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Toyota Accelerator Data Skewed Toward Elderly

kdawson posted more than 4 years ago | from the make-of-it-what-you-will dept.

Transportation 776

An anonymous reader passes along this discussion on the data for the Toyota accelerator problem, from a few weeks back. (Here's a Google spreadsheet of the data.) "Several things are striking. First, the age distribution really is extremely skewed. The overwhelming majority are over 55. Here's what else you notice: a slight majority of the incidents involved someone either parking, pulling out of a parking space, in stop and go traffic, at a light or stop sign... in other words, probably starting up from a complete stop."

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And 1/2... (5, Funny)

gjyoung (320540) | more than 4 years ago | (#31728626)

Were little old ladies form Pasadena...

Re:And 1/2... (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31728912)

And, strangely, 99.9% of these incidents seem to happen in the US while drivers in other countries brake successfully and notify their car dealerships: http://www.spiegel.de/international/business/0,1518,682417,00.html [spiegel.de]

Re:And 1/2... (-1, Troll)

perryizgr8 (1370173) | more than 4 years ago | (#31729148)

maybe that's because only americans are foolish/arrogant enough to believe that by driving a hybrid they are doing a great service to humanity. Whereas the rest of the world has been using high fuel efficiency/smaller cars for decades.

Re:And 1/2... (3, Insightful)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 4 years ago | (#31729262)

maybe that's because only americans are foolish/arrogant enough to believe that by driving a hybrid they are doing a great service to humanity. Whereas the rest of the world has been using high fuel efficiency/smaller cars for decades.

It's simply a matter of economics, my friend. Gasoline (petrol) is currently running about $3 (2.25 Euro) per gallon here in the States vs. the average price of gasoline in Europe, which has been running about $6 (4.5 Euro) per hallon in Europe (on average).

Europeans pay double what we pay for gas, so it only makes sense that they'd be driving smaller, higher efficiency cars.

When gas prices pushed over $4 a gallon range last summer, hybrids were selling like hotcakes.

Re:And 1/2... (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31729218)

Except as stated here by Toyota themselves:

"November 8, 2009: The Los Angeles Times claims Toyota had ignored over 1,200 complaints of unintended acceleration over the past eight years because NHTSA had thrown out those reports that claimed the brakes were not capable of stopping the car under an unintended acceleration scenario. In the story a Toyota spokesman confirms the brakes are not capable of stopping a vehicle accelerating at wide open throttle."

http://www.motortrend.com/features/auto_news/2010/112_1001_toyota_recall_crisis/october.html [motortrend.com]

The info above is from page 3. It's actually a very good read.

not enough data (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31728630)

27 data points is not enough to draw a strong conclusion.

Re:not enough data (5, Insightful)

Mabbo (1337229) | more than 4 years ago | (#31728722)

27 data points is not enough to draw a strong conclusion.

So why then should the court of public opinion concluded that it's Toyota's fault?

Re:not enough data (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31728844)

Because GM is owned by the government, and by far the easiest way to gain market share is to take down the leader.

Re:not enough data (4, Insightful)

fred911 (83970) | more than 4 years ago | (#31729240)

The easiest way is to make a superior product, which GM fails at. Isn't NUMI enough proof, it's not the workers, it's the managers? Toyota took a failing GM plant, slapped together Corollas, or Prism's... what ever you choose to call them. All in less then 6 months. Toyota is on the top because they build a quality product, stand by it and when it's bad due to design, they just f'n fix it and GM looks at it like an opportunity to rape their clients (yet again).

Re:not enough data (5, Informative)

The Clockwork Troll (655321) | more than 4 years ago | (#31728916)

Because regardless of whether this turns out to be more problems with cars or problems with drivers, Toyota's actions in the matter have been surreptitious at best [motortrend.com] .

Toyota insisted the problem was with floormats until incidents with mat-less cars forced them to dig deeper.

They are on the record [salon.com] as patting themselves on the back for saving money by not issuing a recall sooner.

The way they have handled this is far more concerning than where the fault ultimately lay.

Re:not enough data (2, Interesting)

Loomismeister (1589505) | more than 4 years ago | (#31728970)

It's not far more concerning to me. Whats concerning is how stupid people can be when put in the situation. You literally just press the brakes or turn the car off and it stops!

Re:not enough data (2, Insightful)

The Clockwork Troll (655321) | more than 4 years ago | (#31729078)

Both are concerning but I can forgive panicked drivers who were not expecting to deal with this, much more easily than I can forgive a company that sheltered profits rather than lives.

If in fact driver error was contributory to the accidents, then at least these incidents will serve to (re-)educate the public as to what to do in the event their engine starts racing uncontrollably.

And though I'm sure you know this, it's worth reminding others that turning off your car usually means you're killing your steering (and power brakes), too. So unless you're on a long stretch of straight road and have no other options, better to shift into neutral if you have the presence of mind, or if that's locked out for some strange reason, utilize the emergency brake if your regular brakes are inoperable or have faded because you've been riding them to try to stop.

Re:not enough data (1)

perryizgr8 (1370173) | more than 4 years ago | (#31729192)

i agree with you mostly but your info on power steerings is just wrong. Nowadays most steerings are electronically/electrically controlled and when your car is going above 60km/h the power assist is TURNED OFF. Its not hard at all to steer above these speeds. So turning off the engine is not a problem for this reason (although you may have to stand on the brakes).

Re:not enough data (1)

blackraven14250 (902843) | more than 4 years ago | (#31729208)

Its not hard at all to steer above these speeds.

Especially considering that the turns aren't going to be 90 degrees over a very short distance...

Re:not enough data (2, Interesting)

kannibal_klown (531544) | more than 4 years ago | (#31729096)

It's not far more concerning to me. Whats concerning is how stupid people can be when put in the situation. You literally just press the brakes or turn the car off and it stops!

I did a minor experiment. I was coasting around 15 MpH, then applied heavy acceleration and brakes at the same time. I was slowing down, but not nearly enough to do much in an urgency. Sure, at completely rest my brakes were enough to over-power the engine but engine + kinetic energy is another story.

My concern about this kind of issue isn't the car accelerating up to 100+ MpH on the highway. Like you say, there are ways to slow down and stop.

It's when it accelerates *at the wrong moment*. You're a couple of car lengths from the car in front of you, you're nearing an intersection, you want to brake for some odd reason, etc. The big thing is if it happens near-or-at the time you need to stop. Pressing a brake a few seconds too late is usually a bad thing as it stands, accelerating instead... bad.

Throw in the shock of the event and the time it takes to throw it in neutral, and it's a dangerous thing if you need to stop.

As I mentioned in another post, I had issues with the sensors on my throttle of my GM car. It was sending faulty data to the onboard computer and thus the acceleration was behaving incredibly strange: thinking 1/2 pressure alternating between 0-pressure and full throttle.

Re:not enough data (5, Informative)

perryizgr8 (1370173) | more than 4 years ago | (#31729230)

if your car's brakes are behaving the way you describe, something is very wrong with them. They should be able to bring your car to a complete stop in under a minute if you press the accelerator and brake pedals all the way. Please get them repaired. I tried the same thing in a honda civic (not mine, lol) at about 50km/h and the deceleration was so great that my head banged into the steering.

Re:not enough data (1)

Frosty Piss (770223) | more than 4 years ago | (#31729026)

So why then should the court of public opinion concluded that it's Toyota's fault?

Your response has nothing to do with the parent observation.

What I would like to know is what the overall average age of owners of affected Toyotas is? My impression is that it's in general an older customer base.

Re:not enough data (5, Insightful)

msauve (701917) | more than 4 years ago | (#31729082)

...and the age distribution tab of the spreadsheet doesn't support the claim:

the age distribution really is extremely skewed. The overwhelming majority are over 55.

The spreadsheet shows 20 age 50+ and 15 age 0-50. That doesn't sound statistically significant, let alone "overwhelming."

And if a driver is 50, are they put into the 40-50 category, or the 50-60 category? Where's the data on Toyota model/year ownership by age, needed to even begin to make a valid comparison? Is 55 the median age for the owner's of the models/years involved in these accidents?

Seems like a poorly thought out attempt to make a case to me.

Re:not enough data (1)

Swampash (1131503) | more than 4 years ago | (#31729286)

...about anything.

I could just as easily summarise these results as "Toyota marketing especially effective with older drivers". Old people seem over-represented in Toyota crash stats, meaning that more older people buy Toyotas.

Conflict of interest (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31728632)

Obama Motors is just slandering Toyota to sell more cars. Recalls happen all the time.

So . . . (4, Insightful)

OverlordQ (264228) | more than 4 years ago | (#31728636)

parking, pulling out of a parking space, in stop and go traffic, at a light or stop sign... in other words, probably starting up from a complete stop

Or in other words, they take their foot off the pedal and put it on the wrong one.

Re:So . . . (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31728896)

But if you're starting up from a complete stop you're expecting to go.

Re:So . . . (1)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 4 years ago | (#31729290)

Or in other words, they take their foot off the pedal and put it on the wrong one.

Maybe we should switch to hand controls for the gas and brake.
Or get rid of steering wheels entirely and use a motorcycle type steering/gas/brake system.

If the problem is "user error," we should change the user interface.

goes to show.. (4, Funny)

MickyTheIdiot (1032226) | more than 4 years ago | (#31728642)

Old people can't use computers. Even if it involves lightly pressing on the accelerator.

Re:goes to show.. (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31728882)

They tried to right-click on the brake.

Re:goes to show.. (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31729060)

I can't find the any key!

Re:goes to show.. (1)

Thelasko (1196535) | more than 4 years ago | (#31729336)

Old people can't use computers. Even if it involves lightly pressing on the accelerator.

I've found old engineers to be an exception to that rule. I've known a few consultants in their 70's that are always showing off their cool new gadgets.

I trust Woz (2, Insightful)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 4 years ago | (#31728654)

Woz has already described the repro case.

Now, the iPad may not be the be all and end all of consumer devices, but I trust Woz when he talks.

Re:I trust Woz (2, Informative)

maxume (22995) | more than 4 years ago | (#31728678)

He described a case where unintended acceleration occurs.

He did not describe a case where uncontrollable acceleration occurs (in his case, the acceleration is halted by simply tapping the brakes).

Re:I trust Woz (3, Informative)

Game_Ender (815505) | more than 4 years ago | (#31728686)

Yes but the Woz case is possible bug in the cruise control software, not the accelerator.

Re:I trust Woz (3, Insightful)

lenroc (632180) | more than 4 years ago | (#31728778)

Yes but the Woz case is possible bug in the cruise control software, not the accelerator.

Right, because Cruise Control Software is in no way related to acceleration, right?

Re:I trust Woz (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31728782)

No, he didn't. He described a repro for a brake failure on a single model of car. Not an unintended acceleration case. There is a difference between the two. One involves brakes that don't seem to do anything, then other a gas pedal that won't stop accelerating.

Here's a question (2, Insightful)

zappepcs (820751) | more than 4 years ago | (#31728708)

If the vehicle has that much computer controlled functionality, why doesn't the black box tell which pedals were pressed at the time of impact and for the moments before impact? The black box system is arguably an invasion of privacy, but in this case it would go a long way toward fixing the problem(s) and perhaps saving lives.

Re:Here's a question (4, Interesting)

SSpade (549608) | more than 4 years ago | (#31728742)

The black box system does tell you that, in some cases at least. And it says that the driver is slamming their foot on the gas. I tend to believe the black box - but it's based on the same sensors and software that's supposedly at fault...

Re:Here's a question (2, Interesting)

techno-vampire (666512) | more than 4 years ago | (#31728784)

but it's based on the same sensors and software that's supposedly at fault...

And who is it that's claiming the sensors and software are at fault? The people who were involved in the incidents, that's who. Of course they're claiming that; it's either make that claim or admit they screwed the pooch.

Re:Here's a question (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31728922)

or admit they screwed the pooch.

Ooohh.. I don't like that term... Made love to the pooch.

Re:Here's a question (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31729020)

Poor, poor poochie.

Black Box... (2, Informative)

PixelScuba (686633) | more than 4 years ago | (#31728798)

It sometimes does [cnn.com] . From everything I can gather, the story reveals that the driver pressed the gas instead of the brake... revealed from the recorder box in the car.

Re:Here's a question (5, Interesting)

kannibal_klown (531544) | more than 4 years ago | (#31728958)

If the vehicle has that much computer controlled functionality, why doesn't the black box tell which pedals were pressed at the time of impact and for the moments before impact? The black box system is arguably an invasion of privacy, but in this case it would go a long way toward fixing the problem(s) and perhaps saving lives.

I bought a brand new car in 2006. It was great for the first few months.

Then about 4 months in, it acted strangely. If I put the throttle past 1/2-way, the car would start bucking wildly. It was as if I was alternating between *flooring it* and *idling* every second. It was major because merging into fast traffic and crossing busy intersections (from a stop sign) was a real pain. I had to take it to the dealer 3 times for them to find the problem; they thought "user-error", fuel line, transmission, etc.

A sensor in the throttle assembly was faulty. It was reporting to the computer that I was flooring/idling/flooring/idling when in fact I obviously wasn't. It was showing the throttle position and everything.

So...

Had I gotten into an accident and someone looked at the black box, it would show the same thing. "Umm, he took his foot off the gas and then floored it, repeating. Probably drunk or distracted."

Re:Here's a question (3, Informative)

SpeedBump0619 (324581) | more than 4 years ago | (#31729188)

The accelerator isn't a binary input, since it's measuring an analog range of pedal positions. From your description (and from the nature of the type of sensor I'm guessing they use) I'm guessing you were seeing sudden (not slewing) jumps between low and high values. If the sensor registers consistent jumps without any intermediate values the sensor is broken (and the software should detect such, as that's not a totally unheard of failure mode). I guarantee the control loop is sampling faster than you can slam it to the floor, which means it should be logging the transition values.

Re:Here's a question (2, Informative)

Buelldozer (713671) | more than 4 years ago | (#31729330)

You can't because Toyota won't show you that data. Their blackbox system is entirely CLOSED. In fact there was an article here on /. not that long ago about how there was precisely ONE laptop in the entire United States that was capable of reading the blackbox data.

Starting from full stop ..... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31728714)

To me that is a clue for the source ....... CRUISE CONTROL.

Drive around on cruise control then, release at high speed without changing the CC speed. Make a full stop, then kick the CC and see what happens. Instant acceleration.

Toyota vehicles aren't the only ones that will react this way. Any vehicle with cruise control will have the same issue.

Re:Starting from full stop ..... (1)

Arcady13 (656165) | more than 4 years ago | (#31728754)

If the cruise control on your car works that way, IT IS BROKEN.

Re:Starting from full stop ..... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31728830)

BS. Aparentely you never use cruise control in you life.

If the speed on the cruise control is not reset it will try to accelerate to the selected speed as soon as you enable it. If you vehicle is in full stop and you enable a cruise control, it may not burn rubber, but it will accelerate as fast as it can to get to the set speed.

Re:Starting from full stop ..... (3, Informative)

eosp (885380) | more than 4 years ago | (#31728854)

Actually most won't activate until you're pushing the pedal yourself to around 20 mph or so.

BS (2, Informative)

Arker (91948) | more than 4 years ago | (#31729068)

I have used a number of cruise control systems in GM, Ford, and Toyota vehicles of various vintages from the 70s on to brand new vehicles. I have NEVER ONCE seen a cruise control that would do what you describe. All of them refuse to activate below a minimum speed (over 25mph, over 30 in most cases.)

Re:BS (1)

metamatic (202216) | more than 4 years ago | (#31729134)

I have a Prius, and the cruise control won't activate at 35.

I know this because I've tried to cruise on empty roads with a posted 35mph speed limit.

Also, hitting the brake turns off cruise control until you explicitly re-activate it.

So unless something has gone bizarrely wrong with the cruise control system, that's not the explanation for any of these incidents.

Re:Starting from full stop ..... (1)

JWSmythe (446288) | more than 4 years ago | (#31728876)

    No shit.

    In cars I've driven with the cruise control on, if I tap the brakes it shuts down the cruise control. I've had it set to 65 (speed of the road), and then had to stop. I'd be lazy and hit resume to get back up to speed. It served for very little more than to annoy drivers behind me, because the acceleration was so slow.

    I've had it happen a couple times in my current car, where I've stepped on the clutch rather than the brake. It took the computer less than a second to realize what I did, but the engine would speed up momentarily, then idle down. It wasn't a problem, just a curious observation. It got me in the habit of tapping the brake before stepping on the clutch if I wanted to just roll to a stop.

    I once drove my car with the cruise control for about 3 blocks, because the throttle cable let loose. The plastic clip at the engine broke, and I was about 3 blocks from where I was staying. That was probably the slowest 3 blocks I'd ever driven. :)

Re:Starting from full stop ..... (1)

peragrin (659227) | more than 4 years ago | (#31728818)

my liberty and dodge stratus didn't. the cruise control only worked when already traveling over 30mph.

Also any tap on the brakes disables cruise control.

Re:Starting from full stop ..... (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31728822)

Any vehicle with cruise control will have the same issue.

Since you made such a total generalization, I can easily demonstrate that you are incorrect by only giving one example.

In the 1997 Nissan Sentra:

1) Any touch of the brake pedal cancels cruise.
2) If the vehicle goes under 30MPH for any reason, cruise is cancelled.
3) Once cruise is cancelled, it can only be started again by going over 30MPH; and even then, you can only set it to the speed you are currently going at; not at a higher or lower speed. (So you have to reach the desired speed manually, then hit the button).

Come back when you have facts, not fabrications.

Re:Starting from full stop ..... (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31729088)

'97 Sentras have a small fraction of the computer-driven control that modern cars have. It's mostly mechanical, not computerized. Mechanical engineers tend to be far smarter and much more careful than software developers.

Re:Starting from full stop ..... (3, Interesting)

ArcadeNut (85398) | more than 4 years ago | (#31729182)

3) Once cruise is cancelled, it can only be started again by going over 30MPH; and even then, you can only set it to the speed you are currently going at; not at a higher or lower speed. (So you have to reach the desired speed manually, then hit the button).

Come back when you have facts, not fabrications.

Odd, my car (not a Nissan), cruise control has a "Resume" feature. If CC gets canceled for some reason (#1 and #2 above), I press the Resume button and the CC accelerates back up to the speed it was set at. Turning the car off or turning the CC OFF, would reset the CC, but other then that it remembers where it was set.

Re:Starting from full stop ..... (2, Informative)

jandrese (485) | more than 4 years ago | (#31729236)

Just out of curiosity, does your cruise control have an "accelerate" button that bumps you up a couple of mph on a tap? If so, what happens when you tap that button while underway? In most cruise control systems, that button is also the "resume" button, which will attempt to get you back up to the last set speed, flooring the accelerator if you're currently doing 45 and the last speed was 65 or something. That said, it still won't do anything if you're doing less than 30, but it can be surprising to hit what you think is the set button and have the cruise control suddenly floor it.

Re:Starting from full stop ..... (1)

drsmithy (35869) | more than 4 years ago | (#31729324)

That said, it still won't do anything if you're doing less than 30, but it can be surprising to hit what you think is the set button and have the cruise control suddenly floor it.

I've never seen a cruise control "floor it". Acceleration is noticable, but nothing close to the maximum possible.

What vehicle ?

Re:Starting from full stop ..... (2, Informative)

khallow (566160) | more than 4 years ago | (#31729260)

On my 1993 Sentra (RIP), there was a resume button that would bring the vehicle back to its old set speed. Touching the brake or going below 30 (say you're going up a hill while you're trying to resume cruise speed) would knock out cruise again even if it hadn't yet gone back up to speed.

No, they wll not. (1)

rickb928 (945187) | more than 4 years ago | (#31729170)

My '95 Explorer will not engage cruise control it reaches about 23 MPH. I've driven several Ford Tauruses, and same thing - cruise will not engage until about 23+MPH. I cannot get cruise to engage from a stop, or even slow speed.

Sorry to burst your bubble. Of course, some other vehicles could be programmed differently, but every other vehicle I've driven with cruise control has behaved the same way.

Oh, and please let us know if your vehicle does this. I would be suprised, but if it does, well, that's the fact.

Left foot don't know what the right foot is doing. (5, Interesting)

Jimbookis (517778) | more than 4 years ago | (#31728716)

I suspect it's got something to do with the idle left foot getting involved as well. I drive manuals (stick shift for you Septics) and have a strong preference for them. Occasionally when I drive an automatic I get a brain fart and I am trying to de-assert (haha I am a programmer) the non-existent clutch I end up hitting the brake and wondering WTF is going on. Same goes when one wears thongs (jandles/flipflops) and driving one gets the brake being pressed at the same time as the accelerator. How many old people with low muscle tone are wearing broad soled shoes nowadays?

Re:Left foot don't know what the right foot is doi (1)

CAIMLAS (41445) | more than 4 years ago | (#31728898)

I wonder if the driver's foot well is particularly small on these cars. I've been driving an older E150 lately and it's got a foot-activated high-beam switch right where the clutch would be on a similar pickup. I've drained the battery twice so far by hitting that damn switch as I pull in to park and not realized it.

Re:Left foot don't know what the right foot is doi (1)

BobPaul (710574) | more than 4 years ago | (#31728972)

It's been a while, but my '77 Oldsmobile had a button up in the right corner, not quite where the clutch would be, but there abouts. I don't think the high-beam selector did anything unless the headlamps were on, it just toggled between low and high. Strange that yours actually turns them on. And perhaps I just don't recall correctly. That car's been gone for more than 10 years now...

Re:Left foot don't know what the right foot is doi (1)

narkosys (110639) | more than 4 years ago | (#31729030)

i used to own a 1988 full sized Bronco. it had that switch AND a clutch. not sure if i ever inadvertantly hit the switch but i do remember pressing against it on occasion.

Re:Left foot don't know what the right foot is doi (1)

JWSmythe (446288) | more than 4 years ago | (#31728936)

    I think we've all done that at some point. :)

    I was driving a borrowed car, that had a wide brake pedal. I was coming up to a turn, so I stepped on the "clutch" as I normally would, and it took a second for me to figure out why the car came to a hard stop. :)

    I've had the inverse of the unintended acceleration in my car. If I'm wearing work boots, they're a bit wider than my regular shoes, and can catch on the brake pedal rather than the gas.

    I posted a rant about this on the previous story (blaming cosmic radiation for it). Most of the unintended accelerations I know of were old people, and those weren't even electronic throttle vehicles. They couldn't understand why the car went faster, because they were pushing the brakes. There was a story about that happening in Santa Monica at a farmers market a few years ago. The driver killed a bunch of people and injured even more. Reading about his reaction and what he said at the accident scene, it sounded more like he did it on purpose. Well, his prize quote was "If they saw me coming, why didn't they get out of the way?" He got probation, because he was "too old to go to jail". Damn, I didn't know being old was an excuse for murder.

Re:Left foot don't know what the right foot is doi (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31729326)

You're absolutely right! Your anecdote unequivocally proves that anyone who says they were hitting the brakes when their car accelerates is a liar!

Re:Left foot don't know what the right foot is doi (1)

the_Bionic_lemming (446569) | more than 4 years ago | (#31728978)

Yeah, no kidding, I drive a wrangler with a six speed, when I visit the parents they want me to drive their auto trans.

I actually once accidentally put the trans in drive instead of reverse. I cover the brake when I drive their pacifica, but wow - yeah, totally understand the brain fart thing.

Re:Left foot don't know what the right foot is doi (1)

martas (1439879) | more than 4 years ago | (#31729034)

he-he, you said you wear thongs... but on a more serious note, i doubt that someone who regularly drives automatics would have a problem like yours. if you're used to never using your left foot while driving, you wouldn't suddenly have the urge to do so. though accidentally pressing the wrong pedal i'm sure happens quite frequently, i'm more and more convinced that this whole toyota ordeal is nothing more than mass hysteria.

stastically significant doesn't mean all (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31728720)

This assumes there is only 1 problem, not a half dozen different problems occuring in different situations. Yes, there are probably some that are putting their foot on the wrong pedal, that happens with every make and model of vehicle out there. Lets say statistically all cars have some percentage of elderly putting their foot on the wrong pedal, subtract them out and look at what's left. Serious electrical or mechanical issues can be lost in the noise.

Re:stastically significant doesn't mean all (1)

eclectro (227083) | more than 4 years ago | (#31728982)

Excellent post anon. This article sounds like it was written by the Toyota pr department to say that the problem is with the elderly and let's all ignore these other cases. [sandiego6.com] Really, it's like there's lies, damned lies, and the elderly.

Re:stastically significant doesn't mean all (1)

JWSmythe (446288) | more than 4 years ago | (#31729048)

    Actually, if you go looking for the statistics, they stopped recording "unintended acceleration" years ago. It was just after they mandated that you must be stepping on the brakes to move the car out of park. There were hundreds every year before that.

We need better filtering (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31728724)

All this means is that the data includes not just machine-caused and computer-caused unintended accelerations, but also driver-caused unintended accelerations. That's not a big surprise, it just means you have to be careful and filter those out.

Certainly you wouldn't expect that the unintended accelerations while entering the highway were because the driver had their foot on the wrong pedal, would you?

In particular, there's no indication of what model car was involved in each one. The computer-caused problems are likely to only be encountered on hybrid models (Prius being the most common).

Hey! (4, Funny)

actionbastard (1206160) | more than 4 years ago | (#31728730)

I resemble that remark you young whipper-snapper!
Now get off my lawn before I accelerate uncontrollably and run you down!
God-damned kids!

Re:Hey! (1)

VirginMary (123020) | more than 4 years ago | (#31728846)

I resemble that remark you young whipper-snapper!

What? You're similar to that remark?? English is not my native language, but that does strike me as very odd!

Re:Hey! (1)

Kooty-Sentinel (1291050) | more than 4 years ago | (#31728992)

It always baffles me that non-native English speakers on /. have better sentence structure/grammar/spelling than the supposed 'native' speakers.

Re:Hey! (1)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | more than 4 years ago | (#31729036)

It always baffles me that non-native English speakers on /. have better sentence structure/grammar/spelling than the supposed 'native' speakers.

What doesn't surprise me at all is that non-native speakers don't get old American jokes. Which the GGP was, in case you weren't aware.

Re:Hey! (1)

Crazyswedishguy (1020008) | more than 4 years ago | (#31729296)

What doesn't surprise me at all is that non-native speakers don't get old American jokes. Which the GGP was, in case you weren't aware.

Wait, are you calling the (G)GGP an old American joke?

Re:Hey! (5, Informative)

yotto (590067) | more than 4 years ago | (#31729058)

It's a joke, taking advantage of the fact that "resemble" and "resent" both start with the same 4 letters.

The common phrase is "I resent that remark" which means "I take offense at your implying that I am ... whatever"

The joke is "I resemble that remark" which means "I am exactly like how you describe, but don't like it."

It's always done in a joking manner, feigning that you are angry when in fact you realize that you are guilty of whatever is described.

One postulate: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31728732)

Some elderly may have reduced motor-skills (no pun intended), visual impairment, and lowered cognitive functions. Toyota's have an ergonomic design that is in some way (technical term), "at odds" with these folks physiological disposition. Perhaps the throttle is too responsive, or they just happen to accelerate quickly, or its the brake pedal positions. I believe human error is the root cause, but Toyota is catching the flak because of some engineering anomaly with these models that happens to be a perfect biometric match with geriatrics.

Does this mean Toyota needs to do a recall? Perhaps. Are they 100% to blame? Probably not. Am I speculating, yes, but a lot of the time something high-profile like this occurs, you get folks displacing blame when they are at fault. If my grandmother gets a virus because she clicks on some free screensaver pop-up, it is ultimately her who undertook the action through her ignorance. This doesn't mean she was wrong, or is a terrible person, or is a complete idiot, or any of the other connotations that are superficially inflated by the media whenever we speak of the word "blame".

Our society seems to be doing a sort of blame transformation, where those who perpetrate the actions that lead to harm, loss, etc... have their blame displaced on somebody else. It seems like it is becoming more of "it is the systems fault for not designing around my ignorance or lack of skill" than "it is my fault because of my ignorance or lack of skill".

Not to say there arn't shady companies that do push shitty products that are genuinely dangerous, and worthy of recall, for those cases happen as well. But delineation between the two scenarios is increasingly difficult, in semantics and in legality.

Eerie coincidence? (1)

ipquickly (1562169) | more than 4 years ago | (#31728760)

Could this have anything to do with this recent slashdot story?
Time Flies By As You Get Older [slashdot.org]

Correlation != causation (3, Insightful)

vladkrupin (44145) | more than 4 years ago | (#31728836)

The real explanation could be as simple as "Those 55 and older are the ones who can afford to buy the cars in question".

Re:Correlation != causation (2, Informative)

spektricide (749293) | more than 4 years ago | (#31728906)

So true. The average new car buyer's age is 45 - 50. If you reasearched age comparison with any defect you'll most likely come up with the same data. http://blogs.cars.com/kickingtires/2008/01/down-economy-mo.html [cars.com] Data is a little old but still valid

Re:Correlation != causation (2, Insightful)

Zebra_X (13249) | more than 4 years ago | (#31728930)

Possibly, but that should be easy to answer. We need the data for ages for all owners of the affected cars.

Re:Correlation != causation (5, Interesting)

gemtech (645045) | more than 4 years ago | (#31728944)

bingo. Ok, ok, I'm 53. But I have a 2007 Toyota Avalon that had not one, but 3 recalls so far (accelerator pedal sticking on the mat, little metal plate to do whatever, and an oil line problem).
The problem (as I see it) is a stackup of features:
pushbutton start/stop, and it doesn't stop when I momentarily push it.:
accelerator pedal by wire.:
transmission shift by wire.:
There is nothing in the owners manual that would tell me that you have to hold in the start/stop button in to stop it, I looked. That is beyond bullshit. I want a car that turns off when I tell it to, I will deal with the lack of power steering (you don't need it at 120mph) and a couple of power brake pedal pushes (the engine isn't making vacuume at full throttle anyway).
This is either an embedded software bug (it has issues with the cruise control sometimes when pulling a mountain) or RF susceptibility. At no time does ANYONE test for RF susceptibility with a nearby trucker running a linear amplifier on his CB radio. It is well above CE test limits.

Re:Correlation != causation (1)

garcia (6573) | more than 4 years ago | (#31728994)

The real reason could be as simple as the sample size is fucking tiny.

Re:Correlation != causation (1)

tedhiltonhead (654502) | more than 4 years ago | (#31729116)

Or, those 55 and older are willing to take the time to report an issue. Perhaps younger people are used to complex systems "not working" reliably, whereas older people are less tolerant of flakiness.

Other possibility (2, Interesting)

Heshler (1191623) | more than 4 years ago | (#31728774)

TFA is actually quite convincing; however, might I suggest another possibility? It could be that short or elderly drivers are less easily able to react/respond to the unintended acceleration, and as a result are more likely to get in an accident as the result of the problem. Perhaps the author of this study could compare his data to the demographic/height distributions of various types of traffic accidents to test this hypothesis.

Are old people technologically challenged? (2, Insightful)

Are You Kidding (1734126) | more than 4 years ago | (#31728874)

That may satisfy our biases, however drawing a conclusion from this data without first adjusting for the distribution of Toyota owner ages is just plain bad analysis. Drawing a conclusion from such a small sample, and the large number of cases in which no age is listed are both factors that weaken the point of the article. Aren't the number of Toyota cases close to 100? Don't other manufacturers have similar problems? Sound conclusions require rigorous analysis.

Non-issue (4, Interesting)

Anenome (1250374) | more than 4 years ago | (#31728934)

What it means is that there's likely zero problem with Toyota's cars and there never was.

What's happening is that people are missing the brake pedal and hitting the gas pedal without realizing it. Their car then speeds up, shocking them, and since they think they're foot is on the brake they slam it all the way down, stomp on it, etc., and it just keeps going.

The elderly do this all the time.

Toyota's are just really popular cars, and some lawyer out there smelled blood.

And right now is a really good time to buy a Toyota. You'll get the deal of a lifetime :)

Re:Non-issue (0, Troll)

Lehk228 (705449) | more than 4 years ago | (#31729172)

so "old people can't drive, lol" somehow explains the highly disproportionate distribution of such events towards toyota how exactly?

And right now is a really good time to buy a Toyota. You'll get the deal of a lifetime :)
yea, if you survive the accident you will get a fat settlement check... no thanks i like all my body parts still attached.

From the point of view of QA (1)

h00manist (800926) | more than 4 years ago | (#31728984)

Starting and accelerating from a complete stop is something every single driver of every unit tested lots and lots of times, you can't drive a car at all in a city without doing that dozens of times. So the functionality and parts for that action have always been very thoroughly tested. It is indeed odd that a bunch of uninformed users have decided it doesn't work and no engineers can reproduce the problem. I wouldn't be surprised if the cause of the problem is found to be users who hate computers and decided to blame computers for their own poor driving mistakes. There is a possibility of a real problem existing of course, but the user bias against a solution has been known to cause problems too. I had a user who had lots of technical problems all the time, and the more attention I gave her, the more problems she caused. The solution was to stop helping, and she eventually stopped calling. I never did find out what a lot of the problems were, but decided it was mostly imaginary or sheer ignorance of the user.

Good god, please stop (1, Troll)

Henry V .009 (518000) | more than 4 years ago | (#31729042)

If you read the above article and thought, "gee, what convincing evidence," then you're a moron.

It's not a surprise that traffic fatalities were skewed towards the elderly. In any given accident, an elderly person is much more likely to die than a young person. They're not as sturdy.

Now that you're a little bit less of a moron, please go on with your day.

The data is for fatalities, not accidents. (5, Insightful)

jms (11418) | more than 4 years ago | (#31729046)

The data in question catagorizes fatalities. Elderly people are often
killed by accidents that would only injure a young person. This could explain
the data skew regardless of whether or there is an actual accelerator defect.

Driver Error (0, Flamebait)

frecky (1095067) | more than 4 years ago | (#31729056)

Seriously,

If people were too stupid to just put car on neutral or turn off the car then I think they should learn more at driving a car. These people may be some danger on the road.

Most car are front wheel drive car. In such a case, if someone was hitting hard on the brake then you should be able to lock rear wheel. If so, then you should be able to see marks on the ground !

For me, all this story is a Driver Error !

Re:Driver Error (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31729162)

If that car has anti-lock brakes as most do now, you cannot lock the rear brakes. The rear brakes will not lock to show skid marks. You cannot push the brake pedal hard enough to lock the rear brakes.

An even greater correlation among the names (3, Funny)

DreamOfPeace (873093) | more than 4 years ago | (#31729074)

Look how many have a name that starts with U indicating that U the customer are the problem.

It's simple (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31729080)

Old people are judging how fast they should be going by the loudness of their car's engine,
instead of actually checking the speed meter.
Their hearing and responsiveness to engine's vibration are also worse than younger generations so they notice less.
So, they constantly misjudge relatively quieter Prius' speed and floor the pedal when starting from a stop (or even moving)
because "its (gasoline) engine is not running enough" instead of gently hitting the pedal.
When they notice that they are moving too fast, they do hit the brake but this is later than younger people
because not only do younger people respond faster, they can keep track of multiple information better.

If we can get a group of volunteers from various age groups and driving experiences to drive a Prius on a test course,
we'll probably see drastically different driving styles based on age and experience.
(These volunteers should be checked for any hearing problem as this should be a factor as well.)

While were looking at that spreadsheet... (2, Interesting)

annex1 (920373) | more than 4 years ago | (#31729104)

In addition to the data on that spreadsheet suggesting that the majority of cases were "older" people, look at the racial breakdown. Not suggesting that it has anything to do with race, per se, but rather that it would be interesting to know how much experience operating a motor vehicle that these folks have. Did they migrate here? Were their licenses just carried over from their originating country or did they have to retrain to the applicable state requirements?

I've driven behind thousands of elderly drivers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31729110)

Trust me fast acceleration is not their problem.

Statistics (5, Insightful)

BlueBoxSW.com (745855) | more than 4 years ago | (#31729202)

First thing you would need, if you really wanted to see if there was a correlation, would be the age distribution of Toyota drivers.

If, perhaps, the distribution looked just like this graph, it would mean nothing.

If, perhaps, the distribution of driver ages skewed to younger drivers, or showed a flat pattern, then you might have something.

Without that baseline, it isn't even worth coming up with theories.

You see what in the data?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31729248)

This data shows nothing statistically significant.
look at the "Historgrams"

Context (5, Insightful)

Graff (532189) | more than 4 years ago | (#31729254)

These numbers are meaningless without the proper context.

First of all, what is the percentage of ownership, by driver age. In other words: Do a disproportionate amount of older people buy these cars?

Secondly, what is the comparable accident percentage, by car manufacturer and driver age. In other words: Do older people have a problem with all manufacturers or only Toyota?

Lastly, 24 incidents is way too few to make any kind of sane inference. Once you break it down by age category you have some categories that only have one to three members. At that low an amount they could simply represent random chance and not some sort of trend.

When you have such a low number you have two choices: ignore the problem or dig deeper beyond these simple statistics. Given that people's lives (and Toyota's reputation) are at stake I'd say that Toyota is doing the right thing by dissecting the cars and chasing every possible problem. If they find something then they can fix it, if they don't find anything then at least they gave it their best and can honestly say that these incidents seem to be user error.

The age skewed stats mean nothing without context (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31729306)

Do older people buy more Toyotas? Do they buy a certain model more than others? Is this proportion of ownership of Toyotas by senior citizens out of line with other brands and models? Have autopsies been performed to determine if they panic and suffered a heart attack during the acceleration, making them more likely to die from the incident? Is this a common trend in other accidents not related to the Toyota rapid acceleration problem?

That said, the seems a very crude statistical compilation. I would agree that, in general, senior citizens are more accident prone, but with such a small sample size, I don't think you can put this on having a 'senior moment'.

More data is needed. And more manual transmissions.

even bigger problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31729314)

we cannot say ONE thing about "skewed" age without knowing the age distribuitonof prius drivers
based on what i see around me in boston, prius drivers tend to be old - avg age, uh,.....50 ?

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