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$1M Prize For Finding Cause of Unintended Acceleration

kdawson posted more than 4 years ago | from the not-just-toyota dept.

The Almighty Buck 690

phantomfive writes "Edmunds Auto has announced that it will be offering a $1 million prize to anyone who can find the cause of unintended acceleration. As Wikipedia notes, this is a problem that has plagued not only Toyota, but also Audi and other manufacturers. Consumer Reports has some suggestions all automakers can implement to solve this problem, including requiring brakes to be strong enough to stop the car even when the accelerator is floored."

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690 comments

Me thinks (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31341558)

.. the problem is between the pedals and the seat, morons.

Re:Me thinks (1)

kamikazearun (1282408) | more than 4 years ago | (#31341592)

If this is indeed the case, putting bigger brakes on the cars will just increase the cost of ownership for those of us who _can_ drive.

Re:Me thinks (2, Insightful)

dltaylor (7510) | more than 4 years ago | (#31341812)

But those of us who CAN drive usually have the sense to want more brakes than the "barely able to stop once, much less handle a downhill mountain road" rubber bands that seem to be the common equipment on mainstream cars.

BTW, can someone actually name a car sold in the last 5 years that cannot stop, even against full engine power?

Re:Me thinks (1)

kamikazearun (1282408) | more than 4 years ago | (#31341860)

Some of the Merc AMGs perhaps. They have insanely powerful engines on an otherwise useless car. I wouldn't be surprised if the brakes are crap.

Pioneer Anomaly (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31341588)

While you're at it, maybe you can explain the acceleration in the Pioneer anomaly. It could be the same cause, even!

Forget money (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31341590)

Make the reward information on something related to Portal or Half-Life. Seriously, the guys on Valve's forums will quickly solve any puzzle thrown at them if there's the slightest prospect it'll lead to information on a new game.

I've found a beautiful explanation for this (4, Funny)

Ztream (584474) | more than 4 years ago | (#31341594)

... but unfortunately I'm speeding to my death as I type.

Re:I've found a beautiful explanation for this (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31341806)

... but unfortunately I'm speeding to my death as I type.

Quick! Tell me and I'll split the million with you!

Simple solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31341604)

I guess these people haven't heard of neutral?

Right answer (1)

XanC (644172) | more than 4 years ago | (#31341630)

That, or turning the car off. Heck, there's always "the other way of stopping": throw it in reverse!

Re:Right answer (3, Informative)

jibjibjib (889679) | more than 4 years ago | (#31341672)

An explanation I've heard is that some cars won't let you turn off the engine or shift into neutral at high speed.

Re:Right answer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31341704)

Turning off the engine I can understand - you lose your power steering and brakes, but neutral is an important safety feature. Are there really cars out there you can't put into neutral???

Re:Right answer (1)

_merlin (160982) | more than 4 years ago | (#31341826)

You can't shift a Toyota Auris (Corolla hatch in Australia) with manual transmission into neutral while there is high torque on the gearbox (rapid acceleration or engine braking) without first stepping on the clutch. Stepping on the clutch does, of course, cut said torque immediately. Just to make it clear, the interlock only prevents you from shifting out of gear without using the clutch - use the clutch and you'll be fine.

I can, however, attest that there is some degree of quirkiness in the cruise control:

  • Set cruise control at 100km/h in sixth gear and cruise for a while
  • Without manually cancelling cruise control, drop a gear or two and accelerate rapidly to about 120km/h - use of the clutch will implicitly cancel cruise control
  • Shift back up to sixth, drop to about 98km/h and tap cruise stalk up to reset last set point
  • The car should accelerate back to 100km/h, but it doesn't - it accelerates to 120km/h

The quirkiness doesn't happen every time you do this, but it happens enough that I know to watch for it. You can easily stop the acceleration, though - just tap the cruise control stalk down, or perform any action that cancels cruise control (tapping brake or clutch, pulling cruise stalk towards steering wheel, pressing cruise on/off button).

Re:Right answer (3, Informative)

jimboindeutchland (1125659) | more than 4 years ago | (#31342016)

If you have a car that has an automatic transmission, putting it into neutral while driving is a bad idea and it wouldn't surprise me if ALL automatics stopped the driver from doing so. The reason is that auto gearboxes have an oil pump that's driven by the engine. When you stop driving the gear box from the engine and start driving it from the wheels, the gear box quickly heats up and I suppose could even seize with potentially nasty consequences.

Try Googling "why can't i tow an automatic car" or something like that

Re:Right answer (1)

Bartab (233395) | more than 4 years ago | (#31341784)

This is false.

Some -drivers- are uneducated and instinctively feel that they would be unable to shift into neutral so they interpret the higher threshold of force required to shift gears as indication that it is not possible.

For example, the car that CHP Officer Mark Saylor was killed, a Lexus, in is absolutely positively known to be able to shift to neutral at high speed. So why didn't a supposedly trained police officer, who should be trained in all sorts of driving techniques, plow into the back of another vehicle at high speed?

Re:Right answer (1)

c-reus (852386) | more than 4 years ago | (#31341992)

1. Push the clutch pedal
2. Shift into neutral
3. Press brake pedal
4. Car stops

The process is independent from the gas pedal.
A car that has manual transmission but will not allow you to complete the described process would not be allowed on the streets, IMO.

Mechanics (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31341612)

It's fascinating to see how complex classical mechanics are. There are misunderstood mechanical behaviors in 2010! . Hope someone solves the mystery behind Toyota cars. some frequency resonance state?

"The" cause (1, Insightful)

ThrowAwaySociety (1351793) | more than 4 years ago | (#31341616)

Okay, I'll save them a million right here. "The" cause is that humans make mistakes. Cars are designed, assembled, and operated by humans.

Re:"The" cause (4, Insightful)

digitalchinky (650880) | more than 4 years ago | (#31341726)

Not only that but some vehicle designers are, quite literally, stupid. Really, why on earth would you directly link a braking systems boost mechanics to the f'ing accelerator. The more you accelerate, the less braking potential you have if you start stomping down to get the vehicle stopped in a hurry.

If I can stop my ZX-10 (motorbike) under (metric shit tons of) power with my pinky finger, how hard is it to sort this crap out in a car? A million dollars? This is not a contest, it's peoples lives. Just build the brakes completely independent from all other systems and the job is done.

Turn the key off or put the car in neutral........ (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31341622)

Turn the key off or put the car in neutral...........I guess common sense ain't so common.

Re:Turn the key off or put the car in neutral..... (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31341680)

The cars in question are all electronic no key just an electronic fob. No "off switch" just a start button. Even the gears are controlled by electrical signal.

Re:Turn the key off or put the car in neutral..... (1)

confused one (671304) | more than 4 years ago | (#31342028)

And you should still be able to force it into neutral. If you hold down the "Start" button, it kills the engine.

Re:Turn the key off or put the car in neutral..... (1)

jibjibjib (889679) | more than 4 years ago | (#31341714)

Yeah, if common sense were a bit more common you'd realise that people actually do try that and it doesn't work on the models in question.

Re:Turn the key off or put the car in neutral..... (1)

Bartab (233395) | more than 4 years ago | (#31341912)

That's asinine.

Being able to shift to neutral is a required safety feature. Because all drive-by-wire vehicles are recent in design, you will not find a single one that doesn't allow shifting to neutral at any speed and is legal to sell in the US.

Furthermore, you realize you just made the claim that people tried to "turn the key off" and were unsuccessful? What kind of world do you live on? Anybody who tried to turn the key off would have found themselves moving at highway speeds with dramatically decreased steering.

Re:Turn the key off or put the car in neutral..... (1)

Kuroji (990107) | more than 4 years ago | (#31341972)

I'd rather be dealing with a hard-to-turn car at a constant-but-reducing rate of speed than a car I can steer just fine as it accelerates uncontrollably.

Because then I CAN STEP ON THE BRAKES AND THEY'LL HAVE EFFECTIVENESS.

Re:Turn the key off or put the car in neutral..... (2, Insightful)

iangoldby (552781) | more than 4 years ago | (#31341978)

Anybody who tried to turn the key off would have found themselves moving at highway speeds with dramatically decreased steering.

Have you ever tried it? In any sane car (and I except 2 tonne SUV monstrosities) you don't need power steering to steer effectively except at very low speed.

Brakes might be more of an issue, but even after turning off the engine, there is usually enough stored potential energy in the servo reservoir for a minute or two of braking.

two voters (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31341624)

maybe because voting algorithms that only have two voters are total fail?

Re:two voters (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 4 years ago | (#31341654)

maybe because voting algorithms that only have two voters are total fail?

Just like democracies that have only two parties
   

Re:two voters (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31341926)

What does that have to do with the price of rice?

Re:two voters (1)

confused one (671304) | more than 4 years ago | (#31342056)

maybe because voting algorithms that only have two voters are total fail?

No, it's not. In an electronic voting system with two voters, if they do not agree, you throw an error then safe the system and shut down. Two voters is enough to know you have a failure; but, not enough to continue operating.

It's easy to stop a car. (1)

jack2000 (1178961) | more than 4 years ago | (#31341628)

Here it is: Jam the front and rear axles! and if that doesn't work, eject the axles so the car slides with all it's underframe on the road for a while...

Re:It's easy to stop a car. (1)

c-reus (852386) | more than 4 years ago | (#31342030)

Would you like to drive next to (or behind) a car that is able to eject it's axles at, say, 60 MPH? Sounds like a suicide to me

Hmmm.... (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31341660)

How about some sort of a mechanical linkage between the throttle body and the pedal....oh wait...where have I seen this before?

How the idea of "drive by wire" became popular is beyond me. There are some things that need to remain simple, and in human control. Steering, braking, throttle, and gear selection should never be done fully by electronics and remain in the drivers hands...along with the ability to kill power to the engine for that matter.

The Chinese (1)

Lije Baley (88936) | more than 4 years ago | (#31341662)

May I be the first to point (and shake) the finger at the Chinese boogeyman.

Re:The Chinese (1)

Malc (1751) | more than 4 years ago | (#31341894)

Why?

If the parts are made in China and not meeting standards, then that's a failure by Toyota and Audi to inspect and qualify the parts properly. It's their choice to move manufacturing or purchasing to other locations, and with that choice comes different requirements for quality control. They know that.

You can NOT "just put it in neutral"... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31341666)

For the millionth time, these new cars have electronic transmission controls.

The "shift lever" just tells the computer what to do.

It is not mechanically linked to the transmission anymore.

And when the computer screws up, it says "Hey I've got the throttle on full speed right now, no way am I shifting to neutral!"

And the car speeds up like crazy!

Re:You can NOT "just put it in neutral"... (1)

Entropius (188861) | more than 4 years ago | (#31341796)

This is why I am not driving a car that will kill me if it bluescreens.

Clutch pedal and gearshift, mechanically linked to the transmission. No goofy electronic key fob -- I want a mechanical action that will open the circuit to the spark plugs (or fuel injectors, or something suitably effective).

Re:You can NOT "just put it in neutral"... (4, Informative)

Bartab (233395) | more than 4 years ago | (#31341942)

For the millionth time, you CAN put these cars into neutral at speed. I've personally done so. Your explanation of how transmissions work is not correct.

Re:You can NOT "just put it in neutral"... (1)

Mascot (120795) | more than 4 years ago | (#31341964)

What you _can_ do, at least in the case of these Toyotas, is hit the brake. The sticky gas pedal on the Toyotas is a mechanical issue, not an electronic one, and pushing the brake real hard causes the electronics to cut the gas.

In other words, electronics saving you from mechanical failure.

Assuming the information sent from Toyota isn't a blatant lie, obviously.

Your Pedal Broke Long Ago - FIX IT (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31341674)

Look at the Earth within Google Earth, see how they're sealing
it all up? Now they're hiking water prices which is leading people
to seal up their land with rocks and concrete. It's all a LIE.
The economy is fake, money is fake, most of our lives are ruled
by all of these fake human (or inhuman?) layers of complicated
filth! Prices for everything are going up, people are losing their
jobs, up go the rates for everything and the fat cats on top
roll in cash while we're sold out for the banks and what
do the people do? Well we're busy talking about the late night
wars and other fabrications to keep us distracted and divided.
Gloom and doom on the TV, drones starting into the controlled
box of social slavery. Read the book Bowling Alone (see Amazon)
to see how we're being divided more and more and isolated despite
our so-called technological wonders like Twitter and Facebook.
A society who doesn't know their neighbor unless something like
Katrina happens, then some people start to "awaken" to things.
You won't find your awakening in Hollywood, it's all carefully
prepared to condition you to violence and blackening the precious
human image of God. Praise be YHWH, praise be Jesus, praise be
The Holy Spirit! Switch off those televisions and get to know
and love your human neighbors, now.

Those in power who STEAL from us will answer to a higher power.

YOU do not OWN your homes! Fail to pay taxes and you're OUT!
This is the freedom? More and more THEY are dictating what
you can plant, what flags you can fly, where you can smoke,
the race to control your every move and thought is building
as they amass more and more data on you and your neighbors,
they know you and your connections better than you probably
do!

Take a look at these presentations and their clever mapping
and collection of your cell data:

Workshop on Social Computing, Behavioral Modeling, and Prediction, 2008
The workshop is/was sponsored by Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL).
http://www.public.asu.edu/~huanliu/sbp08/program.html [asu.edu]

Second Workshop on Social Computing, Behavioral Modeling, and Prediction, 2009
http://www.public.asu.edu/~huanliu/sbp09/program.html [asu.edu]

We're being robbed from the inside, like the bees and the mites,
where are you going to go? Their eyes and
ears are in almost every home, we are divided and isn't that
how a nation falls? Are you sure the back of your neck
doesn't read: FCC Approved underneath a black light?

Peace IS the answer, by knowing and loving one another,
but you've been fooled to believe that's the stuff
of fairy tales.

And so you sleep to the tune of masturbating bears
and other noise.

Re:Your Pedal Broke Long Ago - FIX IT (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31341896)

I live in West Hollywood. I *am* a masturbating bear, you insensitive clod!

Outside the USofA??? (0, Flamebait)

dltaylor (7510) | more than 4 years ago | (#31341688)

Unless this problem is occurring in all areas where Toyota sells cars with electronic throttles, it is likely to be that Americans do not have to know how to drive in order to get a license.

If it is also occurring in those areas, why hasn't it been publicized in the USofA? (Oh, yeah: "no parrots were killed in the plane crash").

Re:Outside the USofA??? (1)

Fraggy_the_undead (758495) | more than 4 years ago | (#31342004)

uh, I don't know about other countries, but in Germany Toyota has a recall going for the same reason.
I think the difference is merely that our media, while insane as well, doesn't freak out quite like the media in the US. "Oh god, we're all going to die because of a problem that occurred 35 times in a vehicle pool of several millions. Oh, and buy American"

Re:Outside the USofA??? (1)

Fraggy_the_undead (758495) | more than 4 years ago | (#31342040)

sorry for double posting, but something just occurred to me: the ratio automatic to manual transmissions is probably just about inverse over here compared to the US. So if it's true that putting it in neutral won't work on the automatic gearboxes, putting it in neutral on a manual definitely works. With that in mind the problem is not quite as critical over here.

Payback is a toyota (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31341692)

regards from Hiroshima and Nagasaki...

please send my

Solution (2, Insightful)

Manip (656104) | more than 4 years ago | (#31341696)

We already have a solution - Cut the power when the break is pushed.

What I struggle to understand is why this isn't a legal requirement on all new drive-by-wire cars?

Re:Solution (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31341746)

We already have a solution - Cut the power when the break is pushed

How do you left-foot brake if pressing the brake cuts the power?

The far bigger problem is the dramatic rise in non-standard controls over the last few years to the point where people can't even figure out how to stop the engine when they get into a new rental car. Going from an era where in 99% of cases you just turn the key to where you may have to tap three times on the starter while singing Ave Maria is a huge step backwards.

Re:Solution (5, Insightful)

TheThiefMaster (992038) | more than 4 years ago | (#31341846)

We already have a solution - Cut the power when the break is pushed

How do you left-foot brake if pressing the brake cuts the power?

You don't. It's not something you should be doing anyway.

Re:Solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31341902)

There are times, such as parking on a hill, where it's necessary.

Re:Solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31341986)

You mean also if the handbrake is somehow out of commission, or you're missing an arm?

Re:Solution (2, Insightful)

M-RES (653754) | more than 4 years ago | (#31342036)

Why shouldn't you be doing it? That's not what I was taught when racing cars in my younger years...

One of the problems these days is people aren't taught how to drive properly - they have to hold the steering wheel in the wrong place (ten-to-two when it should be quarter-to-three), they're told to only ever hit the brakes to slow down when they should be changing down a gear and using engine braking to keep the car under control and pre-load suspension and brakes more safely, they're taught never to cross their hands on the steering wheel when it's imperative that you DO cross hands when it's called for. Basically, most people these days are taught to drive like a complete spack so that they never have enough skill to drive fast (and, I'd imagine, so that never have a chance to get away from police who HAVE been taught correctly).

And where is the source? (3, Insightful)

Mathinker (909784) | more than 4 years ago | (#31341842)

> What I struggle to understand is why this isn't a legal requirement on all new drive-by-wire cars?

You would think that there would also be a requirement that the source code be released for review to anyone who cares.

Clearly these cars are possessed. (2, Funny)

countertrolling (1585477) | more than 4 years ago | (#31341716)

The last words coming out of the stereo were "Good night, asshole."

Re:Clearly these cars are possessed. (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31341774)

Daisy, daisy...

Idiocy. (0)

Bartab (233395) | more than 4 years ago | (#31341722)

The proper response to "car accelerating on its own" is Neutral gear. Whats the problem? Nobody needs especially strong breaks.

Oh noez! The engine will revv up! Oh me oh my! The noise is skeery!

Re:Idiocy. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31341760)

the gear shift doesnt mechanically change the gears, it just sends a signal to the computer, and the computer shifts gears

the very same computer that is causing the car to accelerate uncontrollably

Re:Idiocy. (2, Insightful)

Sepodati (746220) | more than 4 years ago | (#31341764)

As someone else said, shifting just sends a signal to the transmission. You're not directly controlling any gears. The transmission won't go into neutral or reverse at a high speed probably because of safety protocols in the software. The people that testified said they tried exactly this and it didn't stop the acceleration.

So you could argue that the software should allow this and let the engine rev and let whatever happen.

-John

Re:Idiocy. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31341852)

Some vehicles actually do hard shift to neutral, even if they electronically lock out reverse. Shifting to neutral while accelerating causes the transmission to disengage from the engine and the engine rpms to increase. If the engine rpms hit redline, the ECU will cut fuel to reduce the rpms below redline.

Software (or firmware) should *never* lock out neutral, ever. Neutral should always be no transmission engagement with the engine, period.

Re:Idiocy. (3, Informative)

Bartab (233395) | more than 4 years ago | (#31341862)

Being able to shift to neutral is a required safety feature. I can't imagine where "he couldn't do it!!!1111oneoneone" got started.

The Lexus ES-350, the vehicle CHP Officer Mark Saylor died in, does not have electronic shifters. Even if it did, electronic shifters allow gear shifting under speed. In fact, they do so without the natural increase in force necessary for non-electronic shifters to shift gears while under speed.

This is something you can actually test, it won't hurt the vehicle if you don't let it revv for very long. Accerlate on the freeway, shift to neutral without ceasing acceleration. Most vehicles will require more than normal force to change gears but will do so without complaint or problem. The exceptions are the vehicles that will act entirely as they do all the time, because they're by-wire themselves. Do, however, stop accelerating before shifting back.

Re:Idiocy. (1)

confused one (671304) | more than 4 years ago | (#31341884)

All modern ecm's have a rev limiter built into the software so that an engine can not destroy itself. It will rev to redline then cut the fuel and spark.

Re:Idiocy. (1)

interkin3tic (1469267) | more than 4 years ago | (#31341970)

As someone else said, shifting just sends a signal to the transmission. You're not directly controlling any gears.

Obviously not true of manual transmissions though, or has Toyota been putting out those fake manual transmissions some car manufacturers are convinced we want?

Re:Idiocy. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31341776)

pushbutton shifter. many of these cars won't go into neutral while moving. etc.

you're the skeery one.

Give us the source (3, Informative)

invalid-access (1478529) | more than 4 years ago | (#31341766)

Never mind the million dollars, give us the source to all the drive-by-wire modules so we can find the race condition (literally!) for you.

Brakes! (2, Insightful)

Ihlosi (895663) | more than 4 years ago | (#31341770)

"... including requiring brakes to be strong enough to stop the car even when the accelerator is floored."

Yikes. Isn't that always the case, or are they really selling cars in the US with brakes that aren't able to do this? Just for the record, lack of this ability would basically mean that the car can accelerate faster than it can decelerate, and most cars accelerate pretty darn slow.

If your brakes can't do this, get them the fsck fixed. They're broken.

Re:Brakes! (1)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 4 years ago | (#31341834)

err no. they are talking about brakes strong enough to hold the car in place if you have your feet planted on both the accelerator AND the brake at the same time. not just stopping the cars interia.

Cause of Unintended Acceleration (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31341780)

Profit

although Ford is equally as valid an answer.

All cars already have this system (2, Insightful)

trenton (53581) | more than 4 years ago | (#31341790)

It's called neutral, and it's a feature of your transmission. It disconnects the engine from the wheels. Transmissions, both manual and automatic, are designed to easily select neutral, for emergencies like this.

Re:All cars already have this system (3, Informative)

twisteddk (201366) | more than 4 years ago | (#31341936)

Having BEEN in the situation myself, I can tell you that switching to neutral was the LAST thing I thought of. When you're sitting minding your own business at a red light and suddenly your car flares to life doing 60 mph in a couple of seconds, You're really much more focused on trying to stop the car, not the transfer of power from the engine through the transmission.

On a sidenote: Cutting power to the engine is ALSO a bad idea, at least if you happen to have power steering. Or so I discovered.

1 Million Sounds pretty cheap (1)

PetoskeyGuy (648788) | more than 4 years ago | (#31341798)

Considering the cost of the recalls have had a couple of extra digits this sounds like a pretty cheap bounty.

AWESOME CONTEST!!! (4, Insightful)

Datamonstar (845886) | more than 4 years ago | (#31341820)

I'd love to take a shot at the prize money. Now, will Toyota kindly release the source code to their electronic throttle systems?

What was that? No?

Didn't think so.

Misleading summary (3, Interesting)

Trecares (416205) | more than 4 years ago | (#31341822)

Almost all cars generate braking forces far in excess of whatever the engine is capable of putting out. Adequate brake torque isn't the problem here. If the brakes have to resist the the torque input, then their effectiveness will obviously be diminished.

The proposal of having engine power being cut off when the brakes are applied seems to be sensible, however there are certain situations where you will need both the engine power and brakes on at the same time. Such as starting from a stop on a hill. So the solution isn't that simple. The easiest thing would be to either install an switch that trips past an certain amount of brake travel, or to sense the line pressure. They can use that data and determine how hard the operator is trying to brake, along with the vehicle's current state, is it stationary, or moving, and if so, how fast? They can use that to generate parameters to decide when and if to cut out engine power. At high brake pressures, and moving at high speeds, one would not be expect to continue to accelerate. At low to moderate pressures and being stationary or barely moving, engine power should not be cut off.

Another thing they could do is install a sensor and determine if a foot is present on the accelerator or not, specifically in non-cruise conditions.

Some people apparently had trouble shifting into neutral, but that should not happen at all. I don't know if it's an issue with the transmission trying to block that action, or if it was not able to mechanically disengage due to the engine accelerating. In either case, they should change the shifter from an mechanically controlled operation to an electronic one. Being controlled electronically also makes it easier to move the shifter. If the car is shifted into neutral, that's a fairly clear indicator that the ECM should override the pedal and drop to idle, and shift into neutral.

I think it would help if there was a verbal and textual feedback system to aid the driver along with a command system.

Re:Misleading summary (1)

Malc (1751) | more than 4 years ago | (#31341922)

Also, if they increase the power of the brakes, then won't that have a knock-on affect on the tyres? Won't they have to increase their quality or find people are locking them up more frequently?

Re:Misleading summary (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31341960)

At high brake pressures, and moving at high speeds, one would not be expect to continue to accelerate. At low to moderate pressures and being stationary or barely moving, engine power should not be cut off.

That would be great fun to debug, brake and accelerator both down at high speed, cuts off the engine, right up until you've almost stopped, then it revvs up again!

What's with these drive by wire cars? (1)

Entropius (188861) | more than 4 years ago | (#31341824)

What's the appeal of these drive-by-wire cars?

Automatic transmissions I can understand. I don't have one, but I can understand why some people do. But why are people making cars with as little mechanical linkage between the controls and the car as possible? It seems like it's often more expensive and dangerous. What do you get out of it?

Re:What's with these drive by wire cars? (0)

JimboFBX (1097277) | more than 4 years ago | (#31341950)

There isn't any. The acceleration mechanism is awkward, taking away some of the control from the user. Want to coast? Too bad, car downshifts, forcing you to give it gas. Want to give it a little gas and maintain 30 mph? Too bad, this is literally impossible on some cars without using cruise control. A slight tap accelerates to about 35 mph, a release downshifts to 15 mph.

Re:What's with these drive by wire cars? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31341962)

It's cheaper to manufacture and it's probably cheaper to design. It cuts down on moving parts so it cuts down on wear. It allows differentiation of features.

The most important - It epitomizes the holy grail of manufacturing - every piece (of software, heheheh) is identical.

Re:What's with these drive by wire cars? (1)

Calinous (985536) | more than 4 years ago | (#31341994)

Feather-light accelerator pedal (I personally hate it, but it might be something that someone wants).
  There might be other reasons, but I'm not very sure about them. Better in an accident maybe?

Re:What's with these drive by wire cars? (2, Insightful)

confused one (671304) | more than 4 years ago | (#31342000)

If done correctly it is not more dangerous. mechanical cables and linkages fail too. What you get out of it is greater flexibility in the design and added control that lets the designer improve efficiency. for example it is generally better to ramp the throttle open rather than snap the butterfly open -- snapping it open causes a sudden loss of vacuum in the manifold which kills airflow for a fraction of a second. You'll get better fuel economy and the engine performance will be improved. Coming in the not too distant future is electronic steering. Removing the mechanical connection to the steering wheel will make it possible to repackage the system without having to worry about shaft angles; and, will improve safety in accidents because there won't be a steering column to get in the way and crush legs.

Drive by wire aka fly by wire is technology that's been used in aircraft for two decades now and is only just finding its way into cars.

Show us the source code (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31341858)

of the controllers.

I KNOW I KNOW GIMME GIMME (1)

JimboFBX (1097277) | more than 4 years ago | (#31341914)

I have a camry. Sometimes when I tap the accelerator after coasting or while stopped it unexpectedly accelerates harder than I expected despite pressing the pedal just a little bit, forcing me to take my foot off the pedal to avoid rear-ending the car in front of me. Thus, unintended acceleration. The cause is the neural network that "learns my driving style", which is what the car salesman told me was a feature of the car. Anyone who's worked with neural networks knows that sometimes, they aren't always right...

I mean really, how do I verify this though...? When someone complains "the car accelerated unintentionally" how do we know they didn't just have my experience, which is really minor.

Well, I have the solution... (3, Insightful)

T-Bucket (823202) | more than 4 years ago | (#31341918)

Don't know the cause, but to fix it, push down on that third pedal. It disconnects the engine from the wheels.

You don't have one? Oh... Hmm... Evolution at work. Better luck next time!

You are mapped like bits of cereal in a bowl (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31341920)

Sociometric Badges - MIT Media Laboratory - .pdf files
A sociometric badge (commonly known as "sociometer") is a device whose main purpose is to automatically capture individual and collective patterns of behavior. We have built several hundred sociometric badges and used them in real organizations to automatically measure individual and collective patterns of behavior, predict human behavior from unconscious social signals, identify social affinity among individuals working in the same team, and enhance social interactions by providing feedback to the users of our system.
http://hd.media.mit.edu/badges/ [mit.edu]

Group Media @ MIT
http://groupmedia.media.mit.edu/ [mit.edu]

Reality Mining (@ MIT) defines the collection of machine-sensed environmental data pertaining to human social behavior. This new paradigm of data mining makes possible the modeling of conversation context, proximity sensing, and temporospatial location throughout large communities of individuals. Mobile phones (and similarly innocuous devices) are used for data collection, opening social network analysis to new methods of empirical stochastic modeling.
  The original Reality Mining experiment is one of the largest mobile phone projects attempted in academia. Our research agenda takes advantage of the increasingly widespread use of mobile phones to provide insight into the dynamics of both individual and group behavior. By leveraging recent advances in machine learning we are building generative models that can be used to predict what a single user will do next, as well as model behavior of large organizations.
  We have captured communication, proximity, location, and activity information from 100 subjects at MIT over the course of the 2004-2005 academic year. This data represents over 350,000 hours (~40 years) of continuous data on human behavior. Such rich data on complex social systems have implications for a variety of fields.
http://reality.media.mit.edu/ [mit.edu]

Fifth force causing unintended acceleration (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31341948)

I'm just wildly speculating here, but I think it's the same fifth force that's causing Pioneer to slow down and Voyager to speed up.

unsigned integer overflow? (1)

cfriedt (1189527) | more than 4 years ago | (#31341996)

( 0 - 1 ) mod 8 = 255 mod 8 ? Could also be some lazy ass not properly checking the sign of a return value (-1 often usually means error), and then passing it to another function as an unsigned value. Funny that people often think that dsp / computer engineers have less pressure to be legally responsible for the breakages caused by their broken code. If a wall fell over and killed someone because the engineer messed up the decimal point, then there would definitely be some legal action.

Kill Switch? (4, Insightful)

Leo Sasquatch (977162) | more than 4 years ago | (#31342026)

Every motorcycle I've seen made in the last 30 years has had a kill switch on the handlebars. It just shuts down the bike's entire electrical system and stops the engine. It's intended as a safety feature if you're in a situation where you don't want to have to take your hands off the controls to reach the key. Also, as I understand it, if the bike's crashed, but the throttle's wedged on, all you have to do is hit the Big Red Switch, rather than trying to reach the key while the bike's hopping around because the rear wheel's making intermittent contact with the tarmac.

Seriously - an Off switch within emergency reach of the driver - how complex a concept is that?

OTOH, what are these cars doing with such massive embedded systems in them? I've seen numbers in the tens of millions of lines of computer code being bandied around as indicators of their size and complexity - WTF does a *car* need all that computing power for? I've driven dozens of cars without a single microchip in them - they started, they stopped, they did everything you'd reasonably expect a piece of personal transport to do. What does adding all that complexity get you, apart from a car only officially licenced and approved dealers can work on because nobody else has the diagnostic software...? Oh wait...

Never mind.

Brakes strong enough (1)

gnasher719 (869701) | more than 4 years ago | (#31342044)

Two or three years ago, when the first two cases were reported (strange enough two cases with the same car type in two weeks, and then nothing for years), a representative of Daimler Benz claimed that on _all_ cars the brakes are about FOUR times stronger than the engine. Including a 400 horse power Mercedes. The only problem is that you have to stop to a stand still _immediately_ because over time the brakes heat up and become useless. So stopping if your car starts accelerating from 70 miles is no problem. But if you try to keep it at 70 mph even though the engine tries to accelerate, you destroy the brakes in a short time.

Ignition break switch (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 4 years ago | (#31342046)

Years ago when I was a young geek my dad was out in his boat and got chucked out when he hit a wave. The boat circled him for a while until he got a hand on the fuel hose and tugged it loose.

So the boat went back to the home workshop and acquired a reed switch and a magnet on a short length of rope. The idea is that the ignition won't work unless the magnet is attached to the body of the outboard motor. The magnet is attached to you.

So I think every power vehicle should have a convenient way fo switching it off. You should have to actively do something to keep it running and if you jump out or have a seizure it should just stop.

Most cars will creep forward on the torque converter when in gear with no throttle input. I think that is wrong too. The default should be for gentle braking.

Maybe the handbrake in every car should have installed below it a low tech kill switch which the driver and all passengers can reach.

Easy, cut injection on brake switch (1)

dutchwhizzman (817898) | more than 4 years ago | (#31342062)

Just make the ECU cut injection on hitting the brake switch with the car still running. It takes some programming not to make the car stall so you can't just use a mechanical switch, but it's trivial.
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