Toyota vehicle-caused unintended acceleration really occurred?


#1

I doubt it.
Sad that drivers did not simply move the gearshift lever just one notch from DRIVE TO NEUTRAL.


#2

Yes, the driver mentioned in the article panicked and didn’t do what he/she should have, but that is a separate issue. Toyota is still liable for the mechanical issue.

Because I drive a stick shift, I know how to control unintended acceleration. It’s instinct. I just press the clutch like I like I do 40 or so times a day during my commute. However, shifting an automatic transmission from drive to neutral while you’re barreling down the highway doesn’t come as naturally to most folks unless they’ve practiced doing it.

Yes, it is sad that drivers panicked and didn’t shift to neutral, but IMHO, it’s not unexpected. What do you expect from people who regard their cars as nothing more than appliances?


#3

I still don’t buy that it was all driver error. The CHP officer that went over the cliff would have been trained in high speed driving and control and would not have paniced. I do I do believe that it was computer code, a malfunction in the computer or sensors, or some other interference in the electronic devices that left no trace afterwards. Some driver error yes, but there was a problem that has not been found.


#4

But if there is a problem, why are there no longer incidents?


#5

There are no longer incidents because Toyota issued a recall to install a shorter gas pedal. The old gas pedal may have had some defect that was resolved when the new shorter gas pedal was installed. We didn’t bother getting the recall work done on our Camry at work because we figured it was the floor mats and removed them from the car. Eventually, when the Camry was at the dealership for something else, they did the recall work done on the gas pedal.


#6

Many reasons. Change in supplier, methods, materials. Programing change, etc. etc. Maybe in the bowels of Toyota someone knew what it was and never owned up to it and maybe it just got fixed while they were diddling with it and no one actually knows. If I remember right, the condition was demonstrated in a university engineering lab.


#7

Plus ;
The fact of massive publicity putting the procedures right in the face of the general public to become aware of the things you can do to prevent and react to such an incident.
Just the revelation that one can just shift to neutral surprized millions of owners with a quick forehead slap.


#8

Fact is, the DOT’s study found none of those issues at fault. Two main causes: pushing the wrong pedal and jammed floor mats. More here:

Note that the fine they just agreed to had nothing to do with building faulty vehicles. It was a result of their failure to communicate properly with the government and public.


#9

@texases, that article is from June 2011. According to the article the OP posted a link to, which was published today, “At first, Toyota blamed it on the floor mat. But if it was removed there was still a possibility the gas pedal would get stuck.”

The $1.2 billion settlement tells me there was more to this issue than the DOT study revealed. The “four-year probe by the FBI and the Manhattan U.S. Attorney” was probably more revealing than the DOT’s study.


#10

I’m pretty convinced it was the floor-mats. My wife and I both own vehicles involved in the recall. Neither had a problem. The floor mats have hooks to keep them in place. Unfortunately the hooks make getting the mats in and out a pain. But they do work in keeping the mats in place. We use them. And I know a few people who think they are such a pain they don’t/won’t use the hooks…so the mats just creep forward and can interfere with the gas pedal. Also some people put the rubber winter mats OVER the summer carpeted mats…which again can cause the mat to interfere with the gas pedal.


#11

@Whitey - per the latest article:

“The Justice Department announced a $1.2 billion settlement Wednesday with Toyota under which the company admitted to misleading customers and U.S. regulators about safety issues related to unintended acceleration problems.”

Nothing there, or anywhere else I’ve seen, about any technical issues. Toyota just didn’t follow the rules as specified by the Feds.

The DOT study is the only government-sponsored technical evaluation of the problem that I know of. Do you know of another one?


#12

I was convinced it was probably the floor mats too, until this article said Toyota is paying a 1.2 billion dollar settlement after they found that the gas pedal could still get stuck even with no floor mats present.

I used to think what you think, @MikeInNH, but new evidence doesn’t seem to support that belief.

@texases, I know of at least two others, one conducted by the FBI and one conducted by the Manhattan U.S. Attorney, but I mentioned those investigations already, and I don’t think they’ve been made public yet.


#13

Any link to info on an FBI technical investigation? First I’ve heard of it. The government only said this, nothing technical cited:

“Today we can say for certain that Toyota intentionally concealed information and misled the public about the safety issues behind these recalls,” Attorney General Eric Holder said in announcing the settlement. “Put simply, Toyota’s conduct was shameful,” he said.


#14

I’m getting tired of repeating myself. I don’t think those investigations have been made public yet, especially if the settlement is being announced today. Unlike the DOT, the FBI isn’t in the habit of making its investigations public until a couple of decades have passed.


#15

IMO, this is an extremely complicated issue because there were several different root causes:

In some cases, people just plain stepped on the wrong pedal
In some cases, the accelerator got stuck on the floor mats
In some cases, the accelerator pedal mechanism itself got stuck or returned abnormally
And in very rare cases, the car would accelerate on its own.

Although this last root cause was never reproduced under controlled conditions, I believe it did happen in rare cases. Here’s one person’s comment from the NY Times article on the Toyota case:

“My new 2004 Prius accelerated - no floor mat in the way - no sticky accelerator pedal - it increased speed on its own. I went directly to my Toyota dealer’s service center. They said they could find nothing wrong. It never happened again in the two years I owned the car. But it did happen and I won’t be satisfied until I hear Toyota admit that there was a problem in the electronic control system.”

I believe him and some others who say this has happened. Furthermore, at least one software expert who analyzed Toyota’s throttle control software said that its design left it vulnerable to certain glitches, like a “single event upset” from a cosmic particle (don’t laugh, this happens frequently to computers on spacecraft).

Here’s an excerpt from the Wikipedia article:

" Michael Barr of the Barr Group testified that NASA had not been able to complete its examination of Toyota’s ETCS and that Toyota did not follow best practices for real time life critical software, and that a single bit flip which can be caused by cosmic rays could cause unintended acceleration. As well, the run-time stack of the real-time operating system was not large enough and that it was possible for the stack to grow large enough to overwrite data that could cause unintended acceleration.[31][32] As a result Toyota has entered into settlement talks with its plaintiffs.[33]"

The “single event upset” bit flipping caused by cosmic rays is the reason that spacecraft computers are designed with redundancy so that an accidental bit flip cannot disrupt it. Cosmic rays get filtered out by the atmosphere, so single event upsets rarely occur at ground level. Rarely, but not “never.”


#16

I’m not being clear: I know of no technical investigation by the FBI. How do you know one is ongoing, or has been done? I would thing the DOT would be the one to do such an investigation, not the FBI. They did it, with the results as described above.

I doubt there is any FBI technical investigation.


#17

Don’t forget that this same issue has happened on other cars. You can’t just chalk all of them up to driver error or floor mats. Chrysler had a problem with one of their cars. The talk show host Bruce Williams in fact owned one, sued Chrysler to get an answer, lost, so had the new car crushed so no one else would be able to drive it. Remember I believe it was the Audis way back?
I myself was standing by my Olds in the shop with the mechanic there while the thing automatically on its own accelerated. We just looked at each other bewildered. Can’t chalk it all up to driver error or floor mats. Some people have also experienced interference with the computers driving by airport control towers. I just think there is lots of unknowns here.


#18

@texases, I know there are investigations, one of which was conducted by the FBI, because I read it in Robert’s article. (Please see the link in Robert Gift’s original post in this thread.)

Have you read the short article this thread was intended to discuss? It might give us a common frame of reference.


#19

@Whitey, I think @texases is saying that the 4-year FBI probe mentioned in the article was not a “technical” investigation. The FBI wasn’t doing technical tests on accelerators and software. They were investigating Toyota’s internal communications and actions to determine whether Toyota complied with US law relating to safety defect notification.


#20

Yes, I read it. And @jesmed is right, that’s what I’m saying. Here’s what the NY TImes had to say:

"For the Justice Department, the case hinged on whether Toyota was truthful in conversations with federal regulators and in public statements to investors. At the time, Toyota defended its statements as honest.

An investigation by the F.B.I. in New York revealed otherwise.

The investigation, two people briefed on the matter said, unearthed evidence that Toyota publicly played down the extent of the problem even as internal records showed that the automaker knew the problem was deepening. The automaker, the people said, also misled its regulators, which is a federal crime."

It was not a technical investigation, it was an investigation about how Toyota communicated with the public and the government. VERY different than a technical investigation, as I have (repeatedly) said.