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. Detnews.com 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.
quote: 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...
quote: That article from 1989 is so relevant to today
quote: 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.
quote: 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.
quote: 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. Our key finding: EVEN WITH THE GAS PEDAL FLOORED, ALL CARS DID STOP .
quote: • 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.
quote: 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.