was able to create the problem on demand, which indicates he has a decent idea of how the effect can be caused. Also, it struck me as significant because the professor was able to do what Toyota had been claiming was not even possible; cause acceleration that the onboard computer would not record. That alone seriously damages Toyota's position, since it invalidates their basic assumption - that if the system does not show the problem, it must be human error (hello HAL?).

Good point about t... (Below threshold)
Mac Lorry:
Good point about the Nissan vs Toyota system. Does the Nissan system keep the brakes and steering operational in the fail safe / Panic off mode?

What the Nissan system does is allow a panicked driver to shut the engine off. Not allowing them to do so is worse than losing the power assist to staring and brakes because you can still steer and break without dealing with a runaway engine.

The smart move is to shift into neutral and then apply brakes and get to the side of the road where you can safely turn the engine off. If it's working, the rev limiter will keep the engine from blowing up.

But that's not the... (Below threshold)
Mac Lorry:
But that's not the purpose of the hearings in Washington. The hearings are about shaming Toyota for the TV cameras. ODA315 above got a piece of it: if it was a domestic, unionized, Democrat campaign contributor, our Congress Critters would be wailing a different tune.

I agree, but it was engineering oversights that got Toyota into this mess and it's engineering and only engineering that will save Toyota in the long run. As a consumer, I want to make sure better engineering is the lesson that the industry learns rather than some political lesson.

JLawson,T... (Below threshold)
Mac Lorry:

JLawson,

There's no real purpose to NOT have it available, aside from accomodating the dead-footed folks who have lousy driving habits in the first place. That's the point behind driver training - to keep stupid stuff like that from becoming a settled habit.

You don't have to be dead footed or have lousy driving habits to have a throttle stick down, or on newer cars, having the computer command full power on its own. On many newer cars there's no mechanical connection between the accelerator pedal and the engine. On such vehicles the accelerator pedal is just a computer input control like the mouse is on your PC. Knowing that I like the idea of the brake pedal being used to force the engine into idle mode as a failsafe.

If you depend on the computer to do the thinking for you, when something hits you'd BETTER have some appropriate response programmed into the computer. Having the car do the thinking for you leads to you not thinking at all.

It's not like consumers have an option. Even base models have electronic engine management, ABS, air bags, active seat belts, and even stability control. Like it or not, computers are thinking for you and faster than any human. That's good in an emergency, but there needs to be failsafe systems so that drivers can override the computer when it fails.

Bobdog, your poin... (Below threshold)
Mac Lorry:
Bobdog, your point about professors is well taken, but this is a hard science issue, and the professor was able to create the problem on demand, which indicates he has a decent idea of how the effect can be caused. Also, it struck me as significant because the professor was able to do what Toyota had been claiming was not even possible; cause acceleration that the onboard computer would not record. That alone seriously damages Toyota's position, since it invalidates their basic assumption - that if the system does not show the problem, it must be human error (hello HAL?).

It will be interesting to see just what the professor is shorting out. If it's an input to the computer, then he has uncovered a flaw in the system. If he's just shorting out the output to the throttle actuator then the next question is, what happens if you do that to vehicles of other brands? If you get the same response, then what the professor is doing is likely irrelevant as it doesn't explain why Toyota and not other manufacturers are having this problem.

Looking at the video it wasn't that the brakes didn't work, they were just ineffective. The March issue of Car and Drive has the results of a test they did simulating braking with the throttle stuck on full. With an expert driver the brakes easily stopped the car from 70 MPH and even 100 MPH. The problem is that most people pump the brakes and lose power assist or initial only half heartily apply them which overheats them to the point that they lose most of their stopping power. If you are not going to shift into neutral then you need to stand on the brakes. It's ok to use both feet in an emergency.

I for one can't wait for th... (Below threshold)
Caesar Augustus:

I for one can't wait for the '11 Toyota Highlander to come to market. Should be some good deals on that one out there, especially if the UAW/Obama/Gov't Motors cabal drags this show trial out through Summer.

Didn't mean to pick a fight... (Below threshold)
bobdog:

Didn't mean to pick a fight with you, DJ. Your focus is on the engineering involved, and that's of course where the solution lies.

My focus is on the "male pole dancing" (BrianD's term) going on in Washington by our sanctimonious legislators.

-------------------

It's off point, but how did your surgery turn out? (I think it was you that said you were going in for back surgery.)

No problem, bobdog, it's a ... (Below threshold)
DJ Drummond:

No problem, bobdog, it's a good discussion.

It was Shawn who went in for back surgery, and I believe he's doing well for now. Oddly, my sister also had back surgery a couple years back, and she's had all kinds of grief from the consequences.

Me, I'm doing battle with cancer, we're sort of in a trench-war situ. My tumors're not getting any bigger, but they're not going away either.

Meh.

"Point is, JLawson... (Below threshold)
JLawson:
"Point is, JLawson, the prof was able to duplicate the effect of the behavior, even down to the system not recording the incident despite being designed to do just that."
Sure he did, DJ - with a breakout panel. Hardwire your contacts, and you can directly activate the cruise control solenoid, or if the throttle is computer controlled then bypass the computer and directly hit the throttle solenoid. But he says that he DID find a software glitch. How much exploration of the software did he have to do to find that particular function? Did he make any changes to the software to facilitate his adding the breakout leads?

(I had a Datsun station wagon, btw, with floor mats that'd jam the acellerator if I didn't keep pulling them down every so often, btw. Replaced it with a Fiat 128 SW, had the same problem. Replaced it with a Renault LeCar, had the same problem. Replaced it with a Toyota, had the same problem. Replaced it with a Saturn, had the same problem. Replaced it with a Honda - don't have the same problem because the floor mats are fixed in place. Obviously, my problem's with the way I get into the car moving the floor mats around...)

I'm not arguing that it CAN'T happen - what I'm arguing here is that random software failures (and with the number of cars that Toyota makes and imports, the number is very, VERY low comparatively) are not, and should not be, considered something to OMG PANIC HATE TOYOTAS! over, which is what the media, the NTSB and Congress seem to be wanting to have happen. Something to be aware of? Sure. Something to have recalls over? Yes. Something to panic about? No.

Intermittent software errors are some of the worst damn things to take care of. I don't envy Toyota - it's very hard to prove that an intermittent glitch isn't going to show up again.

Mac -

It will be interesting to see just what the professor is shorting out. If it's an input to the computer, then he has uncovered a flaw in the system. If he's just shorting out the output to the throttle actuator then the next question is, what happens if you do that to vehicles of other brands?
You have the same problem. Any uncommanded acellerations with Honda? Kia? Hyundai? Nissan? If there's even ONE, then they TOO can be the recipient of a Congressional endoscopic exam.

But I'll bet ya there'll be no problems at all w/GM cars. None whatsoever... that are 'noticed' by the media.

That's good in an emergency, but there needs to be failsafe systems so that drivers can override the computer when it fails.
That's actually one of my beefs with having computer-controlled everything in an auto. A failure in a mechanical system (IE throttle linkage or brakes) usually gives some indication that it's about to fail. (Brakes get mushy, throttle's binding and getting harder to work) You've got an analog system w/feedback -but with a computer, you've got a digital system w/no feedback, and you're fine until you're not.

And you just have to hope that the sudden failure isn't one you've got no way to override.

Good luck w/the cancer, DJ ... (Below threshold)
JLawson:

Good luck w/the cancer, DJ - they're doing interesting things these days with angiogenesis inhibitors and targeted antibodies... it's almost like it's a case of 'holding on a bit longer'...

Thanks, DJ, and best regard... (Below threshold)
bobdog:

Thanks, DJ, and best regards to both you and Shawn. My memory improved - after I posted, of course. Not my first "Aw, shit" moment of the week, either.

Mac Lorry, you sound like j... (Below threshold)
klrtz1:

Mac Lorry, you sound like just the expert I need to talk to. I bought a new Toyota Tacoma last year and the radio has too much bass. I have to turn the bass control all the way down and the treble all the way up to listen to Rush Limbaugh. Could that be caused by a speaker being wired in backwards? What do you think might be at fault?

Sorry about the topic change but my Toyota has a manual transmission so I should be able to stop even if the accelerator is stuck. Also if our beloved congress is attacking foreign car makers then at least they're not screwing up the Bowl Championship Series (BCS). Yet.

Oops, I forgot my snark! If... (Below threshold)
klrtz1:

Oops, I forgot my snark! If you count up all the people killed and injured due to poor automotive design, divide by the number of people killed and injured because of automotive operator error and multiply by 100 you get a number much closer to zero percent than it is to one percent.

And you thought evolution was done with you.

If someone will indulge me ... (Below threshold)
RicardoVerde:

If someone will indulge me a bit, but are we talking about throttles opening by themselves or throttles sticking in position? The reason I was asking is that my F150 has had a problem with unintended throttle-up (as have several others in the company) and it seems to have something to do with the fly-by-wire throttle connection and the 'learning' function for idle with cycling air conditioner.

I don't get too worked-up o... (Below threshold)
RicardoVerde:

I don't get too worked-up over the Toyota deal. Every car company we deal with tries hard to not admit to engineered problems to avoid recalls. Our GM pickups began losing fuel pumps at an alarming rate (roughly 15,000 miles or so) and we were given all kinds of excuses: bad gasoline, failure to change fuel filters, etc. As far as I know they never admitted they had bad fuel pumps nor did I hear of a recall. To be fair to their engineers, I think their pumps were adequate until they raised the delivery pressure to the injector(s) at the same time that sulfur content of the gasoline was dropped.

JL:"A failure in a mechanic... (Below threshold)
Les Nessman:

JL:"A failure in a mechanical system (IE throttle linkage or brakes) usually gives some indication that it's about to fail. (Brakes get mushy, throttle's binding and getting harder to work) You've got an analog system w/feedback -but with a computer, you've got a digital system w/no feedback, and you're fine until you're not. "

Amen. I know it's 2010 and the genie's out of the bottle and it's not going back...but I hate the idea of anything brake, throttle or steering-related being controlled by fly-by-wire or software.

And then you said this: "Replaced it with a Renault LeCar,.."

A LeCar? A LECAR?! .......speechless....:0

klrtz1,As any "exp... (Below threshold)
Mac Lorry:

klrtz1,

As any "expert" can tell you Toyota has some of the worst audio systems. In this day and age it makes no sense other than some tin-eared engineer is fondly trying to match the sound of his 1960's 8-track. The solution is to install an aftermarket audio system or develop a tin-ear that can appreciate that 8-track sound.

Les -A LeCar? Yes... (Below threshold)
JLawson:

Les -

A LeCar? Yes.

When the Fiat crapped out, I was looking for a car that was comfortable and had headroom. Nothing in my price range from Detroit fit that - and I thought the LeCar would be too small... until I tried it on, and the thing fit.

Small? Yes, but surprisingly roomy inside. Good ergonomics for the time, could hold an incredible amount of luggage, and was pretty reliable.

And the chicks dug it. ;)

Thanks for the advice, Mac ... (Below threshold)
klrtz1:

Thanks for the advice, Mac Lorry. As I get older my hearing gets worse and worse. So, problem solved!

So what can we learn from T... (Below threshold)

So what can we learn from Toyota? that is the real take way...




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