By on March 9, 2010

One of my pet gripes about the media and celebrities is the lack of follow-up and accountability. Remember all the hoopla about Steve Wozniak’s Prius with the mysterious electronics glitch that he could manipulate to create UA? My take was that obviously his cruise control had a minor bug that only showed up at over eighty mph. Woz readily admitted that he could disengage it with a tap on the brakes. Well, thanks to his celebrity status and the coverage, the story ended with Toyota agreeing to take his Prius for a week to test it thoroughly. So what happened?

Beats me. It’s not like anyone in the media is going to take the time to follow that potentially interesting story up. But based on a recent flurry of Steve’s name in a number of news stories in response to the runaway Prius, it appears nothing. NBCbayarea has a story today “Woz to Runaway Prius: I Know How You Feel”, in which the Apple co-founder expresses his sympathy:

he (Wozniak) knows all about the Prius’s acceleration problems. Wozniak, one of the world’s most famous computer engineers, applied his engineering skills to troubleshoot his car. He performed a series of experiments on his car to try to determine if there is a problem, he told NBC Bay Area in an interview Monday night. He thinks a computer glitch could be contributing to the sudden acceleration issues that have sparked a worldwide recall of the car. “Toyota says I’m wrong, and I may be,”

Wozniak goes on to describe how he can trip up the CC (without divulging the super-legal speed it only happens at), but nothing about what happened to his Prius after a week with the Toyota engineers. Meanwhile, he continues to reinforce that the Prius is ridden with electronic bugs all over the media (there are numerous stories out just today). Like this brilliant advice (via CBS):

Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak has a solution for Toyota’s problem with alleged unintended acceleration. If your car is acting up and starts to speed up on its own, treat it like a misbehaving computer–shut it down and then reboot.

His perspective is that Toyota has a software problem, a kind of “little failure” familiar to those who work with computers. Cars are microprocessor-based devices, like computers, and have bugs and glitches that can cause major or minor problems.

Sounds like he’s got it all figured out. Toyota just needs to add a Reboot button on the dash. Meanwhile, Wozniak said he’ll continue to drive his Prius, and trusts its safety, and won’t buy another car.

My guess is that he never handed it over to Toyota, or he did and they told him something he didn’t want to hear or repeat.

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33 Comments on “BS Alert 2! Steve Wozniak (And The Media) Still Spreading Prius UA Obfuscation...”


  • avatar
    Robert.Walter

    When Woz first showed-up with this story, he was interviewed on CNN … dude had the worst case of ‘can’t answer a simple question with a coherent answer-itis’ that I’ve ever seen…

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      That’s actually normal for him. There was a reason why Jobs was always the point man for VCs and partners, and if you’ve listened to Woz speak (and aren’t in the same industry as he is) you’ll understand why.

    • 0 avatar
      Robert.Walter

      Maybe so, but it was almost like watching a cat interviewing a dog … they were not quite talking past each other, but were on the cusp …

      BTW, funny pic of Woz on his Segway (dude needs to walk more, he is getting huge):

      http://blog.petaflop.de/wp-content/uploads/2008/11/steve-wozniak-woz-peeing-on-his-segway-steht-am-pissoir-pinkelt-auf-seinem-segway.jpg

  • avatar
    lilpoindexter

    At about 7pm eastern, a report comes in of somebody crashing their prius in New York…this is becomming a fad. I bet Friday’s 20/20 will be completely spent talking to “horrified” owners “scared” to drive their “killer” prius.

    • 0 avatar
      mcs

      Now there is a case of Mad Toyota Disease on Cape Cod. This time a Rav 4. Not enough information on this one. I’d wait for more info before passing judgement.

      http://www1.whdh.com/news/articles/local/BO137371/

  • avatar
    CarPerson

    Mother, in her late ’70s, was taught to kick her Dynasty into Neutral, shut off the engine, and re-start it to clear up the whole dash going nuts. This was after 6-8 trips to the dealer failed to convince them the computer was junk.

    She got so good at it that if you were following her you would never know she re-booted the computer on the fly.

    The only rules were 35mph or less, Neutral, not Park, and be careful not to lock the steering wheel.

    She finally traded it in on a Toyota Camry…

    • 0 avatar
      Robert.Walter

      My mother, of a similar age, had to do something similar, for the same reason, with her 1st PT Cruiser … but she has been happy with her 2nd and 3rd ones …

  • avatar

    Its funny how when TOYOTA is being attacked, so many websites come up with so much “data” to show that “ITS NOT JUST TOYOTA, EVERYONE HAS THIS PROBLEM….”

    But, when Ford, GM and Chrysler were under scrutiny not even 2 years ago it was:

    “detroit makes cars nobody wants”

    I’M ENJOYING EVERY SECOND OF TOYOTA’S DOWNFALL.

    I hope their stock hits $3 a share, cause I’m gonna buy into it HARD, just like I did with Ford when it was under $1.50.

    WHAT GOES AROUND COMES AROUND.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    I’m starting to think that the solution isn’t getting the brake override out there, but adding extended, comprehensive EDRs (and maybe a little camera at foot level) to all these cars.

    Toyota learned from Audi that blaming the driver didn’t work. The problem is that, when you can’t give 100% assurance that you’ve fixed the problem, all you’re left with is blaming the driver. There’s no shame in that (Renault actually sued a driver who tried to blame his SUA incident on his car) but the EDR will be critical in ensuring, one way or another, where the problem actually lies.

    • 0 avatar

      I think the solution is two yellow pull cables marked “EJECT” on either side of the driver.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      Blaming “a driver” in a certain case might be okay. Broadly blaming “the driver” isn’t much of a plan.

      No one will want to own a car with a camera built in to discredit the driver, and I bet people would just not believe EDRs, claiming it is not working correctly.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      No one will want to own a car with a camera built in to discredit the driver, and I bet people would just not believe EDRs, claiming it is not working correctly.

      I agree, but I think that’s where this whole tragic mess is going to go, eventually. On one hand, plaintiffs are going to have real trouble claiming gremlins, and defendants are going to bleed sales and recall costs. At one point, the former or (more likely) the latter is going to push for a comprehensive EDR on the grounds it will “ensure safety” and it’ll include a camera, even if it’s just a QVGA device aimed at people’s feet.

      Personally, I’m tempted to support it. I don’t like the idea of someone tracking me to that level, but I like the current trial lawyer/media feeding frenzy even less.

    • 0 avatar
      mcs

      I don’t think we’d see cameras, but I expect to see sensors that detect foot pressure on the pedals along with pedal mounted accelerometers. In addition to pedal confusion, you could detect things like pedals with sticky spots in their range of motion. For example a foot taken off a pedal would be detected and the accelerometer could detect any abnormal deceleration of the pedal mechanism as it returns. Can’t easily do that with cameras. Yes, there are a few more details to make it work, but I’m trying to keep my explanation simple.

  • avatar
    Log

    CTRL-ALT-DEL will fix it, Mr. Wozniak. Try it. A QWERTY keyboard on every dashboard. Sure beats text messaging.

  • avatar
    meefer

    Woz, god love ya, but your judgement on anything not involving an apple logo are questionable. You went on Dancing with the Stars and dated Kathy Griffin. I’m not going to trust you to find a glitch in a Prius.

    On a less direct note, if he’s so sure there is a problem, why isn’t he buying another car? There are several alternatives better for the earth. get Ed Begley Jr’s number, I’m sure he’d love to tell you all about biofuel Jettas and full-electric G-Whizs

    • 0 avatar
      stationwagon

      I would absolutely date Kathy Griffin, even if she were to make less money than I do. She’s a fox.

      Ed Begley jr. just plain creeps me out with his love of the environment and eco-friendly vehicles. I love the environment too, but not the way he does. plus I don’t drive or would buy an electric car, I think they are just novelties and I don’t believe in man-made global warming. but I’m not here to debate that.

  • avatar
    CamaroKid

    At the very least Toyota missed yet another PR opportunity of returning Woz his car with a press release that nothing was wrong with the car and it was safe to drive.

    • 0 avatar
      crash sled

      “At the very least Toyota missed yet another PR opportunity of returning Woz his car with a press release that nothing was wrong with the car and it was safe to drive.”

      .
      .

      Toyota can’t really get into that game, of doing one-off inspections and PR followup reports on every knucklehead bubble-boy floating around in the air, Woz or otherwise.

      They’ve gotta just take their medicine, ride out the hysteria, and wait for it to subside. If anything, I’d say they haven’t been minimalist enough. That pedal recall is a joke. It’s a fix designed to mitigage owner/operator stupidity, as in those who are too stupid to keep their floor pedals clear. I haven’t seen sufficient data to support the “sticky pedal” meme. Maybe it’s out there, and maybe the phenomenon can somehow occur, but I’d like to see the real data on that, from NHTSA or Toyota. Not to mention, treating a bogus symptom leads to knock-on effects, and fans the flames of hysteria.

      Just ride it out, and do the effective things, whatever they are. Ineffectual actions just makes you look… ineffectual. Since electronics issues inhere that judgement in any event, why add to the problem?

  • avatar
    97escort

    There are too much electronics in modern cars. Cars are not computers. Software glitches and electrical faults are hard to diagnose compared to mechanical failures. These failures in a stationary computer may not be a big deal, but when they happen in a vehicle at speed it is a disaster.

    Cars are essentially mechanical devices that move a physical object, people. Overemphasis on electronics in an attempt to reduce costs/increase fuel efficiency is backfiring.

    The mechanical world is taking its revenge on the electronic world.

  • avatar
    JohnAZ

    Talking about foot cameras and Power On Resets reminds me of one of my concerns about car EDRs. It seems to me that they are pretty useless unless there is an airbag deployment or an error code registered. Neither occurred in Woz’s case or that of the San Diego Prius.

    Without an EDR event, how is Toyota going to investigate anything on these cars?

    What I would suggest is that users should be able to force an EDR recording ‘event’ by some simple action that wouldn’t normally occur, such as putting the car in Neutral at speed, and/or pressing the Start/Stop button at speed. More importantly, the EDR should be able to capture more than one event. It should be able to capture several events before being overlayed with the latest event.

    Assuming there is sufficient memory available, Toyota should be able to make this change now along with their brake override change, without changing any components at a higher cost.

  • avatar
    shaker

    Of all people, Woz should know that if you overclock a Prius, it’ll lock up and possibly crash.

  • avatar
    Dr Strangelove

    It’s not the electronics, and it’s not only Toyota – see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zXp-DYzZayY (around 6:10 minutes)

  • avatar
    ClutchCarGo

    A problem has been detected with a device or driver and your Prius has been shut down to prevent damage to your car.

    If this is the first time you’ve seen this Stop error screen, restart your car. If a driver is identified in the Stop message, disable the driver or check with the manufacturer for driver updates.

    Would you like to help us improve the Prius by sending an error report to Toyota? We will not send any personally identifiable information in the report.

  • avatar
    cdotson

    The computer bug/restart analogy is appropriate. You already have to press and hold the “START” button to shut down some of these cars.

  • avatar
    Darth Lefty

    My motorbike has a killswitch. Every motorbike has a killswitch. It goes straight to the ignition. Why doesn’t every car?


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