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Toyota Sudden Acceleration Is Driver Error

kdawson posted more than 4 years ago | from the fed-findings-fault-fat-feet dept.

Transportation 930

phantomfive writes "The NHTSA has investigated data recorders from Toyota cars whose owners claimed to have crashed due to an accelerator error. They found that the throttles were wide open and the brakes weren't being pressed. The investigation looked at a sample of the cars, selected by the NHTSA." Jamie found this article with a superior headline at Balloon Juice.

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This assumes... (5, Insightful)

Gordonjcp (186804) | more than 4 years ago | (#32898122)

... that the throttle and brake position logging was recording correct data. If there's a fault in the ECU or software, how can you guarantee the data logging is correct?

Re:This assumes... (2, Insightful)

Svartalf (2997) | more than 4 years ago | (#32898154)

Yep, that it does. It also presumes the sensors collected the data correctly.

NEITHER can be presumed. Toyota, you don't get out of this THAT easily.

Re:This assumes... (3, Insightful)

Jhon (241832) | more than 4 years ago | (#32898210)

The answer can be even more subtle. If this study is correct, then either there are a bunch of stupid Toyota drivers *OR* there is a problem with the PLACEMENT and/or SHAPE of the accelorator and break peddles. I'm leaning towards the latter.

Re:This assumes... (5, Insightful)

maxume (22995) | more than 4 years ago | (#32898322)

If 1 in 100,000 people cannot properly operate a device, it might be fair to conclude that the problem is with the people.

Re:This assumes... (1)

siloko (1133863) | more than 4 years ago | (#32898398)

If 1 in 100,000 people cannot properly operate a device and there's a fair chance of a class action lawsuit then you can bet your ass the problem is with the person!

Re:This assumes... (1)

clone53421 (1310749) | more than 4 years ago | (#32898506)

And nobody ever wins a 1:100,000 jackpot in the lottery either.

Just keep saying it’ll never happen to you – it probably won’t.

Re:This assumes... (5, Insightful)

Another, completely (812244) | more than 4 years ago | (#32898574)

But if the failure rate is lower on similar devices from other manufacturers, then it could have been designed better.

Either there are so many Toyotas out there that they are showing up a general problem with people (all the other manufacturers sell so few cars that their uncontrolled acceleration problems don't count as a trend), or a disproportionate number of bad drivers buy Toyotas (the failure rates for different populations do not offer a fair comparison), or there is a problem with the car.

It's also possible that the failure rate on other vehicles is the same, but that fact just hasn't been noticed by the media. I would have expected Toyota to point that one out by now, if it were the case.

Re:This assumes... (4, Insightful)

socrplayr813 (1372733) | more than 4 years ago | (#32898330)

Given how many times things like this have happened, you're probably right. However, we also know the first part is true. There are some truly stupid people, as well as other people that just plain shouldn't be driving for various reasons. I'd like to see/hear/read some better evidence one way or the other.

I do similar types of investigations for my job and almost everything I've seen so far (from both camps) is circumstantial and/or loaded with assumptions. Surely there must be SOME relationship between the cars this has happened with. If there is, we have our first step to recreating the problem in a controlled environment. Until we can do that...

Actually, have any of these types of accidents happened in the rest of the world? I don't recall hearing/reading about them.

Re:This assumes... (3, Interesting)

ommerson (1485487) | more than 4 years ago | (#32898486)

Do incidents of this nature occur with other manufacturers' cars? Or did the adverse publicity that Toyota was already receiving in the media cause these cases to get the oxygen of publicity rather than being considered as freak, and unconnected accidents?

Re:This assumes... (5, Insightful)

Maury Markowitz (452832) | more than 4 years ago | (#32898578)

> Surely there must be SOME relationship between the cars this has happened with

Why would you possibly suggest that?

This happens all the time. There's a news story, and then suddenly everyone's complaining about the same thing. It doesn't make a difference if it's actually _true_.

Its called "mass hysteria", although the term should be changed to be less loaded. But the effect is real, has been measured for hundreds of years, and effects practically all human endeavor equally.

Maury

Re:This assumes... (-1, Troll)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 4 years ago | (#32898504)

>>>. If this study is correct, then either there are a bunch of stupid Toyota drivers *OR* there is a problem with the PLACEMENT and/or SHAPE of the accelorator and break peddles. I'm leaning towards the latter

Or an even more simple answer: Our government has a new motto: We the Corporations. I cannot think of any other way to reach the conclusion in this study. Drives sat before Congress and testified that they pushed the brake and nothing happened. They shifted from "D" to "N" and even "R" but nothing happened. The computer was ignoring their inputs.

Furthermore Toyota engineers admitted it. They admitted there was a bug that made the computer ignore inputs from the brakes or gear shift. For a study to conclude it's driver error in the face of all this testimony and evidence shows that the study writers were biased.

Re:This assumes... (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 4 years ago | (#32898280)

Right, the mechanical brake linkage regularly failed at the same time as the brake sensor failed to no pedal and the accelerator sensor failed to full pedal.

Re:This assumes... (1)

clone53421 (1310749) | more than 4 years ago | (#32898348)

Right, the mechanical brake linkage regularly failed at the same time as the brake sensor failed to no pedal and the accelerator sensor failed to full pedal.

Implying that the stupid driver was mashing the accelerator instead of the brake.

And the officer in the cop car side-to-side of the runaway car (in some instances) also failed to notice that the stupid driver was mashing the accelerator instead of the brake.

Re:This assumes... (1)

Doctor_Jest (688315) | more than 4 years ago | (#32898384)

TFA did mention that only the most recent vehicles were tested. Perhaps, just perhaps, these are the "also-rans" who are looking to cash in on a very real problem by "causing" it themselves.

Also after the recall was issued (for pedal problems, not just "floor mat" changes) the complaints suddenly spiked. Someone smelled blood in the water. :) I'm inclined to believe it is a bit of mechanical and software failure, since Toyotas are mostly drive-by-wire these days, it's very easy to have an issue crop up that wasn't picked up in real-world-testing.

Then there's the damning memos that showed Toyota was more inclined to cover up the problem than deal with it. I'm not saying that there aren't "user error" problems (a la Audi)... but there are variables in this case that aren't specifically adding up... not to mention you throw in Toyota's response early on and you've got the "more than meets the eye" sort of thing. *shrug* Toyota's rep is tarnished, at least in the short term, as a result of this. People forget over time, but right now Toyota's got a PR debacle of biblical proportions to deal with, and right or wrong, their arrogance has cost them some goodwill with their loyal customers.

Re:This assumes... (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 4 years ago | (#32898460)

NHTSA has the brake mechanicals, they can examine them. To me, this indicates that the part that doesn't add up is usually the driver's story.

The other alternative is the drivers are wrong (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32898442)

The other alternative is the drivers are wrong. I mean, isn't this turning into a conspiracy theory? "Oh, the engines are at fault". "What? the recorders say it's the driver? They're wrong".

Re:This assumes... (1)

bsDaemon (87307) | more than 4 years ago | (#32898492)

So, basically either they have some poor engineers in key positions, or a non-trivial number of their customers are morons (bad for marketing purposes). It's kind of hard to say which will do more damage to their image.

Re:This assumes... (5, Insightful)

IflyRC (956454) | more than 4 years ago | (#32898176)

I would think that verifying the validity of the data would be one of the first things they would do in a study such as this. This question would most likely be proposed in any aircraft crash situation as well when the black box is checked. If this study is right - it sounds almost like a bandwagon effect where everyone was trying to get out of higher insurance premiums, out of fault from an accident they potentially caused, etc. It's a lot easier to say "It wasn't me, it was my Toyota!" than "My bad, it was my fault. I'll take responsibility for pulling out in front of you."

Re:This assumes... (4, Insightful)

vlm (69642) | more than 4 years ago | (#32898286)

If this study is right - it sounds almost like a bandwagon effect

Exactly. The Fine Article fails to raise that point, yet tantalizingly provides a graph of the number of reported complaints which follows a short term fad trajectory. Logically, if there were a bad batch of parts out there, the graph of the cars manufacture date vs complaints would look like that graph. Or if it were a bad design, the graph would resemble the very long term model year production graphs not a short term PR graph.

The only common feature of the problem seems to be that people whom crashed their Toyota during certain months were very likely to blame the car. Basically just a witch hunt. I feel confident driving my wife's Toyota.

Re:This assumes... (1)

clone53421 (1310749) | more than 4 years ago | (#32898402)

You can blame the car or the driver. At least one is at fault – possibly both. From what evidence I have seen and the situations I’ve heard of, there is definitely something wrong with the cars.

The bandwagon effect is at work here, but that proves nothing about which is the cause of the problem. It just has to do with which one is being blamed.

Re:This assumes... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32898520)

The only common feature of the problem seems to be that people whom crashed their Toyota during certain months were very likely to blame the car.

*who

An ironic example of hypercorrection, given the context.

Re:This assumes... (1)

txoof (553270) | more than 4 years ago | (#32898556)

Part of the investigation would also include examining the break pads and rotors. The roters and pads would probably show some serious wear and glazing if the driver had indeed been flooring the break while the car was continuing to accelerate. I suppose this still doesn't rule out a total failure of the breaking system AND computer control unit AND recorder. That's a whole lot of failures all at once. Not impossible, but not terribly likely either.

Re:This assumes... (3, Insightful)

MoeDumb (1108389) | more than 4 years ago | (#32898184)

Well, you can say that about anything. It's correct until proven otherwise.

Re:This assumes... (2, Interesting)

skids (119237) | more than 4 years ago | (#32898204)

Let's assume that the sensors were logging the wrong data. That would require assuming that the NHSTA was too stupid to be able to figure that out.

It's entirely possible, mind you, for bunglers to occupy government jobs, but if I had to bet money on it, I'd put my money on the NHSTA lab people being at least moderately competent.

Re:This assumes... (1)

hesaigo999ca (786966) | more than 4 years ago | (#32898236)

that is my point exactly, and the fact now that this logging is showing that exact combo, means that it is a faulty computer chip or what not, and not faulty breaks, sending signals to the accelerator and braking system...seems pretty easy to figure out, I could not see over 30 people all doing the same thing to play a game with toyota, especially putting their own lives in danger....just to see if they can fake an accident and get a new car....

So toyota is really stupid, and trying to pass this on as human error, and no one will question it, or people will question the software and computer system, and the toyota stocks will go down again for not figuring this out or trying to hide it...

Re:This assumes... (1)

skids (119237) | more than 4 years ago | (#32898478)

While I don't like some of the vitriol aimed at "the stupid drivers" either, you really need to have a look at how automotive electronics are wired. TFA doesn't provide this information, but it's rather unlikely that the black box waits until after a pedal signal enters the control system before copying it for logging. It is much more likely to be tapped off the input, so the black box would see the correct pedals depressed if the problem were in the CPU.

Cars just aren't wired as stupidly as people seem to think.

Re:This assumes... (1)

Sockatume (732728) | more than 4 years ago | (#32898242)

I would like to think that the engineers investigating the issue would have that same obvious insight. The guy on the left here [wsj.net] certainly looks sick enough of dealing with this crap to look into that sort of detail.

Re:This assumes... (1)

captainpanic (1173915) | more than 4 years ago | (#32898276)

... that the throttle and brake position logging was recording correct data. If there's a fault in the ECU or software, how can you guarantee the data logging is correct?

I would hope that enough independent data is recorded from the vehicle to avoid this kind of mistakes.

Re:This assumes... (1)

lisaparratt (752068) | more than 4 years ago | (#32898294)

One would presume that the black box records more than simply the inputs, but also all the servo feedback data...

Re:This assumes... (1)

Ephemeriis (315124) | more than 4 years ago | (#32898308)

This assumes...

... that the throttle and brake position logging was recording correct data. If there's a fault in the ECU or software, how can you guarantee the data logging is correct?

It also assumes that the folks at the NHTSA know what they're doing.

If they do, then they've assured themselves that the data logging is correct.

If they don't, then we've got far bigger problems then just these Toyotas.

Strangely enough (2, Informative)

Chrisq (894406) | more than 4 years ago | (#32898336)

... that the throttle and brake position logging was recording correct data. If there's a fault in the ECU or software, how can you guarantee the data logging is correct?

Toyota agrees with you: From TFA:

Toyota has always taken the position that the electronic data recorder system is not reliable," said Tab Turner, the Little Rock, Ark., lawyer.

A Toyota spokesman said the company considers the device "a prototype tool. It wasn't designed to tell us exactly what happened in an accident. It was designed to tell us whether our systems were operating properly."

Re:Strangely enough (3, Interesting)

skids (119237) | more than 4 years ago | (#32898592)

Reading comprehension fail. First, delete the first sentence, because it is uttered by a lawyer. You cannot trust as lawyer to quote his opponent accurately.

Second, what Toyota is saying in the second sentence is that the black box is not designed to collect all data about an automobile accident for courtroom purposes, it is designed to collect data about what the subsystems were doing for engineering purposes. That's plenty sufficient to tell whether a pedal was down or not.

Re:This assumes... (1)

goodmanj (234846) | more than 4 years ago | (#32898354)

Do all the cars in question have drive-by-wire electronic throttles? If so, you're right. But if not, sensor / software failure cannot cause uncontrolled acceleration, because the mechanical link, not the computer, sets the throttle. The worst that can happen from a faulty throttle position sensor is that the computer floods the engine, causing a stall.

Re:This assumes... (1)

Gordonjcp (186804) | more than 4 years ago | (#32898400)

Do all the cars in question have drive-by-wire electronic throttles?

Pretty much every petrol car built in the last ten years has a drive-by-wire throttle.

Re:This assumes... (1)

johncadengo (940343) | more than 4 years ago | (#32898424)

Exactly!

How can you trust the data that's recorded to infer driver error when it's that same data that makes the decision to accelerate uncontrollably? Also, isn't there evidence of braking in some cases? i.e. testimony of smelling burning brakes, and tire marks from the car trying to stop?

Duck time (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32898124)

Just like windows

Re:Duck time (1)

AHuxley (892839) | more than 4 years ago | (#32898196)

Or they are doing a Google: Users made a "mistake".

Toyota (BP ? ) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32898126)

BP Also found that they would have less security Violations if people just looked the other way.
I'm sorry but anyone who willingly believes corporations over individuals forgets who has more to lose.

Re:Toyota (BP ? ) (0)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 4 years ago | (#32898226)

GM had more to lose. Co-incidence that all this unintended acceleration crap came out right in the middle of the recession and right in the middle of the GM bankruptcy/bailout? Open your eyes.

Re:Toyota (BP ? ) (2, Insightful)

Doctor_Jest (688315) | more than 4 years ago | (#32898458)

Conspiracy theories aside (is your tinfoil hat on too tight?) I think you can attribute the government response to the issue as a ploy to prop up GM in tough times, but to say the government/GM/illuminati/bilderbergs/aliens/freemasons concocted the entire fiasco is a bit of a stretch... even for the level-headed *ahem* folks who frequent slashdot. :)

Mainly I feel the conspiracy isn't all that profoundly deep in this because that this is the government we're talking about after all... what other bunch of bumbling idiots like the government do you know have the gray matter to pull this sort of thing off? The government is evil in many ways... but in many ways its just a fat retard who eats paste... In other words, we're giving these mouth-breathers WAY too much credit. :)

I am not surprised.... (5, Informative)

Corporate Troll (537873) | more than 4 years ago | (#32898138)

I am not surprised.... Same thing happened to Audi back in the day [manhattan-institute.org] .

One thing for me that was a dead giveaway was that every single report regarding the Toyota sudden acceleration issue happened in the good old United States (Same for Audi, by the way). Statistically, it's very unlikely that such a problem would only happen in a single country even though these cars do not differ significantly between different countries. You'd expect a few deaths in Japan, France, German, the United Kingdom where Toyota cars are also very popular.

Too bad for Toyota that their brand has been permanently damaged in the US. (Just ask Audi how well it went for them the years after the accusations). GM, Ford and Chrysler are probably very happy about this.

Re:I am not surprised.... (-1, Troll)

Svartalf (2997) | more than 4 years ago | (#32898188)

Oh, I'm not surprised. I just don't buy their line directly like you're doing.

It's entirely too convenient and took them too long to come up with this as an answer for me to wholly accept it as the cause. But then it's in vogue to bash the US, even in the US, these days.

Re:I am not surprised.... (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32898202)

It's the NHTSA's line, not Toyota's.

Re:I am not surprised.... (3, Insightful)

somersault (912633) | more than 4 years ago | (#32898304)

Or maybe it shows that they were taking the customers' complaints seriously before realising the obvious truth. This has happened to me before when I start trying to diagnose IT support issues based on what a user is saying, I expect something horrific has happened, but then when I actually go to their desk and ask them to demonstrate the problem then realise that they've just been using the wrong terminology or simply are idiots.

One user was complaining of a "blue screen of death!" on his computer and it just turned out that he hadn't turned his main monitor on, and the plain blue windows desktop was showing on his laptop's screen, which he assumed was the fabled BSOD.

Re:I am not surprised.... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32898396)

So you'd accept it if they came out with it the day after the allegations were raised? Or if they came out and said "Yes, Toyota's design was at fault" three years afterwards? Is the issue that they came out with an answer that's contrary to what you expected, or simply the amount of time that's elapsed before they came out with an answer? If it's the first, shame on you for not being willing to consider your biases. If it's the second, consider: when public safety is at risk, and you're not sure what's going on, you do several things: you look; you find evidence that tells you what's probably going on; and then you make a statement. If you make a statement before you have evidence to back it up, you're likely to find yourself paying very big dollars after a court case. The only statement you make without evidence is, "We don't know what's going on; we're looking into the matter." Other than something like that, you keep your trap shut, unless and until you have reasonably solid evidence to support your position. I don't care whether you're Toyota, the NHSTA, a grieving citizen, or the Man from Mars. Opening your mouth and not being able to substantiate what you're saying with reasonably reliable evidence is a one way ticket to bankruptcy.

Now, it's entirely possible that the data logging application is not being accurate - if it's logging the data after it's been through the computer that acts upon said data, then any issues with the computer will flow through to the data. If, on the other hand, it's entirely independent of the computer, then it's likely that it is indeed accurate. But as others have said, that's a pretty obvious possibility, and there's going to be checks done to refute it before relying upon that evidence.

Re:I am not surprised.... (1)

skids (119237) | more than 4 years ago | (#32898234)

Toyota got a good wake-up call in the process -- they have issues like any large company and they needed a slap, even if it was for the wrong thing. I don't like seeing mass hysteria in action, it's ugly, but at least it make the corporations adequately fear the consumer.

Re:I am not surprised.... (1)

DigiShaman (671371) | more than 4 years ago | (#32898312)

There are better ways to get the message across. Telling automotive companies to audit the code properly is one way. But this, THIS cost jobs. Is that what we want, to bitch-slap peoples lives back to the unemployment line for no damn good reason?

Re:I am not surprised.... (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 4 years ago | (#32898452)

Given the way costs incurred by corporations are allocated, do you suspect that there are any ways of "getting the message across" whose cost to the company wouldn't end up coming out of their payroll, at least indirectly, if not directly?

The only one I can think of would be to skip the whole "corporation" thing entirely, and just start dropping criminal cases on the heads of management, something for which the political stomach seems to be lacking, at best.

Re:I am not surprised.... (1)

mdarksbane (587589) | more than 4 years ago | (#32898392)

Yes, I love it when a company gets hurt bad enough that thousands of people could lose their jobs in the middle of an economic crisis, all because of a completely phantom problem. Sure put those evil corporations in their place!

I don't particularly love Toyota (I drive one, but their aftermarket support for the Celica has been *nothing* like what they promised the community when it came out), but we need to remember in all this anti-corporatist rage that they're employing real people and doing real good for the economy. Without big companies, only the rich could afford cars. Corporations aren't just a couple fat middle aged men in business suits laughing when they get to kill another old woman due to a design defect, they're everyone they employ as well.

So by all means pillory them when a real problem shows up - everyone needs to be held accountable for their actual mistakes - but this stuck accelerator thing has always stunk of media panic. Just like the last media panic that completely destroyed Audi's brand credibility for no good purpose.

Even if the ECU had a glitch and applied the gas, the brakes are an independent mechanical system. These incidents always required the simultaneous failure of too many different systems for something other than driver error to be the most likely problem.

Re:I am not surprised.... (1)

socrplayr813 (1372733) | more than 4 years ago | (#32898580)

Even if the ECU had a glitch and applied the gas, the brakes are an independent mechanical system. These incidents always required the simultaneous failure of too many different systems for something other than driver error to be the most likely problem.

Somebody please mod this up (I have points but I already posted...)

Brakes are an independent system. It's a safety feature. Regardless of what the computer is saying, the brakes do work in these vehicles. There should be physical evidence of the brakes being applied in most of the legitimate cases.

Re:I am not surprised.... (4, Informative)

vlm (69642) | more than 4 years ago | (#32898306)

GM, Ford and Chrysler are probably very happy about this.

Whom coincidentally spend lots of advertising dollars on the media people whom manufactured the Toyota problem.

Even more interesting is the graph of reported problems. Fits a very short term PR profile not a manufacturing defect profile.

Re:I am not surprised.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32898484)

yes, because Toyota certainly doesn't advertise in those exact same media outlets, so they would obviously have something to gain....

Re:I am not surprised.... (1)

ncgnu08 (1307339) | more than 4 years ago | (#32898568)

Also look at how many of the same accelerator problems Ford had during the same time, but it was barely reported....

Re:I am not surprised.... (4, Informative)

SpazmodeusG (1334705) | more than 4 years ago | (#32898518)

There were reports of stuck accelerators here in Australia for a while but it was the Fords not Toyotas.
Basically some guy rang police up on the freeway and claimed his cruise control was stuck at 80. There was a police chase/escort and eventually he was stopped. Soon after the incident there was a ton of idiots all ringing up talkback radio for days on end claiming the same thing happened to them in their Fords and that's why they crashed or got a speeding fine.

In the end the real storey started circulating. The guy who initially made the claim seemed to have issues. During the chase the police asked him to brake and he said it didn't work. They then asked him to change gear to neutral and he claimed it had no effect. They asked him to turn the key on a car with an old fashion manual key and he claimed that didn't work. His car was inspected afterwards and no fault was found.
In the end the reports of problems quickly disappeared. All the bandwagon jumpers suddenly shut the hell up.
http://news.drive.com.au/drive/motor-news/no-sign-of-cruisecontrol-faults-20100107-lwrq.html [drive.com.au]

Re:I am not surprised.... (2, Informative)

Doctor_Jest (688315) | more than 4 years ago | (#32898570)

There were some reports in Japan (I remember an article during this whole thing coming out about the inability of regular Japanese to bring these sorts of complaints to light regarding a corporation, and how unlike the US, these things are MUCH more difficult to bring up in Toyota's homeland) And the context of the sudden acceleration problem was the basis for the article. I sure wish I could remember where I read that... Google is my friend, but it's too early to bother right now. :)

And unlike Audi, Toyota behaved like a real jerk (in the strictest "corporate" sense) before it finally announced a recall. So some of the reputation damage was self-inflicted. How much of the total reputation damage is unclear, and how much is deserved is also just as cloudy.

Not conclusive (5, Insightful)

OWJones (11633) | more than 4 years ago | (#32898166)

While this is a useful data point, it's not conclusive. If the root cause is some electronics error whose symptoms are a sudden acceleration and (according to two victims) no response to the brake, it's not surprising that the black box -- presumably using the exact same input controlling the engine -- would claim that the accelerator was fully pressed and the brake was untouched.

Re:Not conclusive (2, Funny)

StripedCow (776465) | more than 4 years ago | (#32898208)

Also, if my car would suddenly accelerate, and my brakes didn't work, I'd also try to push the throttle, to see if it was stuck or something...

Re:Not conclusive (2, Informative)

The MAZZTer (911996) | more than 4 years ago | (#32898394)

One of the points made that first cast the claims into doubt was that some (most?) new cars now will cut the engine if you press the gas and brake at the same time. One specific case that they were trying to reproduce they concluded that if the gas was stuck and the driver had REALLY been holding down the brake, the engine would have shut off.

Re:Not conclusive (2, Interesting)

Errol backfiring (1280012) | more than 4 years ago | (#32898232)

Could it even be the spring that makes the pedal spring back to the top that was broken or displaced? There could be a lot of failures that would cause the same things to be logged.

Re:Not conclusive (1)

somersault (912633) | more than 4 years ago | (#32898422)

Or, it shows the (far, far more likely scenario) that some people simply hit the accelerator hard instead of the brake. I bet the same thing happens with other brands too [manhattan-institute.org] , but the only accidents being sensationalised right now are ones involving a Toyota.

Re:Not conclusive (2, Insightful)

vlm (69642) | more than 4 years ago | (#32898430)

presumably using the exact same input controlling the engine

That being the problem. Multiple inputs, not input. You need to fail the gas partially to wide open and the brakes completely off.

Or, you need to fail the engine computer, the ABS computer, and the logging computer simultaneously with the same problem.

The problem has to be completely unreproducible, and cannot be explained by subsequent testing or disassembly.

Finally per the graph in the article, the problem somehow occurs in direct proportion to television coverage and with a slight delay after the PR hatchet job. It takes a lot of magical thinking for those simple mechanical parts, simple electronic sensors, and multiple microcontrollers to watch CNN and the evening news and somehow understand they are supposed to fail shortly after the PR, but not before and not a long time after. The idea of, say, my brake calipers watching CNN behind my back and then taking action based on what they saw is kind of weird. I don't even have cable in my garage.

To assume its a real problem, takes 911 type of conspiracy theory. Not that either 911 or toyota acceleration are not possible, just lots of assumptions required.

Re:Not conclusive (2, Insightful)

thegarbz (1787294) | more than 4 years ago | (#32898540)

I don't know of any cars which break entirely electronically from start to end. Hydraulically yes, engine assisted yes, but not electronically.

A very useful point it actually is since now it shows there would have to be TWO faults for the story to add up in the favour of the drivers. Both the sensor sensing the position of the break and some kind of weird accelerating issues would have to independently occur. As there is a much less likely chance of this rather than a simple single point of failure the lack of information actually adds weight that something about the victim's statements doesn't add up.

It's not conclusive but the data is not stacking up in favour of the drivers, by this independent body investigating the issue.

"dozens of data recorders" (1)

DavidR1991 (1047748) | more than 4 years ago | (#32898174)

I don't understand how these data recorders work - but I'm guessing they're electronic/computer controller rather than mechanical - in which case, surely it's possible for the brakes to not be pressed according to this recorder/computer even when they are? i.e. could that the root of the problem? (whatever control system is in charge can't "see" the brakes are pressed and hence the press isn't recorded either)

Re:"dozens of data recorders" (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32898272)

It would require there to be a larger series of problems where not only is the car going into a mode of unstoppable acceleration, but it also stops logging the position sensors properly and it logs data instead that looks like driver error data. IMO, that greatly diminishes the probability that the problem is still in the car's electronics.

THIS IS A TRUE STORY !! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32898224)

There is no need for more concern!! Toyota is known to be trustworthy!!

False positives (1)

Dan East (318230) | more than 4 years ago | (#32898240)

Certainly there were a large number of people who either purposefully, or subconsciously, blamed their accidents on this well-known issue that was plastered all over the news. There were probably a small number of people who had accidents on purpose to try and make a quick buck.

The real question is, statistically, are people more likely to be involved in these sort of accidents in specific models of Toyota than in other vehicles? At some point during all of this I did read news articles to that affect. Is that being debunked as well?

If they crashed, it's user error anyhow. (0, Flamebait)

RedK (112790) | more than 4 years ago | (#32898244)

The first thing to do if you get a stuck accelerator is to put the car in neutral. If you fail to do that, you deserve whatever you get.

Re:If they crashed, it's user error anyhow. (2, Insightful)

oodaloop (1229816) | more than 4 years ago | (#32898320)

Does putting it in neutral make the brake work too? I didn't think it worked that way.

Re:If they crashed, it's user error anyhow. (1)

RedK (112790) | more than 4 years ago | (#32898470)

Why would it need to ? Once the car is in neutral, it will slowly deccelerate instead of accelerating. You are then stress free from a stuck accelerator and can proceed to do whatever to safely stop the car on the side of the road.

Re:If they crashed, it's user error anyhow. (1)

Jarik C-Bol (894741) | more than 4 years ago | (#32898356)

mod this one up.

Re:If they crashed, it's user error anyhow. (2, Insightful)

davidbrit2 (775091) | more than 4 years ago | (#32898358)

...Which may or may not work if the acceleration is in fact caused by a very faulty ECU, which also happens to be controlling your automatic transmission.

Re:If they crashed, it's user error anyhow. (1)

Tsunayoshi (789351) | more than 4 years ago | (#32898414)

The problem with that is now there are cars out there where the shift lever has no physical connection to the drive train and instead just tells the computer to put the car into whatever gear you selected w/ the lever.

Re:If they crashed, it's user error anyhow. (1)

RedK (112790) | more than 4 years ago | (#32898564)

And where is the documentation that says there is an issue with Toyotas that fail to drop into neutral when the shift lever is put in that position ? We can make up problems all day, but the fact is, putting the car in neutral is the proper course of action.

Re:If they crashed, it's user error anyhow. (0, Offtopic)

goodmanj (234846) | more than 4 years ago | (#32898444)

+1, flamebait.

Re:If they crashed, it's user error anyhow. (1)

clone53421 (1310749) | more than 4 years ago | (#32898472)

And that solves the stuck accelerator problem how?

By destroying your engine, that’s how. An engine with a blown head won’t keep going.

What if your car has a computer that is programmed to not shift the car into neutral at full-throttle no matter what the moronic driver tries to tell it?

Re:If they crashed, it's user error anyhow. (1)

RedK (112790) | more than 4 years ago | (#32898598)

No car computer is programmed to not shift into neutral with full throttle or any throttle position, that would be a huge safety hazard. And by your post, I get the feeling you care more about your car's warrantied engine than your safety and that of your passengers...

Re:If they crashed, it's user error anyhow. (1)

Ecuador (740021) | more than 4 years ago | (#32898532)

While your tone indicates you are trolling, I found it interesting that in the case where a driver called 911 while he had a stuck accelerator, the 911 operator immediately asked him if he tried turning the engine off. While driving with the engine off is not great (you lose steering), it is better than accelerating, so I thought that was some clear thinking by the operator.
In any case, don't these cars have hand brakes or park brakes to try?

Post (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32898252)

First POOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

Brake smoke? (1)

Culture20 (968837) | more than 4 years ago | (#32898254)

Weren't some of these cars supposedly accelerating with brake-pads grinding away and smoldering from the friction?

How did they get this answer? (1)

leeosenton (764295) | more than 4 years ago | (#32898258)

Did anyone else read this article about the NHTSA not having software engineers or any ability to evaluate computerized systems? http://www.thecarconnection.com/marty-blog/1042836_nhtsa-has-no-software-engineers-or-ees-to-analyze-toyotas [thecarconnection.com] Makes this conclusion seem a bit sketchy to me? This is a good answer for Toyota, wonder how much it cost them?

Re:How did they get this answer? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32898482)

It's not clear that it's a good answer for Toyota. If there's a real problem, it's not going to go away until it's fixed. Reports saying it's not real help PR briefly, but if they slow down resolution of the problem, they're actually hurting Toyota in the long run.

Was This the Same Problem that Woz Complained Of? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32898282)

This Toyota issue has me completed confused. Was this related to the same complaint Steve Wozniak leveled at them [slashdot.org] ? I'm not a huge Woz fan but recognize that if anyone could empirically test an electronic device exhaustively he'd probably be good at it. These reports of undesired acceleration left me very confused as to what -- if anything -- all the cases had in relationship to each other.

Furthermore if we assume the same cross section of people buy Toyota as any other model, wouldn't we see this same brake/accelerator confusion among all other brands of vehicles at the same rate? I thought that cars had a pretty universal size and location for brake/accelerator/clutch in order to avoid confusion. Is this not true?

Usually when something like this happens I try to inform myself before making an opinionated statement for or against the company. With this Toyota thing I don't feel as if I'm any better off than when I first read the Woz article on Slashdot.

my first thought was... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32898284)

Is that a software driver?

Re:my first thought was... (5, Funny)

camperdave (969942) | more than 4 years ago | (#32898388)

Driver error... Great! So all Toyota needs to do is issue new drivers.

What Else did the Data Recorders Show? (3, Insightful)

Maclir (33773) | more than 4 years ago | (#32898310)

Did any of the drivers, when they found that the car was not responding to them taking their foot from the accelerator, shift the car out of gear? You know, that position on the lever between "D" and "R"? One of the first things I was taught was to slow the car down in an emergency you put your right foot on the break pedal, pressing hard, and with your left foot, push the clutch pedal in all the way - that disconnects the engine from the driving wheels.

Now, I realize that most drivers in the US these days would recognize a clutch pedal or a manual gearbox if it hit them over the head - but in an automatic transmission the same principal applies - shift into neutral (and the "N" doesn't mean "Now we are almost ready to go"....)

I guess no one wants to make the point that poor driver training and lack of ability contributed to the accidents - hey, the ambulance chasing lawyers can't sue anyone over that, and besides, we can't have any restrictions on people driving (like, are they smart enough and capable of controlling a two ton vehicle that can travel at upwards of 80 miles an hour).

Re:What Else did the Data Recorders Show? (1)

jimbobborg (128330) | more than 4 years ago | (#32898416)

You are assuming mechanical problems, not software problems. Everything is electronic in these vehicles. So even if you slapped the car into neutral doesn't mean the car will go into neutral.

Re:What Else did the Data Recorders Show? (1)

Spad (470073) | more than 4 years ago | (#32898500)

Even better if you're able to think clearly enough while hurtling along with a stuck throttle is to downshift through the gears letting engine braking slow you down; if you really want you can then up-shift from 1st/2nd to 5th and stall the car out.

Re:What Else did the Data Recorders Show? (1)

AnonymousClown (1788472) | more than 4 years ago | (#32898536)

I guess no one wants to make the point that poor driver training and lack of ability contributed to the accidents - hey, the ambulance chasing lawyers can't sue anyone over that, and besides, we can't have any restrictions on people driving (like, are they smart enough and capable of controlling a two ton vehicle that can travel at upwards of 80 miles an hour).

Yep. Couldn't have said it better.

It was also the same with the Firestone Ford Explorer tire issue a few years back. Not everyone had the problem. Why? Because those people didn't drive the SUV like a sports car.

NPR interviewed one of the people who had a problem and the women sounded like she had waayyy too much coffee. An every sentence when describing her "ordeal" began with "Baby Jane, who was in the vehicle with me at the time...." She sounded like someone who drove like an idiot and wanted the $$$$ from Ford and Firestone.

It's one thing when there's a real problem with a product - it does happen and there are cars on the road that have some, but to blame problems on one's own stupidity.

"Driver" Error? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32898314)

Does that mean software driver, or behind the wheels drive?

hmmm (1)

Charliemopps (1157495) | more than 4 years ago | (#32898326)

And what about the test they did on live TV in which a technician was able to cause a short, the car to accelorate exactly as described by people, and the computer logged it as if the throttle was wide open and no one was pressing the brakes... exactly as was found here? I can't find a link... anyone remember which broadcaster it was? I know it was one of the big 3.

surprise surprise (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32898418)

A hard to replicate error with an incredibly low rate of occurrence... a government owned competitor who needs a boost... a regulator forcing a recall before anyone really knows what's going on...

Did anyone ever think this was a real problem?

Oh that kinda driver (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32898432)

I thought they finally found where the software glitch is. But nope, same old BS.

Almost Always User Error (5, Insightful)

gotpaint32 (728082) | more than 4 years ago | (#32898454)

From the article: Police in Sheboygan Falls, Wis., investigated and believe driver error was to blame, Chief Steven Riffel said Tuesday. He said surveillance video showed that the brake lights didn't illuminate until after the crash. But Mr. Riffel said that determination is preliminary and that his agency has turned over the investigation to NHTSA. Based on the black box data, NHTSA investigators found that the brake was not engaged and the throttle was wide open, according to a person familiar with the matter. Ms. Marseille sticks by her story. "It makes me very angry when someone tells me, 'She probably hit the gas pedal instead,' because I think it's a sexist comment, an ageist comment," she said.

Brake lights are controlled by a simple switch in the brake assembly. Regardless of how much TOyota may have jacked up the throttle system I doubt they were able to screw that up too. Sounds like most these idiots are too stupid to own a car

Strange (0, Offtopic)

lennier1 (264730) | more than 4 years ago | (#32898466)

Is anybody else having flashbacks to Apple trying to blame a hardware design error on people not holding the phone in a way officially sanctioned by His Holy Steveness?

I don't buy it (1)

js3 (319268) | more than 4 years ago | (#32898468)

If it was purely driver error it would show up on quite a variety of cars, not just specific Toyota models.

Re:I don't buy it (1)

Duositex (620105) | more than 4 years ago | (#32898524)

Just like the iPhone 4 reception issue. Clearly customers are driving these cars incorrectly. Just don't drive it that way. There is no acceleration issue.

Driver problem? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32898490)

Nothing surprising, every computerized system has driver problems.

I still contend software is safe. (1)

v(*_*)vvvv (233078) | more than 4 years ago | (#32898498)

The programmers here should know. If there is a bug, it won't show itself one in a million times!!! There is nothing random about code, and I am assuming code behind a car can't be all that complicated, at least with respect to the crucial components.

It's not like cars are being hacked. And if they were, then the cause is the hackers anyway, not the code (the code may have an exploitable weakness, but the exploitation is done by people).

I'm old, but NO ONE remembers this with Audi? (1)

Maury Markowitz (452832) | more than 4 years ago | (#32898534)

Mid-to-late 80's, everyone was all over Audi's problems with sudden acceleration. The stories were clearly bogus -- couldn't stop a _manual_transmission_ car for instance. Much press coverage, "in depth reporting" on various newsmagazine shows, etc.

It's the exact same stories all over again.

People crash cars all the time. They often do it for stupid reasons, like confusing the gas peddle and brake. In the past, most would admit to themselves that this is what happened. But in today's "nothings my fault" era, you sue. And the press is just waiting to hear from you.

Maury

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