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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.

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Turn off the ignition?
By GullLars on 3/30/2010 1:48:23 PM , Rating: 2
One thing i don't quite understand is why the people driving toyotas didn't just turn off the ignition when the car started accelerating or the brakes didn't work.
If you turn off the ignition and then use the gears and the clutch to break, you can easily stop in a quarter mile even at 60mph. You could even just step on the clutch and let the engine rev untill you come to a halt. Worst case scenario you slam it in reverse and tear open your gear box and grind to a halt on stiff wheels.

Maybe it's got something to do with me being european allowing theese obvious sollutions come to mind, but HOW FREAKING HARD IS IT to turn the key in the ignition when the car won't stop???

And for those of you who go "yeah, but you wouldn't think of that while panicking", yes i would, and i have already done. Although it was on my motorbike, my accelerator got stuck at max when i drove past a car on a country road, and my immediate response was, turning the key to off, clutching, and breaking. I did it in less than 3 seconds after i realized the accelerator was stuck.

If those things hadn't worked (wich whould happen when???) i would have shifted down and rolled to a halt with the clutch in, or if the clutch didn't work, dry-shift down to first gear and then to free.

RE: Turn off the ignition?
By porkpie on 3/30/2010 1:52:46 PM , Rating: 2
"Maybe it's got something to do with me being european allowing theese obvious sollutions come to mind"

It's also interesting to note that the Toyota's being sold in Europe and Asia aren't experiencing this rash of SUA problems. Yet more proof we're seeing nothing but a media-generated case of mass delusion.

To recall a similar case from the 1950s:
The Seattle Windshield Pitting Epidemic is a phenomenon which affected Bellingham, Seattle, USA, and other Washington communities in April, 1954; it is considered an example of a mass delusion.

It was characterized by widespread observation of previously unnoticed windshield holes, pits and dings, leading residents to believe that a common causative agent was at work. It was originally thought to be the work of vandals but the rate of pitting was so great that residents began to attribute it to everything from sand flea eggs to nuclear bomb testing....

RE: Turn off the ignition?
By Hoser McMoose on 3/30/2010 9:06:03 PM , Rating: 2
It's also interesting to note that the Toyota's being sold in Europe and Asia aren't experiencing this rash of SUA problems.

The Toyota's sold in Europe (and elsewhere) would, in all probability, use very similar if not identical electronics. However the actual gas pedals themselves where limited ONLY to vehicles produced in North America and almost exclusively for sale here. Most Toyota's sold outside of North America were also built outside North America and had a different supplier (with a different design) for the gas pedal.

This does tend to support Toyota's claim that the problem really and truly WAS related to the gas pedal and floor mats.

RE: Turn off the ignition?
By Wulf145 on 3/31/2010 12:37:23 AM , Rating: 2
One thing which strikes me as odd, is that this independent acceleration phenomenon is virtualy unknown outside of N. America.
I doubt that the Cars driven in N. America are all so different to those in the rest of the world that this could only occur there. Maybe the poster who put it down to "can't blame the driver" is right.

RE: Turn off the ignition?
By gsellis on 3/31/2010 8:48:44 AM , Rating: 2
Could the difference be OBD-II?

RE: Turn off the ignition?
By rvd2008 on 3/30/2010 4:41:41 PM , Rating: 3
Since when euro-brain has become so limited?
1. There could be no clutch (surprise-surprise)
2. There could be no ignition key
3. Joe average is not a jet pilot and was not trained like one.
4. In stressful condition adrenaline is so high, that Joe may forget his own name (see #3)
5. Joe average has ZERO knowledge about how car operates.
6. Joe average drives a LOT.

Got that, Europe?

RE: Turn off the ignition?
By rvd2008 on 3/30/2010 4:55:57 PM , Rating: 2
Quick questions: can you tell me what happens with steering wheel if you turn off ignition? Will it lock steering? Are you 100% sure? Have you tried this before? What about Camry'10 vs Passat'01 vs Accord'08 ...? Does it matter if your car has anti-theft device or not? Do you know if your car has it?

Now imagine you are in a runaway car on a twisty highway approaching 170 km/h and repeating just one thing "I do not want to die!"

RE: Turn off the ignition?
By porkpie on 3/30/2010 7:02:02 PM , Rating: 2
"can you tell me what happens with steering wheel if you turn off ignition? Will it lock steering?"

No. And the 911 operator in question told the man it wouldn't either.

RE: Turn off the ignition?
By Hoser McMoose on 3/30/2010 9:13:30 PM , Rating: 2
Quick questions: can you tell me what happens with steering wheel if you turn off ignition? Will it lock steering?

Nope. Not in any of the Toyota's affected or in any vehicle I'm aware of.

What WILL happen is that you'll lose your power assist, which will make the vehicle rather difficult to turn once your speed is down below about 40km/h. However at higher speeds driving without power assist isn't that tough on pretty much any modern passenger car.

That being said, the BEST solution is to switch the car into neutral, turn on your 4-way flashers and slow pull off to the side and then turn off your engine.

Really it's NOT that complicated, this sort of thing is taught to every 16 year old taking Driver's Ed. Honestly anyone who can't remain sufficiently calm so as to handle this situation and/or who doesn't know how to switch their car into neutral *REALLY* shouldn't be on the road. If you can't take care of such a simple problem while driving then you'll be in terrible shape if a really tricky emergency avoidance situation comes up.

RE: Turn off the ignition?
By Pryde on 3/31/2010 2:58:43 AM , Rating: 2
Power Steering is driven off the crank.

If you put the vehicle in neutral the engine is still reving and and the vehicle would still have power steering.

If you shut the engine off and leave the vehicle IN GEAR your engine will still be rotating and only at low speed/revs you would lose power steering.

If you put your vehicle in neutral and then shut off the engine @ 170mph ... still able to steer but is very difficult ( often worse than non power assisted vehicle )

RE: Turn off the ignition?
By GTVic on 3/31/2010 4:53:01 AM , Rating: 2
On many newer vehicles the power steering is driven by an electric motor as opposed to being directly connected to the engine. Mazda cars use this system now. Either way the power steering still works.

RE: Turn off the ignition?
By MrFord on 3/30/2010 4:55:06 PM , Rating: 2
I agree with you on the basis, and I understand it sounds like the logical thing to do. I would do the same if something like that would happen to me. Well it did in fact, but it was more of a Idle Air Control problem that happened to hold the throttle just enough that I could maintain 65 mph heh.

Well 2 things: Lots of new cars comes with those fancy-yet-useless push-start ignition. And if we sill can't get people to remember you have to hold it down 5 seconds to turn off your computer when it crashed, my hopes are pretty low that they would understand the same applies to this.

Also, even with a regular ignition keys, 2 things can happen:
-If you're knowledgeable enough, you'll back the key to ACC or OFF then back to ON immediately. You will lose power steering and brakes, and if you're careful, you can easily bring the car to a halt. But don't pump the brakes and run out of vacuum... emergency brake do work, but it's nowhere as powerful.
-Most people would, in a panic or out of habit, turn the ignition OFF and leave it there. Then your steering wheel is locked, and at that point, power steering or not, you better be able to stop right away.

Neutral is the most obvious and safe solution, yet how many people knows what neutral is, and what it does? You have reports of people fearing to put the car in neutral "because it may flip"... Proof that for the vast majority of people, they know Park, Drive and how many cup holders they have...

RE: Turn off the ignition?
By Hoser McMoose on 3/30/2010 9:23:44 PM , Rating: 2
Then your steering wheel is locked, and at that point, power steering or not, you better be able to stop right away.

That only happens if you switch an automatic transmission into Park, not simply turning off the engine.

In fact in almost all current cars you CAN'T turn the ignition completely off unless you've shifted into Park and you can't do that while the engine is reving. So to run into the situation your suggesting you would have to turn the ignition 'Off' to turn off the engine but leave accessories on, then shift the car into Park while it was still moving (which will likely either fail or cause you to horribly mess up your transmission), then turn everything completely off to lock the steering.

Unfortunately you're last point is accurate, lots of people on the road just don't know what their doing! I can understand if, in a panic, they forget things for a few seconds, but really this is something that EVERY driver should be able to sort out within about 10 seconds. The people who spent several minutes talking to a police car or a 9-11 operate just were NOT competent drivers and probably should not be on the road.

RE: Turn off the ignition?
By Kurz on 3/31/2010 10:50:14 AM , Rating: 2
Exactly unless the Car is in park I can't pull out the key.
(I do this all time since I am in Neutral usually when I stop.)

I am going to teach my siblings these little safety features.

"The whole principle [of censorship] is wrong. It's like demanding that grown men live on skim milk because the baby can't have steak." -- Robert Heinlein

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