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Drivers Blamed For Out of Control Toyotas - Again 482

Posted by Roblimo
from the Which-pedal-did-you-say-was-the-brake? dept.
PolygamousRanchKid writes "An intensive 10 month investigation into possible causes of unintended acceleration in Toyota cars found no fault with the automaker's electronic throttle control systems, the Department of Transportation announced Tuesday." Didn't the NHTSA say essentially the same thing last July?
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Drivers Blamed For Out of Control Toyotas - Again

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  • by MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) on Tuesday February 08, 2011 @07:18PM (#35144426)

    Drivers Blamed For Out of Control Toyotas - Again

    Since none of you actually RTFA's, I thought I'd do my good deed for the day and point out that they mean the people behind the wheel are the problem, not the gas pedal drivers.

    • by Gohtar (1829140) on Tuesday February 08, 2011 @07:28PM (#35144538)
      Windows has detected a Gas Pedal compliant device and is attempting to find the drivers for it. Windows could not find drivers for your device, the device may not function properly until the drivers are installed.
    • by c0lo (1497653)

      Since none of you actually RTFA's,

      TFA

      NHTSA also said it plans to propose requirements for standardized operation of push-button keyless ignition systems in cars and to require the installation of Event Data Recorders, devices that record various data including gas pedal and brake usage immediately before and after a major crash.

      (WTF?) I think the black-boxes on the planes can benefit as well from being able to record various data after a major crash.

      • by sznupi (719324)
        Well, recording efforts of some driver to, say, drive away after a major crash could be...revealing.
      • They probably want to record it in a ring buffer.

        You have memory for x seconds of data, and you fill it up from the car starting up. When its full you loop around and overwrite the earliest data.
        When there is a crash, logging stops and it all gets dumped to permanent storage.

        • by c0lo (1497653)

          When there is a crash, logging stops and it all gets dumped to permanent storage.

          And the rest of the data after the major crash is captured by the extra added layer of "Telepathy Controlled Protocol" - good that we are forced now to tap into IPv6 address space.

      • by blair1q (305137)

        They already do.

      • by mirix (1649853)

        Not every accident involves a car being ripped to 30 pieces. Seems perfectly feasible that the brake and gas pedal are still connected to the ECU shortly after the accident.

        Whereas planes generally end up in pieces...

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by blair1q (305137)

      Since one of the people behind the wheel was Steve Wozniak (previous slashdot story hyperlinked here [slashdot.org]), and he said he'd actually been able to replicate unchecked acceleration by the cruise-control system, I'm not trusting Toyota.

      They have a vested interest in not finding a cause. He could not have any possible interest in making a claim of observing a misbehavior in a car he likes to drive.

      Nor should anyone at Toyota trust Toyota.

      Nor would I trust the government. They're not likely to be bringing A+ talen

      • They have a vested interest in not finding a cause.

        While I'm unsure if there is indeed an actual software problem, you kind of do have a point. If I'm not mistaken drive by wire type systems for other things like planes are more regulated and have more legally required testing.

        Toyota and the other car companies do have a vested interest in it not being a software glitch because it would cause a huge public outcry. Lawmakers would probably add new regulations to make them put their hardware through more rigorous testing and possibly 3rd party code inspection

      • by amiga3D (567632)

        They have a vested interest in finding the cause....just not in making it public. Certainly in any system that relies on computer control glitches are possible. Finding an obscure bug can be next to impossible.

      • NHTSA != Toyota (Score:5, Insightful)

        by DragonWriter (970822) on Tuesday February 08, 2011 @08:38PM (#35145180)

        Since one of the people behind the wheel was Steve Wozniak (previous slashdot story hyperlinked here [slashdot.org]), and he said he'd actually been able to replicate unchecked acceleration by the cruise-control system, I'm not trusting Toyota.

        The results announced by the Department of Transportation were of the study conducted by the NHTSA (which, remember, fined Toyota for not responding promptly enough to the floor mat and pedal design issues) with the assistance of NASA, not by Toyota. So, whether you trust Toyota would seem to be irrelevant.

        Nor would I trust the government. They're not likely to be bringing A+ talent to the party.

        Trusting the government is, OTOH, at least relevant to the issue, since this was a government study. However, your stated basis for dismissing the government study (which amounts to "Steve Wozniak said something different, and the people working for the government are stupid") is pretty vacuous.

      • by tbannist (230135) on Tuesday February 08, 2011 @11:40PM (#35146650)

        I'm not sure Steve Wozniak's story is relevant. After doing a bit of research, I found another site that paraphrased Wozniak's own (alleged) explanation of the problem that should be linked from the story you linked. It seems his acceleration problem is that if he presses the "go faster" button on the cruise control 10 times (or more) in a row in rapid succession, the car goes faster than he wants it to go.

        I'm not sure that's actually unexpected behaviour.

      • Re:Just to clarify.. (Score:5, Informative)

        by Macman408 (1308925) on Wednesday February 09, 2011 @02:34AM (#35147658)

        I'm a Mac geek. I love Woz. But I trust Toyota more than I trust him on the matter, and here's why.

        I own the same car as the one Woz noted his problem on; a 2010 Prius V (now called the Prius Five for 2011), with the Advanced Technology package. This means it has the radar cruise control.

        The way cruise control works in some cars, like my dad's old Honda Accord is this: you press the button/lever to set a speed. Then, you press and hold a button/lever to accelerate. When you release the button, that's the new set speed, and there's no more acceleration.

        In the Prius Woz and I have, it's a bit different; there's a screen a bit to the right of the speedometer that shows the radar cruise control status, including the set speed. Each time you nudge the cruise control stalk up, the set speed goes up by 1 mph. If you hold the stalk, it jumps up in increments of 5 mph. This has no relation to your current speed; if I'm at 50 mph, I can nudge it 5 times to set it to 55 mph, and my actual speed will only be at 51 mph by the time I'm done - so the car keeps accelerating until it gets to 55, a while later. If the car is at least 5 mph below the set speed, it'll open the throttle all the way, and accelerate much more rapidly than normal; so if you nudge the cruise control stalk up enough times, eventually it'll accelerate as fast as possible, until reaching your new setting. This is probably the "unintended acceleration" Woz experienced: After nudging it enough times, the difference between the set speed and the current speed is >5 mph, causing faster acceleration. In a different car, nudging it repeatedly like that would repeatedly accelerate a fraction of a mph, then keep the current speed as the new set speed, and would never continue accelerating past the time that you release the cruise control lever.

        Steve also mentioned that nudging the lever down has no effect until he's done it 10 times or more - well of course not! While he's in his rapid (perhaps not intended by him, but it's what he told the car to do) acceleration, he nudges the lever down 10 times - and by that time, the car's speed and the set speed are back at the same level, so it stops accelerating.

        I can't say I blame Steve though - he's not the type of guy that's likely to have the time to read the manual for his car (he admitted being very busy, otherwise I expect the nerd in him would be like the nerd in me, prompting him to read it at least twice). He probably assumed it behaves like his last car (or my dad's Honda Accord, or many other cars), where it will stop accelerating once you release the lever - rather than increasing the set speed on the screen while you hold the lever, and then continuing to accelerate to that speed after the lever has been released. (Rereading his comment on /., I note he also said this: "I am sure you can't turn the car off with the keyless power button..." This is certainly wrong - when the car is in motion, you can turn the car off by holding the power button for 3 seconds - another behavior mentioned in the manual.)

        Finally, Steve told Wolf Blitzer that his problem was more akin to a button on the radio not working, as he could always cancel cruise control or press on the brakes and it would stop accelerating - so even if you believe his assessment, it's his personal opinion that it's a "surprising behavior", and not a safety issue. He also clarified that after he initially mentioned the problem, it became clear that his issue was distinct from the others reported in the media, and he didn't know if it was a widespread problem, or confined to his single car - but in any case, using the brakes always worked to stop the car, unlike most of the unintended acceleration cases in the media.

  • by ustolemyname (1301665) on Tuesday February 08, 2011 @07:19PM (#35144438)
    What they also confirmed was that mechanical issues were a factor. Just because there is no fault with the electronics doesn't mean the machines were perfectly fine.

    So far there are three known causes of unintended acceleration in Toyota vehicles: improperly installed floor mats, sticky pedals, and driver error.

    That's the second paragraph of TFA. What, submitters don't RTFA anymore?

    • by treeves (963993) on Tuesday February 08, 2011 @07:22PM (#35144476) Homepage Journal

      That does not conflict with the summary or the /. headline. "Driver error" is included in the list, and the submitter did not say that was the ONLY cause.

      • I just have to wonder that if it IS indeed driver error, why so many more incidents with this make?
        Could it be driver error that is made more likely as a result of a design issue in the car? Pedals too close together, feel too similar, some shit like that?

        Could this be a user interface issue in the oldest sense of the term?

        • A couple of incidents made the news, a few stations publicized it, and a bunch of people jumped on the bandwagon thinking they'd get big bucks in a settlement.
        • by fractoid (1076465)

          I just have to wonder that if it IS indeed driver error, why so many more incidents with this make?

          The error in question was choosing to drive this make? :P

    • by arcsimm (1084173) on Tuesday February 08, 2011 @07:33PM (#35144578)

      The summary is reasonably accurate: the NHTSA noted that while those are known problems, the "vast majority" of reports were most probably caused by driver error. NASA even noted that the frequency of reports was most directly correlated to the amount of media attention the issue had received, and not at all with design changes.

      In short, this was the Audi 5000 all over again, and people need to learn how to drive instead of blaming their mistakes on their cars.

      • In short, this was the Audi 5000 all over again, and people need to learn how to drive instead of blaming their mistakes on their cars.

        Wow that takes me back. My grandpa had that car and I remember talking to him about it at the time.

    • by StikyPad (445176)

      So far there are three known causes of unintended acceleration in Toyota vehicles: improperly installed floor mats, sticky pedals, and driver error.

      "But I repeat myself." (With apologies to Mark Twain).

      Just because there is no fault with the electronics doesn't mean the machines were perfectly fine.

      True, but just because the machines weren't perfectly fine doesn't mean it's not the driver's (or owner's) fault. Essentially these are all issues that the operator is responsible for, *especially* ensuring proper operation of the controls before taking the vehicle out on the road. Even in the (thus far) fictional scenario where an electronic malfunction sends the vehicle into WOT, if you don't know how to mitigate that by shifting into neutral and/or

    • How are improperly installed floor mats and sticky pedals two separate issues?
  • by rasper99 (247555) on Tuesday February 08, 2011 @07:20PM (#35144448)

    Same result starting with Audi 25 years ago and many more since then.

  • by MrEricSir (398214) on Tuesday February 08, 2011 @07:20PM (#35144458) Homepage

    Problem Exists Between Steering Wheel And Chair

    • Re:PEBSWAC (Score:5, Insightful)

      by v1 (525388) on Tuesday February 08, 2011 @07:29PM (#35144542) Homepage Journal

      so, more evidence supporting the popular conclusion that people are just looking for someone to blame for their panic-stomp-on-gas-instead-of-brake reaction.

      Either trying to avoid the insurance deductible, or the embarrassment of public knowledge of your bad driving I suppose.

      • Re:PEBSWAC (Score:4, Interesting)

        by EdIII (1114411) on Tuesday February 08, 2011 @08:28PM (#35145072)

        You know normally I would agree.

        However, I remember the case of Koua Fong Lee who ended up in prison. I sincerely have a hard time believing that somebody with no history of mental problems, in a car with relatives, in a car with his wife and unborn child, would accelerate down an offramp into another car... on the way home from church.

        In order to believe that Toyota has no defects I would have to believe this man just lost it and started screaming "no brakes! no brakes!" to his family while plowing into another car at 70-90mph. He also purportedly had plenty of time to stop starting at the beginning of the offramp, so it would have been a very prolonged panic-stomp-on-gas-instead-of-brake reaction. Which is strange, because if I recall correctly one of the reasons he ended up in prison was the very lack of tire tracks showing that he did brake which the prosecution used to show intent, not manufacturing defects in the car *because the onboard computer could not be wrong*.

        So I still don't know about this and I have a vested interest in it not being true since I love Toyota. Had a Prius and hybrid Highlander. I want to get another one, but this situation still gives me pause.

    • So do we conclude pure user error or should we be considering a user interface design fault as well?

      Good design should aim to reduce avoidable user error.

      • by MrEricSir (398214)

        We can start by requiring alcohol manufacturers to make their bottles and cans an unusual shape that doesn't fit in any car's cup holders.

      • by h4rr4r (612664)

        If you cannot handle your car getting the throttle stuck wide open you should not be driving.

      • Well, sure. When the interface was designed, speeds were low and it was safe enough (and quite easy, with the upright posture that lasted into the '50s and '60s) to look at your foot on the pedal to make sure you were using the right one.

        Unfortunately, we're dealing with a century of backwards-compatibility issues. Throttle and brake pedals lie next to each other, and even though drivers can no longer easily see them, unless you can convince an entire industry to adopt your obviously superior user interfac

        • by h4rr4r (612664)

          This would result in braking in tight corners at speed, the last thing you want to be doing. This is because to turn the wheel you will end up pushing it in somewhat.

  • wait what? (Score:2, Flamebait)

    by s4ltyd0g (452701)

    If it was American drivers faults, why then did we not see a rash of similar accidents with other manufacturers vehicles?

    • Re:wait what? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by h4rr4r (612664) on Tuesday February 08, 2011 @07:24PM (#35144490)

      It can be all kinds of things, the design of the pedal or which brand of idiots by what car. What I do bet is that this does not happening in stick shift vehicles. I suggest banning slushboxes as a solution.

      • I was just thinking about that. Has anyone heard of a standard shift vehicle having sudden acceleration?

        If it is driver error, could it be that people that drive automatics tend not to be the best drivers?

        I do realize that people living in citys would go crazy driving a stick shift.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by h4rr4r (612664)

          I live in a city, I do fine. Most Europeans live in cities and they all drive standards.

    • by zAPPzAPP (1207370)

      If I would crash a Toyota because of my own idiocy, I know what I would claim... "Yes, the car accelerated on it's own, just like in the news!"

    • Re:wait what? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Dachannien (617929) on Tuesday February 08, 2011 @07:30PM (#35144556)

      If it was American drivers faults, why then did we not see a rash of similar accidents with other manufacturers vehicles?

      If you had R'ed TFA, you would have R'ed this:

      "Unintended acceleration is not exclusive to Toyotas," [NHTSA deputy administrator Ron] Medford said, pointing out that two-thirds of the unintended acceleration reports the agency has received in recent years involved vehicles by other automakers.

      • by s4ltyd0g (452701)

        Sir,

        This is Slashdot. What is this article of which you speak? (-;

        So from the Article, (thank you for quoting it) they appear to say that Toyota Vehicles are involved in a full third of all unintended acceleration reports, with the other two thirds spread out amongst all the other manufacturers? That's what the quote seems to imply.

        regards

        • by h4rr4r (612664)

          Which is easily accounted for with them selling a huge percentage of cars sold, and their incompetent 60+ target demographic.

    • by SuperKendall (25149) on Tuesday February 08, 2011 @07:34PM (#35144592)

      If it was American drivers faults, why then did we not read about a rash of similar accidents with other manufacturers vehicles?

      Fixed that for you.

      We didn't read about this happening with other vehicles because other drivers couldn't get out of trouble by claiming it was the "car that did it" the way Toyota drivers could at the time.

  • by cvtan (752695) on Tuesday February 08, 2011 @07:23PM (#35144484)
    The cars are not perfect, but they are smarter than the drivers that own them.
    • by blair1q (305137)

      My Prius doesn't even know when it's still got a fifth of a tank of gas left.

      Fuck Toyota. They're going to kill someone, here.

      • by h4rr4r (612664)

        What you mean is the light comes one when gas is still in the tank?

        Because that is intentional, they trigger those early now so folks like you would stop burning up fuel pumps. You see, the fuel pump hangs in the tank and is cooled by the fuel, if the fuel gets too low it can heat up and that kills it over time.

        This is clearly driver error, even if the car accelerates suddenly. if you cannot handle your car getting the throttle stuck wide open you should not be driving. At the very least any of those folks

      • Don't worry you'll glide safely to the ground when the fuel runs out... oh wait, you are in a car.

        Snide remark aside, my former boss had a Jeep Grand Cherokee which had a fuel gauge that would stick at half a tank. He ran out of gas on the big bridge in Tampa. I believe there was a recall, but I don't think the problem resulted in any deaths.

  • by PPH (736903) on Tuesday February 08, 2011 @07:26PM (#35144516)

    ...we should be expecting new drivers on patch Tuesday.

  • by Martin Spamer (244245) on Tuesday February 08, 2011 @07:28PM (#35144530) Homepage Journal

    The incompetent are unaware of their level of incompetence and therefore must blame external elements. It called the Dunning Kruger effect [wikipedia.org].

    • It's got a real name now? Wow, I remember when that was just called the "wearing the juice" study.

    • by PortHaven (242123)

      And the arrogant refuse to hear that there is a problem. It's called the "BAD GENERAL SYNDROME". And gets lots of people killed.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      What's that? A propendancy of incompetent douchebags who like, use, wear, drive the same item?

      The car has "sudden" acceleration when you press the fucking gas pedal. You panic because you're a fucking idiot and thought you pressed the brake pedal. Instead of pulling your foot off the gas and pressing the brake pedal you press harder on the gas because you still think it's the brake pedal. Instead of slamming the car into park or reverse you keep on going down the freeway, parking lot, etc in a panic bec

      • by h4rr4r (612664)

        Neutral would be just as good and would save your transmission.

        A far simpler thing to do is just ban slushboxes.

      • by PortHaven (242123)

        How about having it happen when you release the brake? Hmm...that doesn't fit your theory.

        In my case, I believe it was a failure with the cruise control.

  • by Arancaytar (966377) <arancaytar.ilyaran@gmail.com> on Tuesday February 08, 2011 @07:33PM (#35144580) Homepage

    Installing that proprietary crap from the vendor. ... wait, not that kind of driver? Oh.

  • Otherwise you can't have lawsuits and everyone receive lottery-like settlements!

    Engineering and science must take a back seat on this one, driver error isn't an interesting enough answer.

  • by Lucky75 (1265142) on Tuesday February 08, 2011 @07:55PM (#35144800)
    Just because they "found no problem" (publicly) with the cars, doesn't mean that there isn't one. I've experienced one of these things accelerating personally (multiple times, actually) and I can tell you that there IS something wrong with the cars. I didn't crash into anything, so I don't really have any reason to lie, Don't believe these "findings".
    • by navyjeff (900138)
      What was the nature of your experience with the car accelerating? Did it repeat it under similar or common set of circumstances? Did you find a cause for the unintended acceleration? Not trolling, just curious.
      • by Mashiki (184564)

        Did you know that if either the lower O2 sensor, or the EGR valve are bad/failing/etc, that you'll get acceleration without doing anything? It's because the engine revs higher, in order to compensate for a bad fuel mixture.

    • by h4rr4r (612664)

      Ok so we should believe you over the actual experts?

      How is this for a little thought experiment;
      Odds that their is some conspiracy to cover this up, vs the known fact that none of these drivers were capable enough to simply put the vehicle in neutral and might have been poor enough drivers to be actually standing on the gas and thought it the brake.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by raftpeople (844215)

        Ok so we should believe you over the actual experts?

        This is what the "experts" said about the KNOWN causes:

        improperly installed floor mats, sticky pedals, and driver error

        What they have not been able to determine is what happened in the documented case of the person that brought his car to the dealership while the engine was pegged (he put it in neutral and back out to limp back to the dealer).
        Toyota admits that the person did come in and they were unable to determine why the accelerator was stuck.

        You are a little naive if you think a complex situation like this can be put to rest by some "experts" with limited res

    • by PortHaven (242123)

      Ditto, I had a similar occurrence with my Prius. It's actually an older model. I suspect a glitch in the cruise control.

      In my situation I hit the break, and slowed the car. But then it accelerated when I released the brake. The engine rev'd up. It did so the same way cruise control does if you've got a heavy load and hit a hill.

  • Their hardware is good, but their drivers suck.

  • the Mythbusters need to test Toyota's!

  • by maugle (1369813) on Tuesday February 08, 2011 @08:15PM (#35144964)
    I am very disappointed with these findings...

    Back when they thought the car could just flip out and accelerate wildly, a Prius was a man's car! Oh, "I need some groceries, I guess I'll drive to the store in my ticking time bomb death machine!" You just can't get much manlier than that!

    Now it's back to being a wussy hippiemobile.
    Sigh.
  • by PortHaven (242123) on Tuesday February 08, 2011 @08:24PM (#35145026) Homepage

    As I had this happen myself. I do not buy the whole "human error".

    And there might be a very very easy way to prove or disprove that statement. If it is human error, than the same incident should occur throughout all brands with approx. the same level of occurrence.

    If it is happening significantly higher with Toyotas. Then there is clearly a non-human error issue. Simple logic here. But the fact that I had this occur to me once with my Toyota leaves me to suspect Toyota. Thankfully, I did not get into an accident. And within 2-3 seconds I got it to stop. (I do wonder if it might be tied to the cruise control system.)

    • by Nerdfest (867930)
      Your theory does not take a publicized problem and lucrative lawsuit settlements into account.
  • by Surt (22457) on Tuesday February 08, 2011 @08:48PM (#35145294) Homepage Journal

    Just because a lot of Toyotas are out of control doesn't mean there's a problem with Toyotas. Clearly, out of control drivers prefer to buy Toyota.

  • by neowolf (173735) on Tuesday February 08, 2011 @08:59PM (#35145392)
    So then a disproportionately high number of people who can't tell the difference between the brake and accelerator just happen to drive Toyotas or Toyota-built cars? Sorry, not buying it. There is a pretty serious design flaw at work here, and this report doesn't really exonerate Toyota.
  • by RogueWarrior65 (678876) on Tuesday February 08, 2011 @09:41PM (#35145758)

    This sort of thing has me raising eyebrows. Toyota was crucified in the court of public opinion and hauled up before a congressional inquisition (NO ONE EXPECTS THE SPANISH INQUISITION!!!) with few real facts to back it up. IMHO, those congressmen who went on a witch hunt owe Toyota an apology. Sure, companies need to admit and rectify problems but government and the media regularly get away with firebombing companies and regular people and they get away with it.

  • by PJ6 (1151747) on Tuesday February 08, 2011 @10:32PM (#35146148)

    Anyone with engineering and manufacturing experience, particularly in an industry where your mistakes can kill people, would say that calling the cause "driver error" is a red herring, totally irrelevant. If they found, after controlling for age and demographic and whatnot, that Toyotas were causing deaths significantly more often than other cars (this is the case, right?), it doesn't matter what the cause is - it's a design fault. Period.

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