Print 54 comment(s) - last by lyeoh.. on Mar 31 at 12:50 PM

The tail of a comet is not suspected to be the cause of unintended acceleration

Toyota has been hit hard with widespread issues with its Prius and other cars that have suffered from glitches with brakes or unintended acceleration. Toyota was forced to recall a large number of its vehicles to install new parts to prevent wear of the throttle pedal that was the cause of some of the issues.

The last headline-making bout of unintended acceleration happened in early March when police in California had to help a motorist who was reportedly unable to stop his Prius from accelerating. reports that the U.S. Transportation Department has announced that it intends to launch a pair of major investigations that will seek to determine if vehicle electronics or electromagnetic interference are to blame for unintended vehicle acceleration incidents that have been rampant recently.

The investigations will be headed by the National Academy of Sciences and the other will be run by NASA. According to U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, the investigations will not focus on Toyota alone and will focus on all manufacturers. So far, Toyota is the most affected of the automakers and the recall to fix issues with floor mats and throttle pedals has covered 8.5 million of the automakers vehicles so far.

Since 2000, a total of 3,000 complaints including 51 deaths have been linked to Toyota vehicles that failed to stop accelerating. Toyota maintains that EMI and electronics are not the cause of the issue and that trapped or malfunctioning pedals are the cause.

"Many members of Congress think it's electronics and I heard enough of that -- not only from members but from Toyota drivers ... and so we felt we really needed to get outside experts," LaHood said. "We are tapping the best minds around." 

Toyota added, "We expect they will bring a thorough and scientific approach to their examination of the issues. Separating fact from fiction can only be good for the motoring public and the industry as a whole. We are confident in our vehicles and in our electronics. We will lend our full support and cooperation to DOT and NHTSA as they moved forward."

The investigations will reportedly last 15 months and will seek to find and address any safety issues with any vehicle on the road today in America. All possible causes for unintended vehicle acceleration will reportedly be investigated including electronics, human error, mechanical failure, and interference with accelerator systems.

According to LaHood, the department will spend $3 million on the two studies including the cost of buying cars that have allegedly suffered from unintended acceleration. The NHTSA has brought in engineers and other experts for the investigations on topics such as electromagnetic compatibility among others in an attempt to determine if flaws in vehicles on the road warrant a defect investigation. The review of the Toyota electronic throttle control system is expected to be completed by late summer reports the NHTSA.

Comments     Threshold

This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled

Big Brother Getting to the Bottom of it all!~
By Yeah on 3/30/2010 12:26:39 PM , Rating: 1
My heart goes out to the people that may have died as a result of vehicle malfunction. I find it a poor excuse to say that floor mats may be the cause of this issue.

I wonder though if this is just a quicker way for Big Brother to get their hands on the Toyota Code Key to access the black boxes in their offerings. I thought I had read somewhere that Toyota refused to give up the access codes required to de-crypt their black boxes to investigative authorities on this matter.

Chin tap.

RE: Big Brother Getting to the Bottom of it all!~
By rvd2008 on 3/30/2010 12:35:23 PM , Rating: 1
Toyota refused to give up the access codes

Obviously, they do not want as it may incriminate them further. I am sure, "a total of 3,000 complaints including 51 deaths have been linked to Toyota vehicles that failed to stop accelerating" is just a tip of the iceberg and these codes may uncover many more accidents.

RE: Big Brother Getting to the Bottom of it all!~
By Scabies on 3/30/2010 12:42:23 PM , Rating: 2
or give up trade secrets that give them an edge over competitors?

By rvd2008 on 3/30/2010 12:53:51 PM , Rating: 3
BS, what kind of competitive advantage can you get from crash data? You could buy a new Toyota, reverse engineer it and that can give you much more knowledge. Why would you go via complicated rout?

RE: Big Brother Getting to the Bottom of it all!~
By porkpie on 3/30/2010 12:48:54 PM , Rating: 3
"I am sure "a total of 3,000 complaints".. is just a tip of the iceberg"

Actually, I'm sure its just the reverse-- that the vast majority of those 'complaints' are operator error and me-too copycat attention-seekers drawn by a rapidly developing media circus.

RE: Big Brother Getting to the Bottom of it all!~
By rvd2008 on 3/30/2010 12:57:03 PM , Rating: 2
I disagree for a simple reason: complaints go back to year 2000, while media circus just started.

By porkpie on 3/30/2010 1:02:45 PM , Rating: 5
Err, complaints of sudden acceleration in cars actually date back to the 1950s. The NHTSA receives thousands annually, the vast majority of which are traced to simple "pedal confusion". Driver error.

As for complaints per vehicle sold, As of 2009, Toyota is only slightly ahead of Ford (1:65,000 vs. 1:50,000) and slightly behind Volkswagen.

This media scare has all the hallmarks of the similar Audi sudden-acceleration scare from the 1980s, which also turned out to be fake:

RE: Big Brother Getting to the Bottom of it all!~
By porkpie on 3/30/2010 1:10:23 PM , Rating: 5
That article from 1989 is so relevant to today, I'm going to post a piece of it here:
The [Audi] exhibited "sudden acceleration," a fatal propensity to take off at full speed even as the terrified driver rammed the brake pedal to the floor.

CBS's "60 Minutes" ran a devastating expose of the Audi 5000. Audi customers fled. Lawyers cashed in. The American public was saved, yet again, from the perils of technology gone awry. Only one little noticed footnote remains at the end: There was nothing wrong with the car.

...But a story to the effect that cars accelerate when drivers step on the accelerator doesn't boost television ratings or jury verdicts. And driver error is understandably hard to accept for a mother whose errant foot killed her six yearold son. So with the help of such mothers, CAS and CBS knitted together a tissue of conjecture, insinuation and calumny. The car's cruise control was at fault. Or maybe the electronic idle. Or perhaps the transmission.

"60 Minutes," in one of journalism's most shameful hours, gave air time in November 1986 to a selfstyled expert who drilled a hole in an Audi transmission and pumped in air at high pressure. Viewers didn't see the drill or the pump—just the doctored car blasting off like a rocket.

Junk science of this kind moves fast . Real science takes time to catch up with this kind of intellectual cockroach and squash it. Government agencies in Japan and Canada, as well as in the U.S., conducted painstaking studies. The Canadians who are franker about such things, called it "driver error." In America, where we can't attach blame to anyone whose name doesn't end with Inc., it was called "pedal misapplication." And unsurprisingly, it's not just Audi drivers who commit it...

By Reclaimer77 on 3/30/2010 1:22:33 PM , Rating: 2
Yup. Just like CBS (or one of them, what's the difference) putting dynamite in GM trucks to "simulate" what happened in a wreck. Only on TV do vehicles explode people...

RE: Big Brother Getting to the Bottom of it all!~
By rvd2008 on 3/30/10, Rating: 0
RE: Big Brother Getting to the Bottom of it all!~
By porkpie on 3/30/2010 1:39:38 PM , Rating: 4
Actually, you can make it up -- and the driver did in fact do so. Read some of the posts on the DT thread on that story...that was one of the most glaring cases of fraud I've seen in a while.

Besides all the other evidence against this person (who incidentally bears a lengthy history of scamming), the smell of burning brakes is some of the strongest evidence against him. It proves the brakes were working, and that he continually applied them moderately to overheat them, rather than braking hard and simply stopping. On a Prius, the brakes can generate more than 50 times the force the engine can-- if they're working, the car will stop fast.

I won't even go into the sheer idiocy of assuming a failure affecting the brakes, the throttle AND the engine off switch simultaneously -- all without leaving a shred of evidence. I'll just point out this driver refused to switch into neutral when instructed by 911, and within hours of the incident, hired an attorney well known for instituting large lawsuits against Toyota.

RE: Big Brother Getting to the Bottom of it all!~
By rvd2008 on 3/30/10, Rating: -1
RE: Big Brother Getting to the Bottom of it all!~
By porkpie on 3/30/2010 2:38:02 PM , Rating: 4
"His breaks were not just overheated - they were completely worn-out..."

My brakes were completely worn out the last time I took it in for service. Does that mean my car suddenly accelerated?

" Toyota itself confirmed it..."

Actually, Toyota confirmed the wear pattern on the brakes was inconsistent with his story. That he had been braking moderately, rather than attempting to stop the vehicle.

"Cop confirmed break lights and smell - do you suspect he is lying too? "

Which word did I use that you couldn't understand? The man USED his brakes. He rode them for miles to fake an incident. Of course the cop saw brake lights and smelt hot brakes. That's evidence against the man, not for him. Had the drive-by-wire brakes failed, he wouldn't have been able to apply them. And had they been working (which they obviously were) he would have been able to stop the vehicle.

"If you hit gas and break simultaneously in a modern car like Toyota Prius, breaks should take precedence and limit engine RPMs..."

Why? Brakes are FAR stronger in power than your engine -- even if you drive a 500hp monster. There are a billion cars on the road today that don't have this feature, and still are more than safe enough.

"There is excellent video on consumer reports explaining why breaking is not enough to overcome the engine..."

BS. In the previous story, I posted several links debunking just this bit of junk science. Furthermore, several noted car experts and sites (such as Edmunds) have already called foul on this guy's story.

"I do not want to speculate why this guy did not try neutral or engine off..."

The reasons are obvious. As are his reasons for immediately hiring an attorney to sue Toyota. And the reasons his ex partner and a few other people say he has a long history of such scam.

RE: Big Brother Getting to the Bottom of it all!~
By rvd2008 on 3/30/2010 3:11:55 PM , Rating: 2
ok, I will bite one more time. Watch this

It explains why you can not stop a car if throttle is wide open and you lost break power assistance. This is a fact.

RE: Big Brother Getting to the Bottom of it all!~
By porkpie on 3/30/2010 3:24:31 PM , Rating: 3
Response from a test by Car and Driver:
With the Camry’s throttle pinned while going 70 mph, the brakes easily overcame all 268 horsepower straining against them and stopped the car in 190 feet—that’s a foot shorter than the performance of a Ford Taurus without any gas-pedal problems and just 16 feet longer than with the Camry’s throttle closed.

Same test by
The third test simulated a racing engine causing the car to speed out of control and the driver reacting by just hitting the brake pedal as hard as possible. Even though in this case the brakes had to overcome the motive force of the engine, they did. The car came to a halt in 148.8 feet, a distance that perhaps a large, heavy-duty pickup might make under normal maximum braking. With practice (this is, after all, a non-standard test), Josh was able to whittle this distance down to 129 feet. In other words, even if the driver of a runaway car (well, a Camry, anyway) doesn't think to put the transmission into neutral before hitting the brakes, it is still possible to stop the car within a reasonable distance if sufficient pedal force is applied.

Same test by Motor Trend Magazine:
we devised a simple additional test: We accelerated each of the cars to just under 60 mph, floored the gas, and then within two seconds nailed the brakes while keeping the gas pedal floored. We then measured the distance it took to bring each of the cars to a complete halt from 60 mph, and compared that to our tested 60-0 mph braking distances. Same cars, same track surface, same driver.

By Chillin1248 on 3/30/2010 6:43:17 PM , Rating: 4
And to finish up his point, here are Toyota's findings regarding the runaway prius:

• The accelerator pedal was tested and found to be working normally with no mechanical binding or friction. It should be noted that the Prius is not subject to a recall for sticking accelerator pedals and the Prius component is made by a different supplier than the one recalled.

The front brakes showed severe wear and damage from overheating. The rear brakes and parking brake were in good condition and functional.

• A Toyota carpeted floor mat of the correct type for the vehicle was installed but not secured to the retention hooks. It was not found to be interfering or even touching the accelerator pedal.

The pushbutton power switch worked normally and shut the vehicle off when depressed for 3 seconds as the 911 operator advised Mr. Sikes to do.

The shift lever also worked normally and neutral could be selected. The neutral position is clearly marked and can be easily engaged by moving the lever left to the “N” marking.

• There were no diagnostic trouble codes found in the power management computer, nor was the dashboard malfunction indicator light activated. The hybrid self-diagnostic system did show evidence of numerous, rapidly repeated on-and- off applications of both the accelerator and the brake pedals.

• After examination of individual components, the front brakes were replaced and the vehicle was test driven, during which the vehicle was observed to be functioning normally.

During testing, the brakes were purposely abused by continuous light application in order to overheat them. The vehicle could be safely stopped by means of the brake pedal, even when overheated.

And finally:
The Prius braking system uses both conventional hydraulic friction brakes and a regenerative braking system which switches the electric drive motors into brakes to generate electricity.

The system features a sophisticated self- protection function which cuts engine power if moderate brake pedal pressure is applied and the accelerator pedal is depressed more than approximately 50 percent, in effect providing a form of “brake override.”

This function, which is intended to protect the system from overload and possible damage, was found to be functioning normally during the preliminary field examination.

Toyota engineers believe that it would be extremely difficult for the Prius to be driven at a continuous high speed with more than light brake-pedal pressure, and that the assertion that the vehicle could not be stopped with the brakes is fundamentally inconsistent with basic vehicle design and the investigation observations.


By lyeoh on 3/31/2010 12:50:35 PM , Rating: 2
If it's that Sikes guy you are talking about , unless there's lots of bad reporting, apparently he claimed to have reached down with his hand to pull up the accelerator...

He was repeatedly told to shift to neutral but refused because he claimed he thought it was unsafe, and yet he still dared reach down and try to pull up the accelerator while his car is speeding along?

Toyota cars _might_ have "unintended acceleration" problems, but that guy is unbelievable.

On the other hand the case of Juanita Grossman prevents me from confidently blaming the drivers and saying it's not Toyota's fault. Perhaps Grossman did screw up at first, but who knows, the evidence has gone cold or has been destroyed.

RE: Big Brother Getting to the Bottom of it all!~
By gsellis on 3/31/2010 8:43:13 AM , Rating: 2
It was not a Camry. It was a Prius. The Prius has regenerative braking, ABS, and master ECU all tied together. When it finally fleshes out, I will bet that the fault is in error handling from the ABS module.

As far as Camrys go, this proofs that if there is no lockout by any of the systems, the brakes will stop the car.

By porkpie on 3/31/2010 12:18:57 PM , Rating: 2
Hello, regenerative brakes use the electric motor to retard movement. This is supplanted by a regular hydraulic system which uses normal brake pads.

Since the brake pads in this Prius were hot and smoking (by the driver's own admission and a state trooper on the scene), the hydraulic system had to be working normally.

Even if this were NOT the case, this case would have required the failure of three independent systems simultaneously (abs, hydraulic brakes, and engine throttle) AND for all 3 systems to magically fix themselves a few minutes later, leaving not a trace for anyone to see.

RE: Big Brother Getting to the Bottom of it all!~
By bhieb on 3/30/2010 1:43:26 PM , Rating: 3
Let me put on my tin foil hat to disagree.

If one wanted to it could have been faked. All you'd have to do is drive with the accelerator down and the brake. Times are tough if you wanted to better your chances at a big legal payola, this would be the smart way to do it. Get the cops involved so it seems as legit as possible. Bottom line is that there is no proof he was not holding it down on purpose and faking panic on the 911 call to further legitimize his claim.

Now I'm not a conspiracy nut, and I think the truth is somewhere in the middle where it often is. I am sure some have been Toyota's fault and some driver error, but this is hardly a slam dunk win or definitive either way.

RE: Big Brother Getting to the Bottom of it all!~
By porkpie on 3/30/2010 1:47:38 PM , Rating: 2
How is one driver faking a problem a conspiracy?

There's no conspiracy here. Media smells a story that sells copy. ABC hiring an auto engineer to short circuit a Toyota ECM to "prove" there's a problem (yes, it happened) doesn't imply a conspiracy. They're just trying to boost viewership.

None of the thousands of people who registered complaints are conspiring either. Most are honestly convinced they hit the right pedal when they didn't. Without the media blitz, many of them would have realized they made a mistake, but if they're in a Toyota now, its gotta be Toyota's fault, right?

Some smaller percentage of those complaints are from actual scammers and attention seekers. But they're not "conspiring" either. Each is acting on their own, for their own particular benefit.

By bhieb on 3/30/2010 1:56:09 PM , Rating: 2
Posted as the same time as you. I was merely agreeing with you that if one wanted to fake the situation you could easily. Obviously you've followed it closer, and from the looks of it that is exactly what happened.

Like I said the truth is really in the middle. There may (and I stress may)have been some that did accelerate on their own, but as you've said (and I in another post) the braking power should overwhelm the engine. Very few cars (if any) can stay at speed with the brake and gas fully depressed.

RE: Big Brother Getting to the Bottom of it all!~
By sjlee33 on 3/30/2010 12:36:08 PM , Rating: 2
Well if you're looking for a conspiracy, I think you can find one anywhere. BTW what level of encryption goes into those black boxes? besides what info is stored in them that "Big Brother" would use against us? not trying to be snarky just curious.

RE: Big Brother Getting to the Bottom of it all!~
By abel2 on 3/30/2010 3:02:07 PM , Rating: 2
I may be completely wrong, but I was under the assumption that black boxes only contained data from crashes and/or sudden deceleration instances. If that is true then I don't see how these boxes would contain any relevant data except in cases where the vehicle was involved in an accident.

By Siki on 3/30/2010 6:46:10 PM , Rating: 1
Yeah, the car goes: "Holy shit! We're gonna crash!" then starts recording data.

"Nowadays you can buy a CPU cheaper than the CPU fan." -- Unnamed AMD executive

Most Popular Articles5 Cases for iPhone 7 and 7 iPhone Plus
September 18, 2016, 10:08 AM
Laptop or Tablet - Which Do You Prefer?
September 20, 2016, 6:32 AM
Update: Samsung Exchange Program Now in Progress
September 20, 2016, 5:30 AM
Smartphone Screen Protectors – What To Look For
September 21, 2016, 9:33 AM
Walmart may get "Robot Shopping Carts?"
September 17, 2016, 6:01 AM

Copyright 2016 DailyTech LLC. - RSS Feed | Advertise | About Us | Ethics | FAQ | Terms, Conditions & Privacy Information | Kristopher Kubicki