By on January 31, 2010

The Obama administration either decided that Toyota has been sufficiently maimed and weakened to give its wards of the state some breathing room (a theory rising in popularity amongst some conspiracy buffs), or Toyota has definitely found the definitive cure for UAS (unintended acceleration syndrome). Be it as it may, the NHTSA has approved the shim fix, says Reuters. If the Wall Street Journal got it right, recalled Toyotas may also get a re-flash, and a feature amiss in most American cars.

Toyota said in a statement late on Saturday that it had reviewed the pedal fix with NHTSA and was finalizing details. According to Reuters, “the remedy being readied by Toyota and its accelerator supplier, CTS Corp, involves a shim, also called a spacer that will be placed in the accelerator to keep it from sticking.”

Also, “approved” may be too strong a word. NHTSA regulators don’t “approve” a fix (which would mean they would be responsible for it), but they can reject the approach if they consider it inadequate.

NHTSA did not reject the approach. Our in-house teardown staff and the B&B mostly think the shim is a placebo measure.

In the meantime, UAS spreads faster than the swine flu. Toyotas are recalled in Israel, China, and points east. PSA  recalls 100,000 Peugeot 107 and Citroen C1 models made at a factory in the Czech Republic where the French group and Toyota jointly make cars. Ford halted production of some full-sized commercial vehicles in China because they contain the same CTS pedal. UAS seems to be contagious.

Injuryboard.com, home of ambulance chasers, asks an inconvenient question: Why does Toyota “not utilize cheap and effective ‘smart pedal’ technology in its vehicles?”  Smart is actually a bit of a reach. With this technology, which shouldn’t cost much more than a bunch of lines of code in the ECU, the engine goes to idle if the brake pedal and gas pedal are pushed at the same time. Which corrects the most common cause for UAS: Pilot error.

Lo and behold, that feature might come:  “In its most recent recall, Toyota further proposes a software change to allow a foot on the brake to close the throttle of runaway cars,” writes the Wall Street Journal. Does your car have such a feature? According to Injuryboard, if it’s a recent Mercedes-Benz, a BMW, a Nissan, an Infiniti, an Audi, or a Volkswagen, it most likely does. If it’s a U.S. car, a Volvo, or a Honda, most likely it does not. Wait, some Chryslers have it, say the ambulance chasers.

Expect recalls of all cars without that feature. Finally: Jobs!

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36 Comments on “NHTSA To Toyota: Do The Shimmy...”


  • avatar
    Philip Riegert

    Very interesting. I would love for people to post links for confirmed accidents or any deaths relating to toyota gas pedals. If this is in fact a placebo fix I am sure it will work. The entire floor mat recall is going to be ‘fixed’ with a redesigned gas pedal pad.

    This sounds silly. But being a Toyota dealership service employee: if this will silence the roaming masses – all the better.

    • 0 avatar
      pgcooldad

      The article below under “Hundreds of Complaints” highlights one incident of death in which an elderly couple’s 2002 Camry accelerated off the fourth floor parking structure of a Casino in Vegas.

      You can also read this tidbit which I was just made aware of:

      “Over the past 10 years, NHTSA had launched more investigations into sudden acceleration in Toyotas than all other automakers combined.”

      http://www.freep.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20100131/BUSINESS01/1310523/1318/Toyota-accused-of-not-being-frank-on-problem&template=fullarticle

    • 0 avatar
      lostjr

      Phillip asked for links. Couple of good stories in this one:

      http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-toyota-pedal30-2010jan30,0,790073,full.story

      “Jeffrey Pepski, a financial consultant in suburban Minneapolis, said his Lexus ES350 accelerated to 80 miles per hour on a freeway in the Twin Cities last year. At one point, Pepski said, he hooked his toe under the pedal to pull it up. It was not stuck and the floor mat was not interfering with the pedal, he said. That did not solve the problem, he said.

      Pepski said he described his actions to NHTSA investigators and a Toyota expert, and they didn’t believe him. In October, NHTSA closed an investigation prompted by a defect petition filed by Pepski without taking action. Pepski traded in the vehicle to a Toyota dealer.”

      ….

      As a service person, you might like this one:

      “Kevin Haggerty, a New Jersey volunteer firefighter, said his 2007 Avalon accelerated out of control last month, the second time it had happened. By shifting back and forth into neutral, he was able to drive the car to a Toyota dealer, who he said was unable to pinpoint a problem.

      Haggerty said dealership technicians could not find anything obstructing the pedal, but they replaced the pedal, electronic components and the engine throttle system.”

      Not accidents or deaths in this cases, but more fulsome explanations.

  • avatar
    criminalenterprise

    By employing a shotgun method in handling this recall, Toyota run the risk of looking incompetent.

    And anyone who thinks the NHTSA is being manipulated to provide a service to GM is an idiot. The unwashed masses who buy Camrys for their perceived quality aren’t cross-shopping the Malibu, they’re going to buy Accords.

    • 0 avatar
      pgcooldad

      Your final sentence makes a good point.

      Looking at this as an investor, which company is going to profit the most from this fiasco?
      Is it Honda or Ford? Which one should we buy stock in? Or split between both?

      I can’t short a stock on my 401K or else I would have already done so with Toyota. That would have been easy money.

    • 0 avatar
      Robert.Walter

      I agree with “CrookCo” on the first point and would go even further:

      Toyota is faced with a conundrum, zig, and be thought incompentent, zag and be thought disingenuous … instead of doing the zig-zag-manba, Toyota needs to get its “poop in a group” and come forward with a coherent story and plan …

      Like C.E., I so totally don’t believe in a government conspiracy here … the way Toyota is stomping on own schniedel the gov’t doesn’t have to take any action here … OTOH, if the gov’t were disposed to act, I bet that the concept of cross-shopping wouldn’t even enter their collective consciousness … but the conspiracy dog don’t hunt.

    • 0 avatar

      pgcooldad: Looking at the chart, I’d say buy Toyota below $70. Both Ford and Honda look overbought.

    • 0 avatar
      Runfromcheney

      Everybody around where I live think that GM is going to benefit big from this Toyota debacle because they are offering to get people out of their Toyota leases. Um, no.

      Since most of Toyota’s customer base are people that GM screwed over, GM will not gain a single sale from this mess. The big winners are going to be (in order of most sales gained) Hyundai, Honda and Ford.

  • avatar
    Mr Carpenter

    It isn’t anything to do with selling more Malibu cars for Generous Messup, it has everything to do with power plays, politics (sorry, I repeat myself) and ensuring that Toyoda (the man) and Toyota (the company) knows “who” are in charge of everything. And yes, the mainstream mass media are pretty well totally controlled. Perhaps in order to clearly see that fact, one must be of sufficient age to have lived during times or studied times past when it wasn’t so in this country. At least, to this level, in any case. Example: does any reasonably minded person think that Watergate would come out and cause the damage to the powers that be if it happened today? If you do, just keep drinking that koolaid…

    If you look at how the 1930′s mob bosses and later mafiosa worked, or how things work in Russia, you then will have some glimpse into the reality of the current day situation in the US.

    I don’t believe it is a “conspiracy” because the powers that be in both major parties have done what they want in plain sight.

    As Gerald Celente would say, the merger of political and corporate interests at the expense of the interests of the citizenry, is called fascism.

    Those of us (increasingly less of a minority) who see this all for what it is regard those who can’t or won’t see the facts clearly placed in fron t of them as either part of the problem, or delusional.

    • 0 avatar

      Thank you for explaining why those blue helmets were fast roping out of that black helicopter by my neighbor’s Camry. If I wrap a Toyota in aluminum foil, with the Trilateral Commission’s scanners still pick it up and make it crash? Enquiring minds want to know!

    • 0 avatar
      Hippo

      Straight out of the Cjcago Mob book, every crisis is a opportunity.

      More people should read Celente.

  • avatar

    She’s a little heavy to be a belly dancer…but since I like chicks like this, she can work my shimmy!

    • 0 avatar
      Monty

      Oh no, au contraire, she’s just about the perfect size and shape to be a belly dancer. She’s got the hips, and the nice padding all around to get that shimmy looking uber hot. Mmm, mmm, mmm.

    • 0 avatar
      educatordan

      I concur Gentlemen, most cars and women perform a little better with junk in the trunk. You can bet she’s not a high maintenance, finicky exotic.

      Back to the topic at hand. It will be years before we know the whole story about this, perhaps a nice tell all about it will come out during the new decade.

  • avatar
    chuckR

    32 bit CPUs are in (or are planned for) cars. With 32 bit OS’es. Sensors and embedded processors contend for a decision share. Think about that. How’s Windows32/64 treating you? Always reliable? When you get the blue screen of death, you at least have the opportunity to debug the problem or have it debugged. That’s available in what is usually non-life threatening circumstances.

    In cars, there may or may not be enough data logged to figure anything out. Its usually not accessible. I predict that it will be soon. 4gb flash sticks are so cheap I got one as part of a marketing campaign. US tort attorneys won’t like it and at least one person in one or two car accidents won’t either, and car companies won’t either, but I think it will come. Privacy issues will need to be addressed – maybe no access without a court order?

    Please don’t think I like the idea, I just think it will happen. And it would be a useful diagnostic tool for problems like this.

    • 0 avatar

      MY S550′s computer manages GPS, radio, HVAC and the seat controls without fail. I’ve heard of problems with the computer needing to be reflashed, but I’ve also heard about that happening in many other heavily computer governed models from BMW.

      Computers are getting better and better. So long as there is a reboot on/off button it shouldn’t be too hard to recover from a firmware failure.

      Have you seen MYFORD computer system?

    • 0 avatar
      chuckR

      @flashpoint MY S550’s computer manages GPS, radio, HVAC and the seat controls without fail.

      So far. Compare the number of S class cars to the number of Toyotas. These problems aren’t common – thank God – and may need more miles by more cars to occur. I’m more concerned about the CPU(s) that control ABS, ESC, and other critical functions – come to think of it, if your seat controls went rogue and mashed you up against the steering wheel, that might qualify……
      Deployed the late 70′s, the F-16 had one functionally descriptive nickname – the Electric Jet. The pilots, top of the heap, right stuff, etc, etc, would suggest what they wanted to happen and the Electric Jet would make it so. Pretty common now. We car drivers are proceeding along that path and the Nissan GT-R pilots are in the lead……

    • 0 avatar
      tced2

      Windows 32/64 will not be running any engine computer in mass produced cars. First, no manufacturer would want to pay the Microsoft tax for the use of the operating system. There are many other operating systems that are very applicable to this job (and cheaper). Second, Windows is not a real-time operating system – i.e. it is not designed to react in real and predictable time to inputs. Third, Windows is a general use operating system and requires too much overhead to run and draw windows on the screen etc – no engine computer is going to be drawing windows on a screen, reacting to mouse clicks, playing audio or video. The engine control is going to be responding to control inputs and sending out signals in a predictable time. The “hourglass” or “beachball” is not acceptable for real-time control.

    • 0 avatar
      chuckR

      Agreed, a 32 bit RTOS will have no hourglasses – real time implies the right answer at the wrong time is still the wrong answer. However, an RTOS will only work as well as the programmers assumptions and abilities and QA. At some level of complexity, the whole mess will probably need a dumpfile as more features and conveniences are layered on. Win32/64 is just a good example of how a hugely expensive and relentlessly checked-out OS can still screw up as it interacts with applications.

      edit Microsoft is one of the players in the automotive software business and they and the other players need more reliability than a PC OS and apps. And the car manufacturers would benefit from event data logging.

  • avatar
    kps

    With this technology, which shouldn’t cost much more than a bunch of lines of code in the ECU, the engine goes to idle if the brake pedal and gas pedal are pushed at the same time.
    So how are you supposed to challenge the guy beside you at the light?

    I’ve been looking at a download of the service manual for one of the affected models (hint: engine 2AZ-FE), and there’s no signal from the brake to the ECU. That doesn’t mean it can’t be retrofitted — there’s always the CAN bus nearby — but it wouldn’t be cheap and easy.

    • 0 avatar
      kps

      I may need to retract that — there’s a “Stop Light SW” signal that sounds like it might be connected to the brake — I need to download more of the manual and search further.

    • 0 avatar
      Robert.Walter

      If there is a x-BUS system (like CAN or Flex-Ray) communicating between the key systems of the vehicle, there should be myriad ways of knowing if the pedal is being pressed … the most obvious would be, if Toyota uses this approach, would be a pressure switch in the brake system (the kind of feature that caused Ford their “unintended thermal event” whopper recall)…

      Anytime the ABS is on, the engine should never be allowed to be at WOT…

      I find it hard to understand why the disparity between ABS activation and a WOT condition in a full-brake-vs-WOT situation wouldn’t give a clear indication of the situation to the ECU so that the engine would be cut-off …

    • 0 avatar
      YotaCarFan

      Assuming by 2AZFE engine you’re referring to a 2007-2010 I4 Camry: I just checked the wiring diagram and cross referenced it with the brake system component breakout for the ’07 Camry. Its “stop light switch” is the one activated by the brake pedal that illuminates the rear brake lights; and, it does feed the engine control module (computer). So, for that model, adding the safety cut feature would be no more than a software change. Not knowing the structure of the ECM software, it’s impossible to say whether this is a simple “tweak” or more complicated.

      Regarding not allowing WOT if ABS is engaged: If the engine is going full-bore, the front (drive) wheels definitely won’t lock up; and, if the car’s moving fast, the rear ones won’t either. So, ABS won’t engage. Your mention of ABS made me think of some firmware that could be complex in design and if it failed or was buggy it could (maybe?) override the driver’s intent to slow the engine: VSC (vehicle stability control), which can reduce throttle to counteract under/over steer. Since it’s only executed when the car skids and since most drivers don’t encounter these situations every day, problems (if any) in it will be exhibited less frequently and may be less likely to be noticed.

    • 0 avatar

      YoaCarFan: If this is the case, then it is a few lines of code. With that mod, if the stoplight switch fails (it does) you car fails with it (if the switch seizes ON)and causes thousands of $ of repair until they find the busted 0.25$ switch. But your safety is our utmost concern.

  • avatar
    criminalenterprise

    kps: There is an interlock signal from the brake to the automatic transmission though, correct?

    • 0 avatar
      Robert.Walter

      Not necessarily, in the early days, it was just a current (provided after key was rotated to acc position and brake pedal was pressed) that activated a solenoid in the column or floor selector, the solenoid would then move something (depends on OEM) that would unblock the selector mechanism column = pull lever out of the park detent, floor = push button and move handle … etc.

      These systems are getting more sophisticated including features like park-detect switches and ePRNDLS, and comparisons in the ECU between what the park-detect switch says and what the position of the outer manual lever on the AT is… so there would be more opportunity to take advantage of the brake-light, cruise-control cut-off switches…

      So, depending on the level of sophistication in a particular vehicle the answer could be yes or no.

  • avatar
    Telegraph Road

    “Ford halted production of full-sized commercial vehicles in China because they contain the same CTS pedal.”

    Not exactly. Jiangling, partly owned by Ford, is resuming production of Ford’s Transit Classic diesel commercial vans equipped with CTS pedals. These CTS pedals are not the same as the Toyota-designed ones involved in the Toyota recall.

  • avatar
    Robert Schwartz

    “She’s a little heavy to be a belly dancer…but since I like chicks like this, she can work my shimmy!”

    No, she is perfect. She looks like a woman.

  • avatar

    Telegraph Road: Thank you, I added “some” ….

  • avatar
    Kendahl

    Reflashing the car’s computer won’t do anything when the driver is trying to stop the car by pressing as hard as possible on the accelerator pedal. To cure that problem, you would need to reflash the driver’s brain. (While you’re at it, add a few lines of code to keep slowpokes out of the inside lanes.)

    I can’t decide about the dancer. She’s wearing too much for me to collect sufficient data.

  • avatar
    reclusive_in_nature

    So let me get this straight….Toyota is suffering from a perception gap!

  • avatar

    A shimmy and a flash fix. The lord is indeed with us and is obviously into making us hapi.

  • avatar
    George B

    I would guess that the hard part of updating the ECU software to prevent WOT when the brake light switch is on is looking for unintended consequences and testing the resulting code.

    I vote for using Shakira to show how to shimmy.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vJsZR3w776E

  • avatar

    I really like the video. She’s terrific. Lovely. Skillful. Did someone say something about Toyota?

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    I had an ex who used to belly-dance semi-professionally. It’s a worthwhile skill, it really is.


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