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Woz Cites "Scary" Prius Acceleration Software Problem

Soulskill posted more than 4 years ago | from the bad-news-for-half-of-california dept.

Bug 749

theodp writes "Speaking at Discovery Forum 2010, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak went off topic and spoke about a 'very scary' problem with his 2010 Toyota Prius. 'I don't get upset and teed off at things in life, except computers that don't work right,' said Woz, who went on to explain he'd been trying to get through to Toyota and the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration for three months, but could not get anyone to explore an alleged software-related acceleration problem. 'I have a new model that didn't get recalled,' Steve said. 'This new model has an accelerator that goes wild but only under certain conditions of cruise control. And I can repeat it over and over and over again — safely.' Toyota said it investigates all complaints. 'We're in the business of investigating complaints, assessing problems and finding remedies,' said Toyota's John Hanson. 'After man-years of exhaustive testing we have not found any evidence of an electronic [software] problem that would have led to unwanted acceleration.'" We recently discussed other problems Toyota has had with electronic acceleration systems.

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Typical Customer Service Department attitude (5, Insightful)

renger (1607815) | more than 4 years ago | (#30995622)

Seems true in nearly all industries: The people they hire to staff customer service are so unqualified that they cannot recognize when the caller actually IS qualified. They have no procedures in place to rapidly escalate calls from customers who actually know more than they do.

Businesses lose the opportunity to obtain knowledgeable input, because their call centers are staffed by low labor-cost morons. The need to identify technically savvy callers and hand-off those calls to comparably competent staff members.

Re:Typical Customer Service Department attitude (3, Insightful)

Publikwerks (885730) | more than 4 years ago | (#30995764)

Yes, but as someone who worked in customer service, the problem is that the ratio of users who know what their talking about vs those who THINK they know what their talking about is approx. 1,000,000 to 1.

Re:Typical Customer Service Department attitude (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30995904)

I think you mean 1 to 1000000.

Re:Typical Customer Service Department attitude (4, Funny)

Publikwerks (885730) | more than 4 years ago | (#30996222)

Yes I did. I have no doubt, however, that I will be continued to be corrected throughout this thread. It is my destiny, and I can accept that.

Re:Typical Customer Service Department attitude (5, Funny)

torstenvl (769732) | more than 4 years ago | (#30995906)

Yes but as someone who reads Slashdot regularly, the problem is that the ratio of users who know how to use ratios vs those who THINK they know how to use ratios is approx. 1,000,000 to 1.

Which wouldn't actually be a problem, except that you're the 1.

Re:Typical Customer Service Department attitude (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30995976)

So having a million knowledgeable users for every one user who just thinks he knows what he's talking about is a problem? I suspect you need some remediation on how to express ratios. Or maybe that really is just your customer-service attitude coming thru again.

Re:Typical Customer Service Department attitude (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30996010)

I too think you mean 1 to 1000000.

I will refrain to make jokes on your competence as related to job description. Mostly because I can't decide how to pitch it the funniest way.

Re:Typical Customer Service Department attitude (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 4 years ago | (#30996142)

True, but one in a million chances can happen [bairnet.org] . Probably not actually true, but it shows you never know until you collect some data.

Re:Typical Customer Service Department attitude (5, Interesting)

eln (21727) | more than 4 years ago | (#30995844)

The problem is the really competent people almost never actually call customer service, because they know better. 99.9% of the "experts" that call customer service are people who think they know a whole lot, and can talk a good game, but don't actually know what they're talking about. Also, first level techs are basically script-reading drones who get paid garbage wages for an essentially unskilled job. You can't expect people like that to accurately determine if someone is an expert or not.

The end result is you would end up with a lot of people who sound like they know what they're talking about being escalated and wasting the time of your skilled (and highly paid) engineers.

Re:Typical Customer Service Department attitude (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30996052)

The problem is the really competent people almost never actually call customer service, because they know better. 99.9% of the "experts" that call customer service are people who think they know a whole lot, and can talk a good game, but don't actually know what they're talking about. Also, first level techs are basically script-reading drones who get paid garbage wages for an essentially unskilled job. You can't expect people like that to accurately determine if someone is an expert or not.

The end result is you would end up with a lot of people who sound like they know what they're talking about being escalated and wasting the time of your skilled (and highly paid) engineers.


Nailed it on the head! It's like what happens when there's a problem with our machines here in the office. If something odd starts happening, it's easier for me to spend the 5-60 minutes to investigate the problem and find a solution myself than it is to call the help desk. I've had coworkers tell me that I'm "wasting time" by not calling the helpdesk. Yet while they're still sitting there waiting for the helpdesk to get back to them, I've sorted out the problem myself and am back to work again.

Re:Typical Customer Service Department attitude (3, Funny)

Glonoinha (587375) | more than 4 years ago | (#30996178)

Here's a clue this particular caller might have known what he was talking about : his said 'Hi, my name is Steve Jobs.'

Re:Typical Customer Service Department attitude (4, Funny)

Glonoinha (587375) | more than 4 years ago | (#30996206)

Whoops - just read TFA. He's the other Apple guy. But close enough.
I wonder if the help desk at Toyota is hiring, because I just passed their test.

Re:Typical Customer Service Department attitude (5, Insightful)

Maxo-Texas (864189) | more than 4 years ago | (#30995902)

This happened internally at my company.

We had a problem and, unexpectedly, I figured out what it was instead of the appropriate department. They not only ignored the solution but tried every other possible solution before implementing the solution. And they are still (2 years later) pissy about it. The tools I used to solve the problem were disabled.

I'm sure there is an entire department of Toyota people who would be very embarrassed that a person outside their department AND outside their company AND outside their business figured out the problem when they couldn't.

But the same thing was true in both cases. Simple logic and noticing details. Woz debugged the problem. I debugged the problem. Most people just don't like to think logically and finely.

I hope Toyota gets their head out of their posterior exit and listens to him. People have died over this issue (including a cop trained in emergency driving along with his wife and 2 kids).

Re:Typical Customer Service Department attitude (5, Interesting)

Xest (935314) | more than 4 years ago | (#30995922)

Most customer service centres seem to be manned by people that would fail the Turing test.

Last time I called Dell about a laptop that was completely dead, no power lights, no fans, they asked me what the error message on screen was and it took a few minutes to explain to them something as simple as the fact that I couldn't get an error message on screen because the laptop was dead.

It was probably one of the most epic examples of human idiocy I have ever encountered. The worst part is that I understand these people are given little flow charts, or on screen wizards, so he must've managed to click past the first box that checked whether the system even turned on or not and then been incapable of handling the idea that my response didn't fit his next question.

I don't even know why places like Dell even have customer services anymore really, they outsource because it's cheap, but the centres they outsource to are cheap because they're incompetent. They might as well drop the customer service lark altogether and save themselves even more, if I phoned Dell and got told by an automated message that customer service didn't exist anymore, it wouldn't have been any less helpful than the guy above that I did actually get through to.

Re:Typical Customer Service Department attitude (1)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 4 years ago | (#30995936)

This is true - but even the way its set up currently, those more competent staff members end up gaining this elitist attitude.

My room mate works in a Call center for Tech support for a national (possibly international?) ISP/TV/Phone provider*. He has only been there say 4 months and he's already among the best reps and people go to him for help. With some certification, he could land a teir 2 position. There was a case about a month ago where a customer called in, and said "Your server is down". My buddy went through the regular motions of asking him what was wrong specifically etc etc. The email client wasn't working but he could connect to the internet, it throws an error code when he tries to access his mail. The same error code was thrown when the email server was down last time. My room mate immediately went to a Teir 2 tech and was like "Check this server". And the T2 argued with him for about 20 minutes about how he needs to do the motions and check the router and everything. At the end of it all, the T2 asked "How did you know this was out? We haven't even had any other requests about it!"

And thats the kind of mentality that causes industries these problems. They wait for a certain amount of reports before actually investigating things. This company usually waits for 3 or 4 requests of internet connectivity problems before investigating for an outage in the area.

*I'm trying to be as ambiguous as possible, Never know who reads this stuff.

Re:Typical Customer Service Department attitude (1)

FlyingBishop (1293238) | more than 4 years ago | (#30996108)

Which is the best way to handle things. It sucks for the person who knows they're right, and is right, but 9/10 times, the person is wrong, and the problem is in fact localized.

You allow these things to escalate quickly, you end up with people getting paid $30/hour to tell people to plug in their machines.

Really, the issue is that phone is a terrible way communicate this sort of information. Chat, Email, and Wikis allow much more concise and effective means of debugging.

Re:Typical Customer Service Department attitude (1)

Average_Joe_Sixpack (534373) | more than 4 years ago | (#30995980)

It would be naive to think that Toyota doesn't know the true nature of the issue. Likely long before it started hitting the front pages.

How's that Hope & Change working out? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30996012)

"I can make a firm pledge, under my plan, no family making less than $250,000 a year will see any form of tax increase. Not your income tax, not your payroll tax, not your capital gains taxes, not any of your taxes."
--Barack Obama

http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20100201/bs_nm/us_budget_backdoortaxes [yahoo.com]

Re:How's that Hope & Change working out? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30996132)

Holy fucking shit. "Less than 250000$ a year"? That's probably 95% of Canadians right there, even if you use Canadian dollars.

Re:Typical Customer Service Department attitude (0, Flamebait)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 4 years ago | (#30996100)

low labor-cost morons.

Way to categorize thousands of people you've never met, you fucking psychopath.

 

PEBCSW (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30995640)

The problem exists between the chair and gas pedal.

Are we sure that Woz's legs aren't just so incredibly heavy that he has trouble keeping them from mashing the gas??

Like Microsoft (1)

courteaudotbiz (1191083) | more than 4 years ago | (#30995656)

Just like with Windows, you got a bug, report it to Microsoft, but until they get zillions of complaints, they won't put a dime in solving the bug.

Re:Like Microsoft (3, Informative)

truthsearch (249536) | more than 4 years ago | (#30995790)

"A new car built by my company leaves somewhere traveling at 60 mph. The rear differential locks up. The car crashes and burns with everyone trapped inside. Now, should we initiate a recall? Take the number of vehicles in the field, A, multiply by the probable rate of failure, B, multiply by the average out-of-court settlement, C. A times B times C equals X. If X is less than the cost of a recall, we don't do one."

Re:Like Microsoft (4, Interesting)

eln (21727) | more than 4 years ago | (#30995960)

That quote ignores the influence of the mass media. From all accounts, this problem with Toyota's accelerator is extremely rare. However, Toyota has been getting absolutely reamed in the press for weeks over it. There's no telling how many potential customers they've lost because of this, but the damage to their previously spotless reputation for quality could take decades to recover. When people talk about quality reliable automobiles, Toyota and Honda are almost always the first two names that come up. For a company like that to have an issue like this, and to have handled it like they did, is devastating.

Re:Like Microsoft (2, Insightful)

HateBreeder (656491) | more than 4 years ago | (#30996186)

The thing is, since it's most likely a software problem.. they need to change their model to accommodate for hot-fixes. You shouldn't need to recall the car just to upgrade the firmware.

Maybe this sort of publicity will push towards a more modern servicing model.

Re:Like Microsoft (1)

courteaudotbiz (1191083) | more than 4 years ago | (#30996154)

So this is not any better from company A to company B. In the end, the answer always come from the economic side, not the human side.

I know a problem with your accelerator or rear differential can have more tragic consequences than having a bug on your home computer. But ever thought about computers in hospitals running Windows? Or an ATM running Windows? Even Windows bugs can have some tragic consequences...

Re:Like Microsoft (1)

advocate_one (662832) | more than 4 years ago | (#30996230)

you forgot to factor in lost sales from bad press

OMG!!! (0, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30995666)

Someone hacked Toyota and inserted a bit of dodgy software in the engine management system.

It must have been China or T'rrists or Iran or whoever we want to blame this week.

just use a PID controller. (1)

happyjack27 (1219574) | more than 4 years ago | (#30995680)

just put a PID controller in there. that'll fix it.

Disconnect..... (3, Insightful)

Mark19960 (539856) | more than 4 years ago | (#30995702)

They exist between developers/engineers and end users.
You have call center workers that log this stuff in and then someone else that reads thru it and decides what gets passed on.
The only time it actually makes it up the chain is when it hits CNN because someone died, or in the case of someone famous that says something to the media.
Only now will they hear of it and investigate it.
The guy says he can reproduce it, and it's Woz.... if he say it's there I believe him.
It's too bad that most bugs go unfixed because of the barriers put in place.

I don't believe it (4, Funny)

kimvette (919543) | more than 4 years ago | (#30995706)

This new model has an accelerator that goes wild but only under certain conditions of cruise control. And I can repeat it over and over and over again — safely.'

Um, fact check. 134hp, that's engine + synergy drive. 0-60 is about eight weeks (well, 9.8 seconds but what's the difference?)). Under no circumstance whatsoever short of driving off a cliff will a stock Prius accelerate wildly. Sorry Woz! ;)

(Uh, I'm kidding. Obviously.)

Re:I don't believe it (1)

DinDaddy (1168147) | more than 4 years ago | (#30995814)

Accelerator goes wild does not equal wildy accelerating.

Safely. noted this one on /. before: (5, Informative)

leuk_he (194174) | more than 4 years ago | (#30995914)

woz said he could reproduce safely .. I bet it is the same isssue as : This poster op [slashdot.org]

"I can nudge my cruise control speed lever and my speed barely goes up, say from 80 to 81.I nudge at again and again, up to 83. Then I nudge it again and the car takes off, no speed limit. Nudging the cruise speed control lever down has no effect until I've done it about 10 times or more. By then my Prius is doing 97. It's scary because it's so wrong and so out of your normal control. I tested this over and over the night I observed it."

Re:Safely. noted this one on /. before: (5, Informative)

Spazztastic (814296) | more than 4 years ago | (#30996200)

Look at the poster's name, that IS woz.

Re:I don't believe it (-1, Flamebait)

lm317t (971782) | more than 4 years ago | (#30996226)

I have experienced 0-60 in half a sec in a Prius when I was rear ended by a Hummer when i pulled out in front of him. The airbag deployed and knocked off my beret, and my latte scalded my lips and soul patch, as I was about to take a sip. I am dead now but that is better for the planet because now my carbon foot print will be nil. Sadly though it destroyed my Obama/Biden '08 bumper sticker.

This always made me wonder (0)

MonsterTrimble (1205334) | more than 4 years ago | (#30995726)

Why certain critical vehicle systems would ever be allowed to be electronic without NASA level testing. Safety critical systems like steering, brakes and acceleration should never require electronics to controlled properly.

Re:This always made me wonder (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30995956)

I take the Segway approach. Sure, allow electronics, but have three independent electronic systems and require at least two to agree. Whenever one doesn't agree with the other two on a consistent basis, pop up a warning light.

Re:This always made me wonder (1)

QuoteMstr (55051) | more than 4 years ago | (#30996034)

That's stupid: it protects against transient faults and hardware problems, but not logic bugs. What if all three have the same bug?

Re:This always made me wonder (1)

FTWinston (1332785) | more than 4 years ago | (#30996006)

NASA-level? I'd go for civil aviation level, for a much better safety record. But frankly, no one is going to go to the effort of having multiple redundant computer systems to control an accelerator pedal unless regulated to do so.

Re:This always made me wonder (2, Insightful)

ekimminau (775300) | more than 4 years ago | (#30996046)

Not sure what century you ar ein but "drive by wire [howstuffworks.com] " is pretty much the current wave of technology. I would expect manual linkage to steering, brakes and all drive train components to be a thing of the past in the VERY near future. Some of the drive train designs being unveiled at the autoshow put an electric motor on every wheel and eliminate mechanical drivetrain altogether.

I'm pretty sure... (0)

GhigoRenzulli (1687590) | more than 4 years ago | (#30995728)

... he peed in the iPad when it happened for the first time.

Re:I'm pretty sure... (1)

omnichad (1198475) | more than 4 years ago | (#30995998)

Only NASA employees where those while driving.

But it's the Apple dude who says so! (-1, Troll)

captainpanic (1173915) | more than 4 years ago | (#30995738)

The car manufacturers checked and checked again. Found nothing.
But the Apple dude says there's something wrong!

I think I'll believe the computer guy, not the guys who actually designed, tested, certified and built the car.

But its the guy who can reproduce results! (2, Insightful)

Kludge (13653) | more than 4 years ago | (#30995860)

If Woz can reproduce the problem, then I'll believe him.

Re:But it's the Apple dude who says so! (1)

Maxo-Texas (864189) | more than 4 years ago | (#30995946)

I think i'll believe THE computer guy.

Re:But it's the Apple dude who says so! (1)

putaro (235078) | more than 4 years ago | (#30995950)

Well, if testing was perfect there would be no bugs out in the field. Hmmmm...

I learned a long time ago that when I say my product "shouldn't" do something that's not the same as it "doesn't" do something. When I have a user come to me and tell me that's it doing something I don't think it "should" be doing, I start by believing that they are seeing the issue they tell me they're seeing. Often it turns out that they are not seeing what they think they're seeing, but some times it turns out that what I think the product should do is not reality.

Here we have someone who claims to have a reproducible test case. That's gold when you're trying to track down a problem. It may turn out to be some manufacturing defect peculiar to his car, it could be that what he thinks is a bug is really a feature, but it's definitely worth looking into, especially when your company (Toyota) is losing millions of dollars ever day because of the possibility of this bug being real.

Re:But it's the Apple dude who says so! (5, Insightful)

kannibal_klown (531544) | more than 4 years ago | (#30995962)

To play devil's advocate...

Woz's problem might be specific to his own car.

I had an issue with my Cadillac's throttle assembly 3 months after buying the car (new). It was a bad sensor.

At the time I didn't know what it was (throttle, fuel line, transmission, etc). I searched through the big forum where EVERYONE reports their CTS problems and I only found 1 guy with a similar (yet different) issue. There was no tech bulletin about it, no forum posts, etc. There were other common issues out there which I managed to avoid, but this one was my particular piece that was the issue.

In short: until the car's engine temp reached equilibrium, pressing the accelerator more than 1/2 way caused the engine to buck wildly. It was like I was alternating between flooring the gas pedal and taking my foot off every second. This made merging and and stop signs quite unsafe, and I was able to replicate it 100% of the time so long as the car was cooled down first.

I had to take it to the shop 3 flippin' times before they addressed it. The first few times they said "no problem, drive it until it's worse." I had to sit in the car with a tester and finally told him "xxxx it, just floor it." He flipped out and what the car did and called a tech from corporate to look at it.

So, it's possible he has an issue that's related to the Recall but not part of the same batch of issues. It's a long shot, but still possible.

Re:But it's the Apple dude who says so! (5, Insightful)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 4 years ago | (#30996062)

As someone who has written a program I was sure was bug-free after repeated testing, only to have somebody who doesn't know jack about programming find a bug, I have to disagree; Woz is probably right.

Especially remembering about the Pinto gas tank; ten bucks to fix a deadly problem they kept secret. How do you know the manufacturer found nothing? I trust a corporation about as far as I can throw their headquarters building. I would not be surprised if it came out that there is a problem, the manufacturer knows about it, but it will cost ten bucks per car for a recall. They'll weigh cost of the possible lawsuits against the surety of the cost of the recall, and if the suits are cheaper, they're not going to care about people dying.

Corporations do NOT care about your safety unless it is monetarily profitable to them or a government forces them to.

Re:But it's the Apple dude who says so! (1)

JWW (79176) | more than 4 years ago | (#30996072)

Umm, the dude is question is a world class tinkerer and computer INVENTOR. Yeah, he might know how to diagnose electronic control logic problems.

No Sense... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30995740)

The whole Toyota recall thing doesn't make sense. Toyota describes sticking accelerators but, the reports from the consumers indicate unexpected self acceleration. Two very different problems with two very different causes.

Sadly, the ambulance chasing lawyers have now all gizzed with excitement over Toyota's mishandling of this and, with the law suits flying, we'll likely not get a truthful and accurate description of the problem and cause for a very long while.

Re:No Sense... (1)

MrShaggy (683273) | more than 4 years ago | (#30995840)

When I see a toyota, it makes me JIzz in my pants.

Woz, you're an idiot (-1, Troll)

spun (1352) | more than 4 years ago | (#30995780)

Any car will 'accelerate wildly' under cruise control, given the right conditions, i.e. you are going up a hill and it can't maintain speed in the current gear. Here's what you do: manually put the thing into a lower gear before it loses speed. Problem solved.

Re:Woz, you're an idiot (1)

goodmanj (234846) | more than 4 years ago | (#30995854)

"lower gear"? Clearly you've never driven a Prius. A Prius don't have gears.

Re:Woz, you're an idiot (0, Redundant)

Liquidrage (640463) | more than 4 years ago | (#30996024)

Wow. I never new that. So how does it move then? Happy thoughts?

Re:Woz, you're an idiot (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30996130)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transmission_(mechanics)

Re:Woz, you're an idiot (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30996156)

CVT [wikipedia.org]

Re:Woz, you're an idiot (4, Informative)

Tobor the Eighth Man (13061) | more than 4 years ago | (#30996216)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Continuously_variable_transmission

"A continuously variable transmission (CVT) is a transmission which can change steplessly through an infinite number of effective gear ratios between maximum and minimum values. This contrasts with other mechanical transmissions that only allow a few different distinct gear ratios to be selected. The flexibility of a CVT allows the driving shaft to maintain a constant angular velocity over a range of output velocities."

It then goes on to note that a Prius actually has something a bit different, since it derives power from both the motor and the engine, and not from a single source.

Also, about Woz's thing... I wonder if it doesn't have more to do with impatience than run-away acceleration. The Prius's cruise control accelerates gradually when you increase the threshhold, it doesn't lurch forward and immediately try to attain the new speed. But I believe if you keep pressing it, the threshhold eventually gets high enough above the current speed that it uses a lower gear ratio and will accelerate more quickly to what the CC is now set at.

I know my VW Golf will eventually downshift and leap forward if you increase the cruise control faster than the car can accelerate in whatever it's current gear is. Since you may, by then, have set the CC to like 20mph above where you're currently at, it may indeed seem like a runaway car.

Re:Woz, you're an idiot (2, Insightful)

Tobor the Eighth Man (13061) | more than 4 years ago | (#30996248)

Its, not it's. Curses!

Re:Woz, you're an idiot (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30996218)

Priuses electrical engines are directly connected to the four wheels. No gearbox needed. DUH.

Re:Woz, you're an idiot (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30996032)

No gears?! What does it have, then? A continuously variable gear ratio? Are you from the future?

Re:Woz, you're an idiot (1)

Darth Snowshoe (1434515) | more than 4 years ago | (#30995862)

I'm willing to give Woz the benefit of the doubt on this until his complaint is actually heard, tested and responded to by Toyota. He's generally a smart guy (if a little wacky sometimes.) And he's got a lot of time on his hands, and no obvious motive for smearing Toyota.

Re:Woz, you're an idiot (1, Interesting)

Rich0 (548339) | more than 4 years ago | (#30996148)

Toyota apparently indicated that they investigate all complaints, and that they haven't come up with any electronic acceleration problems.

Franky, this is just a case of "he said, she said" - it isn't news until Woz publishes a reproducible test case for his problems. Anything else is just a Toyota vs Woz popularity contest.

Re:Woz, you're an idiot (2, Insightful)

s122604 (1018036) | more than 4 years ago | (#30995900)

[quote]Any car will 'accelerate wildly' under cruise control, given the right conditions, i.e. you are going up a hill and it can't maintain speed in the current gear. [/quote] The condition you describe, in a car with an automatic transmission, will cause the auto to down-shift, not "accelerate wildly".... I am glad for this thread though, there was a discussion on fark about the vapid Toyota fanboy-appologist crowd, and how they just might be "the Apple of cars".. It looks think that circle is now closed..

Re:Woz, you're an idiot (1)

omnichad (1198475) | more than 4 years ago | (#30996028)

The hushed recalls were the last piece of that puzzle.

Re:Woz, you're an idiot (1)

parliboy (233658) | more than 4 years ago | (#30996112)

I don't know about this. My PT Cruiser, if it drops enough speed when going up a hill or overpass on cruise control, will rev up quite a bit to make up speed. I actually base my speed decisions on the inclines of the road.

Re:Woz, you're an idiot (1)

Roberticus (1237374) | more than 4 years ago | (#30995988)

How can one accelerate and not be able to maintain speed at the same time? I think you may be confused on the definition of "accelerate".

Wouldn't normally be this pedantic, but when you start a thread out by calling someone else an idiot...

Re:OP, you're an idiot (1)

ragefan (267937) | more than 4 years ago | (#30996030)

Here's what you do: manually put the thing into a lower gear before it loses speed. Problem solved.

Every car I've ever driven turns off cruise control when gears are changed.

Re:Woz, you're an idiot (1)

NixieBunny (859050) | more than 4 years ago | (#30996088)

A car with a cruise control will only accelerate (i.e., increase its speed, which is *not* the same as increasing engine RPMs) if it's currently moving slower than the setpoint. When it reaches the setpoint, it stops accelerating. That's the whole point of cruise control. If it accelerates from the setpoint, then it's broken by definition.

I would hope that a fellow with the technical competence of The Woz would know the difference between a properly behaving cruise control and one that's broken.

Re:Woz, you're an idiot (1)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 4 years ago | (#30996190)

With an automatic Transmission and Cruise Control - and today's computers - that should not be an issue.

This is a 2010 Toyota Prius - as in, made VERY recently. How is it their auto transmission and cruise control can't keep a steady speed despite hills? I'd want some money back.

iWoz cruising (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30995798)

Sorry, but that's his own fault, he was using the "iWoz cruising" system.

Jalopnik has been covering this... (5, Informative)

GPLDAN (732269) | more than 4 years ago | (#30995824)

I have no great love for Wert and the Jalopniks, finding them to consistently side with the GOP on social issues and sidestep into political discourse way too much for a blog on cars.

However, they have been frontrunning this story and trying to lead the charge to push it up to the MSM.

Woz is Woz, he needs no introduction on /. If he calls bullshit on software design, it will get attention. Worse off, as Jalopnik shows on the bit on the Today show appearance by the Toyota CEO - they seem willing and ready to lie through their teeth about what was known, when it was known, and what their responses to the NTSB have been. Matt Lauer is sitting there with a copy of the NTSB report on his lap, saying they knew humidity was causing pedals to stick in 2007, and there is the Toyota CEO lying his ass off, saying only in October of 2009 was it brought to their attention. Toyota is recalling a shitload of Camrys and Corollas, and now Woz drops this bomb about Prius software design on them. It's time for the Hedge fund managers to make more money and short the hell out of Toyota.

Note, in NTSB reports - many of these cars have had the brake pads TOTALLY burned through, indicating that once these cars took off on people, they COULD NOT stop. In the fatality cases, if the driver had forced the car into neutral (the linkage would have resisted, you would have needed to really muscle it) they could have saved themselves. Instead they rode the brake into an obstacle.

This is PR nightmare time for Toyota. It will make the Ford-Firestone debacle look like simple times.

Re:Jalopnik has been covering this... (2, Insightful)

zeet (70981) | more than 4 years ago | (#30995918)

Yes, their coverage so far has suggested there's more to this problem than just the stated accelerator problems. Remember that this is a Japanese company, so there may be an attempt to push the problem off onto outside suppliers to avoid loss of face. There are several reports of problems that had nothing to do with a mechanically sticking pedal, and beside that the ECU software should disable the throttle-by-wire after the brake has been held down for several seconds. Other car manufacturers do that; if you hold down the brake for two seconds the throttle control is cut. Why not Toyota?

Re:Jalopnik has been covering this... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30996120)

I don't honestly expect a CEO to know anything about anything. They should be the last people in front of the camera, because they've been the worst prepped and barely know what's actually going on in their own company.

(Maybe if they had been more aware of issues like this at lower levels, problems wouldn't have gotten this bad.)

The only people who should be talking are the engineers who discovered and are correcting the problem, or some sort of press secretary who knows what's going on well enough to brief the populace.

Re:Jalopnik has been covering this... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30996236)

Note, in NTSB reports - many of these cars have had the brake pads TOTALLY burned through, indicating that once these cars took off on people, they COULD NOT stop. In the fatality cases, if the driver had forced the car into neutral (the linkage would have resisted, you would have needed to really muscle it) they could have saved themselves. Instead they rode the brake into an obstacle.

I have not seen the reports but "burned the brake shoes"? Really? I have been in very few cars that the brakes were not a lot more powerful than the engine. The ones that weren't were rear drive 400+ HP cars with loads of torque and stock brakes. Far from what the typical Toyota has. I am not disputing the test results, I am more amazed that the brakes on these cars are that crappy.

There are video floating around on you tube with people holding the brakes on cars and flooring it, I beleive they were in response to either a volv0 or a jeep incident where the owner plowed into their garage when the "accelerator stuck". I beleive in that one, the person was pushing the wrong pedal. Granted different thing all together than this issue with Toyota but still shows how even with the car floored, the brakes had no problem stopping the car.

Post video (2, Insightful)

ewg (158266) | more than 4 years ago | (#30995846)

Posting video of the problem, demonstrating its repeatability, should get the attention of the vendor and of regulators.

Not just a car company (1)

zerosomething (1353609) | more than 4 years ago | (#30995856)

I guess they didn't realize they are not only a car company but also a computer manufacture and application developer? So apparently they never created a bug reporting process, like every other app developer and hardware vendor?

Re:Not just a car company (1)

jameskojiro (705701) | more than 4 years ago | (#30996018)

This problem didn't affect the testing they normally do with cars because the testing they normally do it usually constrained to smashing the car against a brick wall with dummies inside. And Dummies don't complain about unexpected acceleration.....

wild but only under certain conditions (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30995870)

Sounds like Woz's stint on "Dancing with the Stars."

Toyota Accelerator "Not an Electronics Problem" (1)

ekimminau (775300) | more than 4 years ago | (#30995892)

A Toyota PR executive has gone on record, on camera, saying this isn't an Electronics issue. Woz stating uncategorically that not only is it tied to Cruise COntrol (an electronic component) but that it is reproduceable at will on the newest version that isn't covered by the planned recalls, underscores that it most certainly IS an electrical issue. Personally, if I owned ANY model of the vehicles currently targeted for recall, I would drive to my nearest dealer, demand in writing that they tell me I will NEVER have the accelerator issue and offer them the chance to take my vehicle and let me drive a vehicle that they will tell me will never have the issue until mine has been repaired. I would record the conversation and tell them in no uncertain terms that should my life be endangered by their product, I will expect the resultant lawsuit to make me a majority owner in whatever remains of their company. An electronics related issue for Toyota is VERY bad since the majority of their vehicles share common electronics components, one of their trademarked solutions for efficient production and manufacturning cost savings. Now for the troll: For all you poor schmucks with your regal attitude for buying non-American vehicles because Toyota has "so much higher quality" I would like to thank you in advance for thinning your end of the gene pool. Especially all you Apple Fan Boyz who bought a Prius to be "just like Woz".

Obligatory Blame (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30995920)

North Korea and Iran.

This should keep Secretary of State Hillary Clinton busy for
the next couple of years before the Republicans are returned to control the world's richest oligarchy for the next
one hundred years.

Yours In Ashgabat,
K. Trout

A Public Service Announcement to AllToyota Drivers (0, Redundant)

Wrath0fb0b (302444) | more than 4 years ago | (#30995934)

First, of course get your car serviced if it's part of the official recall. That's a gimme.

More importantly, if your car starts accelerating uncontrollably as if the throttle is stuck all the way open, for the love of god grab the key and TURN OFF THE ENGINE. Yes, you will lose power steering and brakes -- this is still preferable to attempting to drive the car at 100MPH until it runs out of gas. This didn't seem too difficult to me, but apparently a State Trooper in CA decided to call 911 before taking this rather obvious step.

The 911 call came at 6:35 p.m. on Aug. 28 from a car that was speeding out of control on Highway 125 near San Diego. The caller, a male voice, was panic-stricken: "We're in a Lexus ... we're going north on 125 and our accelerator is stuck ... we're in trouble ... there's no brakes ... we're approaching the intersection ... hold on ... hold on and pray ... pray ..." The call ended with the sound of a crash.

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/01/business/01toyota.html?hp=&pagewanted=all [nytimes.com]

I know it's not kind to speak ill of the dead, and I understand that it wasn't their fault that their car was fatally defective (and Toyota is completely at fault) but it's hard for me to comprehend how someone could fail to deduce the rather straightforward solution to their problem -- car is going too fast => stop the engine. This has really been boggling my mind for the past week as these incidents pile up -- if someone can explain this to me, I'll be eternally grateful.

Re:A Public Service Announcement to AllToyota Driv (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30996000)

Darwinism...

Re:A Public Service Announcement to AllToyota Driv (2, Funny)

gregarican (694358) | more than 4 years ago | (#30996138)

Carwinism!

TERRIBLE ADVICE (5, Insightful)

dtolman (688781) | more than 4 years ago | (#30996076)

You do NOT turn off the car - this could lock your wheel, preventing you from steering altogether. Whats more, you'll lose power brakes - you know - the things that will stop your car quickly. Instead:

Put the car in NEUTRAL. The engine will disengage.
Hit the brake HARD. Do not pump.
Steer the car off the road, and once its stopped, you can PARK it and turn off the engine.

Correct Advice (2, Insightful)

ekimminau (775300) | more than 4 years ago | (#30996198)

You do NOT turn off the car - this could lock your wheel, preventing you from steering altogether. Whats more, you'll lose power brakes - you know - the things that will stop your car quickly. Instead:

Put the car in NEUTRAL. The engine will disengage. Hit the brake HARD. Do not pump. Steer the car off the road, and once its stopped, you can PARK it and turn off the engine.

This is absolutely the correct reaction. A slightly more aggressive tact might be to drop the vehicle in low, which might blow the engine but would also severely limit your speed.

Re:A Public Service Announcement to AllToyota Driv (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30996080)

More importantly, if your car starts accelerating uncontrollably as if the throttle is stuck all the way open, for the love of god grab the key and TURN OFF THE ENGINE.

Many of the cars affected have push-button ignitions, and thus have no keys to turn. You have to press and hold the button for three seconds.

Re:A Public Service Announcement to AllToyota Driv (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30996114)

The vehicle was push button and pushing the button while driving doesn't do anything. Computer users may be inclined to hold the power button down for a few seconds but a computer illiterate person may not think of that. In the case of the push button start Lexus you have to hold the button down for like 3-5 seconds to force a shutdown while driving.

Also, the automatic is a weird looking gated one similiar to this http://pictures.topspeed.com/IMG/crop/200605/2006-lexus-is350-27_460x0w.jpg

There are two nutrals, one is clearly labeled and one is not. The problem is that the clearly labeled one is locked out while driving and the other one isn't clearly labeled... Combine that with a driver unfamiliar with his vehicle (this was a rental) and you have a recipe for disaster in a panic situation.

This topic has been thoroughly covered on the Internet.

It passed QAT, so no bugs here... (1)

Dr_Art (937436) | more than 4 years ago | (#30995944)

So what Mr. Hanson is saying is that since the QAT team didn't catch it during test phase, the issue can't exist. Classic!

'After man-years of exhaustive testing...'

Honestly, officer, it wasn't me! (3, Interesting)

gwayne (306174) | more than 4 years ago | (#30995982)

I got a speeding ticket last year while driving my mother-in-law's new Toyota Sienna for the first time. I was following a vehicle through a work-zone with the cruise control set at 50-mph (so I thought). The vehicle in front of me changed lanes and the van accelerated rapidly to 65-mph...right past a cop. I tried to explain to him that the van did it, but he didn't care.

I know now that the digital cruise control, in combination with the collision-avoidance "radar" in the Toyotas will regulate the vehicle speed, but what happens when the vehicle in front of you moves or accelerates is sometimes erratic behavior. Could this be related to what's happening? Is it user error?

The iCar ..... (1)

jameskojiro (705701) | more than 4 years ago | (#30995984)

I can just see the iCar, which will only be able to accelerate only as much as Apple thinks you should accelerate and will only work with an iPod/iPhone and will only be able to use Apple approved fuel in it...

Re:The iCar ..... (0)

rennerik (1256370) | more than 4 years ago | (#30996244)

I can just see the iCar, which will only be able to accelerate only as much as Apple thinks you should accelerate and will only work with an iPod/iPhone and will only be able to use Apple approved fuel in it...

Hey, I'm always up for some Apple bashing but really? This article is about Toyota. How did Apple get into the pic-- wait. I get it... computer stories beget car analogies, thus car stories beget computer analogies. Nevermind, carry on!

mechanical accelerators over 80 years in vehicles (1)

peter303 (12292) | more than 4 years ago | (#30995994)

I think Woz is right. Engineers have built the mechanical accelerators for almost a century. Everyone here knows how bugs can creep into computerized systems.

Almost as frustrating as the article (3, Interesting)

SendBot (29932) | more than 4 years ago | (#30996020)

I can imagine that woz explained specifically what the problem is (and how to reproduce it), but the article doesn't mention any specifics. Now I have nothing empirical to form an opinion off of.

Thanks a lot modern news media!

Do not Fuck with the WOZ! (5, Funny)

Sfing_ter (99478) | more than 4 years ago | (#30996040)

Do NOT Fuck with the WOZ!
Just DON'T
It is not prudent.

Not just software (1)

wcbsd (1331357) | more than 4 years ago | (#30996060)

I think that Woz's point about software glitches is a good one, but it may be just a red herring in this case. Toyota's got quality problems up the wazoo, both software and hardware (defective wazoos to be recalled later this quarter). IMHO (and the NSHO of many pundits lately) is that a focus on speed and growth, rather than planning and quality, is at the root of the problem. Sounds very much like the state of many corporate IT shops.

Check these out:
http://townhall-talk.edmunds.com/direct/view/.f0eb3fd [edmunds.com]
http://www.edmunds.com/toyota/sienna/2004/discussion.html [edmunds.com]

C&D tested this (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30996092)

Car and Driver tested overcoming the engine with the brakes. They found that while Toyota could do better the braking distance from 100mph under full throttle was only 100ft more. http://www.caranddriver.com/features/09q4/how_to_deal_with_unintended_acceleration-tech_dept

Modern car techno weenies (1)

flyingfsck (986395) | more than 4 years ago | (#30996094)

If you drive a Sidekick around a sharp right hand turn, and try to accellerate to join the traffic, the gearbox will downshift TWO gears, accellerate wildly to 7500 revs, hit the limiter protection, almost shut down the engine and then accellerate again. The net result is that at the moment when you need to accellerate, the car goes into a screaming fit and almost comes to a stand still instead. There is no fix for that one, except try not to do it. Long ago, my Volkswagen accellerator pedal broke off - because the floor rusted out - and there was no factory fix for that either. I had to weld in some sheet metal myself. I also had a Ford, a Chevy, a BMW and a Mitsubishi that had the accellerator pedal get stuck in the floor mat on occasion. This is a very common problem and the fix is super easy - pull the damn floor mat away from the pedal - duh... It seems to me that people are spoilt techno weenies and don't want to maintain their cars properly and then bitch and complain because things eventually wears out and break.

Next week on Slashdot... (1)

russotto (537200) | more than 4 years ago | (#30996152)

...Woz not only reproduces the problem, he disassembles the firmware, finds the bug, and creates a patch. Which also makes the in-dash cell phone make calls for free, just for old time's sake.

If I were Toyota, I'd listen to Woz. Heck, I'd send out a rep to anyone who didn't sound insane and claimed he could reliably reproduce the problem. In Woz's case, I'd send out my head of engineering, though.

use the scientific method. (1)

Neil Watson (60859) | more than 4 years ago | (#30996180)

Publish a repeatable procedure and expected results. Ask for peer review.

toyota is going to fix software bug when fix pedal (1)

sammykrupa (828537) | more than 4 years ago | (#30996240)

i'm betting toyota is going to secretly fix the software the problems when the go in and put the shim into the pedal assembly, making the whole thing a bit of a decoy because they don't want people no not trust the computers in their cars.

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