By on March 12, 2010

Based on my experience in the 1980s helping investigate unintended acceleration in the Audi 5000, I suspect that smart pedals cannot solve the problem. The trouble, unbelievable as it may seem, is that sudden acceleration is very often caused by drivers who press the gas pedal when they intend to press the brake.

Say what? UCLA professor emeritus of psychology Richard A. Schmidt seems to believe that something other than demonic possession is causing Toyotas to accelerate out of control. Research into the Audi 5000 debacle showed him that even experienced drivers can in fact screw up, and that absent any provable mechanical or electronic failure, the chances are good that most UA events are caused by driver error. And in one of the best op-eds yet penned on the Toyota unintended acceleration scandal [at the NY Times], he explains how anyone could accidentally drive a car of any make out of control.

After explaining that inspections of the runaway Audis found no signs of system failure, Schmidt says experts began to consider the possibilities of human error. Although not because the theory was any more popular than it is today.

In the cases that went to court, jurors naturally asked, why would a driver with decades of driving experience suddenly mistake the accelerator for the brake? And why would the episode last so long — often 6 to 10 seconds or more? Wouldn’t that be ample time to shut off the ignition, shift to neutral or engage the parking brake?

Schmidt’s answer:

First, in these situations, the driver does not really confuse the accelerator and the brake. Rather, the limbs do not do exactly what the brain tells them to. Noisy neuromuscular processes intervene to make the action slightly different from the one intended. The driver intends to press the brake, but once in a while these neuromuscular processes cause the foot to deviate from the intended trajectory — just as a basketball player who makes 90 percent of his free throws sometimes misses the hoop. This effect would be enhanced by the driver being slightly misaligned in the seat when he first gets in the car.

The answer to the second question is that, when a car accelerates unexpectedly, the driver often panics, and just presses the brake harder and harder. Drivers typically do not shut off the ignition, shift to neutral or apply the parking brake.

Just because it’s mundane, doesn’t mean it’s not the truth. As proof, Schmidt cites the introduction of automatic shift lock, which did not “entirely do away with sudden acceleration incidents.” The conclusion?

The fix now championed by the Obama administration could work in situations in which there is an actual vehicle defect. It would tell the car that if it receives signals to both accelerate and brake, the accelerator should go dead so that the brake alone will work.

But this smart-pedal system can be of no use if the driver is simply pressing the accelerator and not touching the brake. The unintended acceleration — and the crash — would still occur.

What the smart pedal may do, however, is finally give us a sense of whether sudden acceleration tends to stem from operator error. If the reports of acceleration continue (and the smart pedals work properly), then there will be nothing and no one left to blame but the driver.

If only. The self-preservation instinct that helps keep us safe behind the wheel, has a nasty habit of deluding us into thinking we’re somehow not to blame for our screwups. As long as that’s the case, complaints of cars not doing what they’re told will continue to pop up.

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61 Comments on “Quote Of The Day: Been There, Done That, Edition...”


  • avatar
    Mr Carpenter

    Finally, a voice of reason.

    In the meanwhile, in one hour (early on with this debacle), $7 billion was apparently wiped off the value of Toyota stock.

    Oh boo hoo, I hear you say?

    You got a 401(k) / retirement plan? I bet unbeknownst to you, some of your money is in TOYOTA STOCK.

    Now what was that I hear? (More crying, eh?)

    Someone should tell the imbeciles in Washington that actions have consequences….

    • 0 avatar
      davey49

      Don’t worry, they’ll make it back
      I mean, have you seen the new Sienna?

    • 0 avatar
      CarPerson

      I submit the Paul Niedermeyer/David42 March 4, 2010 tables and charts. Please review the cyan line on the “ANY type of vehicle speed incident” chart and tell me again the Toyota Camry doesn’t stand out head and shoulders above the comparables.

      http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/nhtsa-data-dive-2-ua-rates-1990-2009-by-manufacturer-updated-with-new-charts/#more-347

  • avatar
    bmoredlj

    It would be great if neurologists could actually study how our primal self-preservation instinct deludes us into thinking we are performing Action A, when in reality we’re performing Action B while driving a car…but it wouldn’t be easy. Test subjects would have to somehow be made to believe they’re about to die in a bout of UA, and in fact could not even be aware they’re test subjects, lest that information taint their neurological and psychological responses throughout the experiment.

    Are we hearing about more instances of UA – esp. in Toyotas – because of all the media attention, or because the brains of people bored to death with their Toyotas are suddenly having, for lack of a better term, “UA moments”, or because these cars’ accelerators, brakes, and transmissions are malfunctioning simultaneously???

  • avatar
    Steven02

    I understand what has been said, but there have been 2 different mechanical problems that have been discovered and recalled as part of the UA investigation at Toyota.

    In this case, there is no absence of provable problems. There is also a higher degree of incidents at Toyota than any other auto manufacture. Just because the Audi problem was later thought to be driver error doesn’t mean that this problem is driver error.

    Besides, there have been reports of fire coming from the wheels in some UA cases, suggesting that the brakes were engaged.

    But note one very important thing here. It says that when driver panic, they often don’t put the car into neutral or shut it off.

    • 0 avatar

      Steven02 said:
      “There is also a higher degree of incidents at Toyota than any other auto manufacture.”

      That’s not entirely true. With the exception of the Lexus ES350, Toyota doesn’t stand out at all.

      http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/nhtsa-data-dive-3-117-models-ranked-by-rate-of-ua-incidents/

    • 0 avatar
      Steven02

      Toyota has 6 of the top 10 vehicles listed. It isn’t only the ES. Toyota looks quite high on the list. The next biggest maker looks to be Ford’s products who own the other 4 of the top ten. Toyota might not stand out compared next to Ford, but against the rest of the auto makers, I would say that they do.

    • 0 avatar
      wsn

      Uh, no, VW has a greater UA rate. But the data of VW and any other German makes is mysteriously erased.

    • 0 avatar
      CarPerson

      @Dorri732

      See the chart of the Toyota Camry vs a couple others. It seems to stand out quite a bit.

      http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/nhtsa-data-dive-2-ua-rates-1990-2009-by-manufacturer-updated-with-new-charts/#more-347666

  • avatar
    porschespeed

    Ahh, my mother’s 5000S, with tan leather, nice ride for the time.

    A wonderful car’s resale ruined by people who just couldn’t admit they pushed the wrong pedal. Ugh.

    Even funnier, they claimed to be mashing the brake to the floor. Yeah, right.

    Still waiting to see one, just one, plausible explanation for *any* pre-DBW UI incident that didn’t have a readily identifiable mechanical fault.

    Until full-DBW hit, the only proven ghost in the machine was behind the wheel.

  • avatar
    Stratos

    “As long as that’s the case, complaints of cars not doing what they’re told will continue to pop up. Let’s just”

    “Let’s just” what? I would love to know the conclusion of your extremely well written post.

  • avatar
    ajla

    I guess the reason I’m skeptical of the driver error angle in Toyota’s SUA issue is that most people are claiming “I deliberately accelerated first, and then my car just kept on going” instead of “I went to stop by pressing on my brakes and the car just took off”.

    Also, a lot of these Toyota claims are much longer than the 6-10 seconds. I have to think that after several minutes of barreling down the highway that people would think to check their feet.

  • avatar
    eggsalad

    In case of unintended acceleration, press your left foot to the floor and dump the clutch. All acceleration will cease immediately. Problem solved.

    What’s that you say? Oh, you’re one of the 92% of all Americans that’s to god damned lazy or ill-trained to drive a car with a clutch.

    Now you know why Europeans have far fewer claims of UA.

  • avatar
    Mailbox20

    Brake override still gives an OEM only one leg to stand on. Next claim will be that the driver mashed on the brakes and the override didn’t work. Hopefully EDR can help explain that.

  • avatar
    PeriSoft

    This is why people need to be trained to left foot brake in automatics. Not only does it eliminate pedal confusion, but eliminating the half-second it takes to swap your foot from the gas to the brake chops a good 40 feet off a 60-to-0 stop.

    It’s honestly kind of absurd that people not only don’t do it as a matter of course, but are irrationally scared by it. You’ve got two pedals and two feet down there, and somehow it’s horrifying to think of assigning a foot to each pedal? How is that explained by anything but inertia from the olden days when people actually drove sticks?

    The usual response is that people will drag the brakes all the time, as if having your left foot over the brake pedal forces you to constantly brake, but somehow having your right foot over the accelerator doesn’t force you to constantly accelerate…

    Aside from that bit of foolishness (“People aren’t already trained to do it right, therefore we shouldn’t train people to do it, despite huge, huge safety advantages”) the only arguments I see are vague expressions of alarm based on the idea that it Just Isn’t Done.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      No. No, no, no.

      And No. Precisely for the reason the good professor outlines above. Even trained, professional drivers can make the kinds of foot placement errors that lead to SUA, and the likelihood of that happening goes up when, in a panic, both feet mash down. This is exactly how SUA or deceleration incidents with manual transmissions (yes, they happen) occur: the driver means to clutch and misses, panics, and presses harder.

      Left-foot braking for rally drivers and drag-racers? Sure. For people like my mother-in-law (a life-long two-footer who has rear-ended way more than her fair share of cars). No.

      Maybe we need to design a system where acceleration must be deliberate (like a motorbike’s twist-grip) and returns to zero in panic. Two-foot braking would be exactly the opposite.

    • 0 avatar
      210delray

      Because I’ve always had at least one manual transmission vehicle in our family “fleet,” I use the left foot exclusively for the clutch. The right foot does gas and brake duty.

      Talk about pedal misapplication: one day after arriving at my car (1980 Volvo 240) parked in the hot summer sun all day, I started up the car and proceeded down a 4-lane highway. The car had no a/c so I must have been a little delusional from the stifling heat and humidity, went to upshift (maybe from second to third?), and firmly planted my left foot on the brake and MASHED it, bringing the car to a complete stop. Luckily there was no one close behind me.

      The funny thing is that even though I “knew” my foot was on the wrong pedal, I just held it there until I stopped. Needless to say, that car got a/c installed the very next spring. BTW, I was only 31 when this happened, so there were no old-age problems then. And I was stone cold sober.

    • 0 avatar
      davejay

      “I must have been a little delusional from the stifling heat and humidity, went to upshift (maybe from second to third?), and firmly planted my left foot on the brake and MASHED it, bringing the car to a complete stop. Luckily there was no one close behind me.”

      Heh, I can do you one better: for a while, I had a 2001 Sentra stick and my wife had a 2000 Sentra automatic. We were on a long highway drive in the automatic one, and I was driving; my wife was videotaping me as we drove, talking about something stupid, and as we were passing by Las Vegas traffic slowed and I went to clutch in. Which means my wife now has video consisting of me talking, then a loud screech and the camera hitting the dashboard, followed by us laughing hysterically and me explaining that I’d just floored the brakes at 75mph thinking I was pushing the clutch in.

      Oh, and once I was driving along in my little VW rabbit (when I was much younger), crawling through traffic on the highway in Chicago that had gone down to one lane, with a police car behind me, when suddenly my car died. I didn’t want to block all this traffic with a cop behind me (I was young, so that was my first thought, not WTF is wrong with the car) so I put it in neutral, opened the door, stepped out with the car still moving a bit, and started pushing it over to the side hoping the momentum and my weak-ass self would be enough to get me there. After I pushed it over, I got back in, went to turn the key off to try and restart it — and discovered the key was already off, I’d evidentially bumped it with my knee. Der.

    • 0 avatar
      PeriSoft

      @psarhjinian

      As the car and driver test linked here a few days ago pointed out, mashing down both pedals stops the car – a bit more slowly, but it stops it. In a car with a brake override, it stops the car normally.

      Mashing down your one usable foot on the accelerator by accident will *never* stop the car.

      At any rate, if your argument is that drivers mash down any available appendage automatically in a panic, we probably need to throw the whole damned control scheme out the window, because nothing is going to help if you assume an uncontrollably witless driver under all circumstances. God knows what the arms will do in a panic if the feet start twitching around randomly, but we don’t let that stop us from using steering wheels. At least, not yet.

      Under circumstances where a driver is nominally well-trained (left foot for the brake; right foot for the throttle; don’t push ‘em both at once) and not an utter nervous wreck, the benefits are manifold. The control scheme as-is wasn’t picked by a group of scientists because they studied different options and ended up with the best one; it was picked by default because people used to have to use clutches.

      They don’t now (Yes, reader, I know that YOU are a real man and drive a stick; I’m not talking to you) so there’s no reason to right foot brake any more than there is to use a tiller instead of a steering wheel.

      You can always cherry-pick situations where a crappy driver used left foot braking. Great – they probably used windshield wipers too; that doesn’t mean nobody else should.

      Most people aren’t complete nincompoops. The fact that relatively few people run into stuff while behind the wheel proves it. And it’s terrible policy to deny the 90% of drivers who are competent a technique which could save lives and property just because Aunt Edna was dumber than a bag of hammers.

    • 0 avatar
      Daanii2

      We’re building a proof-of-concept electric car that can use driver controls other than just a typical steering wheel, accelerator and brake.

      Since we can easily plug in different kinds of controls, we’re trying several. A gaming-type two-axis joystick seems to work pretty well in simulation. We’ll see how it works on the real car.

      When you think about it, the driver controls we have now are legacy systems that have outlived their usefulness. No need, now, for wheels and pedals that produce mechanical force. Yet they live on, now amplified by hydraulics (except for the accelerator) that make unamplified manual operation very hard.

      With ships, by comparison to cars, the old wheels have long been replaced. We can, and I think should, do the same with cars.

    • 0 avatar
      niky

      The reason we still have a steering wheel is that it’s intuitive, and having a control that gives you enough range of motion to keep straight easily and enough sensitivity to steer is important.

      That’s why most modern RC controllers have steering wheels, because they’re easier to use than sticks… a stick with the same range as a wheel would have to have a long throw, impractical in a cramped cabin.

      The pedals and levers, though… all the rest of that can change.

    • 0 avatar
      Daanii2

      You may be right about the steering wheel, Niky. It will be interesting to see how, or if, that evolves.

      The best new control system I have heard of is the Guida, built by SKF for GM’s Autonomy concept car. It is more a yoke than a steering wheel. The accelerator is in the right grip. Brake in the left.

      Apparently, people had a lot of trouble getting used to it. A reporter damaged the car by steering it into a curb. The main difficulty was that the yoke had about 20 degrees of play instead of 720.

  • avatar
    Dynamic88

    I’m not buying it. It’s hard to see the explanation for a higher concentration of “Noisy neuromuscular processes” among Toyota drivers. Ford also seems to get a lot of these people.

    GM, conversely, gets fewest of all – so we can now dismiss the geriatric angle.

    As Steven02 pointed out, there are actual mechanical problems that have already been found and admitted to. There may be other problems as well, but it seems clear it’s not all down to driver error.

    I realize this is the pet theory of pistonheads because it makes us feel superior to “ordinary” drivers.

    This is a poorly thought out theory. The prof. may have a point about people intending to do one thing while actually doing another, but again he has not explained the unusual concentration among Toyota drivers.

    Don’t glom on to this answer pistonheads, because even if you repeat it 3 times, it’s still not going to be the truth.

    • 0 avatar
      crash sled

      Are you sure you want to trust those Toyota statistics? The professor commented that Audi was also the most complaint ridden maker re sudden acceleration, and that was shown to be a result of the well known prevalence of stupid drivers we have here. Why would today be any different?

      I looked into more than 150 cases of unintended acceleration in the 1980s, many of which became the subject of lawsuits against automakers. In those days, Audi, like Toyota today, received by far the most complaints. (I testified in court for Audi on many occasions. I have not worked for Toyota on unintended acceleration, though I did consult for the company seven years ago on another matter.)

    • 0 avatar
      Dynamic88

      @crash sled

      Even if we accept the notion that the US is largely populated by idiot drivers – a notion I don’t happen to endorse, but let’s run with it anyway – why would UA happen to Audi more than other brands? It might have been pedal placement – though I think that’s a fairly week argument.

      In other words, if stupidity and bad driver training are more or less evenly distributed, why the concentration ? How could Toyota get more stupid people than GM?

    • 0 avatar
      crash sled

      “How could Toyota get more stupid people than GM?”

      .
      .

      Likely the same way that Audi got more stupid people than GM 25 years ago, which was the professor’s point.

    • 0 avatar
      Dynamic88

      crash sled

      Did the prof actually explain why Audi got more dummies than any other manufacturer? Or is he merely claiming that it is so?

      I’d like to know how it works – are people who can afford an Audi generally at the back side of the IQ bell curve?

      I’ll be the first to say that I’m no statistician. Maybe my assumption – that stupidity should be fairly evenly distributed among brands – is wrong. But I’d like an explanation of how stupid gravitates to Audi, or today, Toyota.

    • 0 avatar
      WaftableTorque

      I can see the professor’s point. I once briefly lost control of the rear wheels in an overskid. Normally it’s no big deal, I naturally get off the throttle and steer into the direction I’m going. I’ve had 22 years of practice.
      But this winter I did it once, and like a dork drop my hands and feet from the steering wheel and pedals, momentarily losing all control of the car. So I can see how even experienced drivers can experience panic.

    • 0 avatar
      crash sled

      “Did the prof actually explain why Audi got more dummies than any other manufacturer?”

      .
      .

      As I said in my previous post, it is likely the same reason that Toyota is getting more dummies than any other manufacturer today, whatever reason that is.

      And I’m assuming that his contention that Audi got the most complaints 25 years ago is easily provable, and no reason for him to put himself out there with such an easily disproven contention, in the NY Times.

      Were Audi drivers at the low end of the IQ curve? Who knows? We do know that they were the most likely to complain of sudden acceleration back then, and we do know that all cases were demonstrated to be driver error.

      Why did stupid drivers gravitate to Audi? Are they gravitating to Toyota today? We don’t know really have those answers, we only know that 25 years ago, all complaints were due to driver error. We can certainly surmise that most complaints today are due to driver error, and now it’s just a matter of determining whether that figure rises to 100%, just as it did 25 years ago.

      Same as it ever was.

  • avatar
    Russycle

    “What the smart pedal may do, however, is finally give us a sense of whether sudden acceleration tends to stem from operator error. ”

    But couldn’t we get that sense now by pulling the data from the black box? Oops, my bad, I forgot you can’t do that on a Toyota.

  • avatar
    Paul Niedermeyer

    There’s little doubt in my mind that those UA incidents that happen in parking lots, driveways, traffic lights, edge of cliffs, and other situations where folks have just intended to start moving their car, pedal misapplication is very high on the list of suspects.
    Some of the other events, probably not so high.

    • 0 avatar
      Dynamic88

      I might agree if the incidents were distributed fairly evenly among brands. It’s hard to see why it’s primarily Toyota drivers who are pushing the wrong pedal in parking lots or at the edge of cliffs.

      Of course, maybe if we broke it down by situation/brand, we’d find the Toyota cases happening mostly on the highway, while parking lot/cliff scenarios are evenly sprinkled over all manufacturers.

    • 0 avatar
      Paul Niedermeyer

      I don’t know if those statistics exist, and I wasn’t suggesting that it necessarily happens more often to Toyota drivers in those events. If it does, than that clearly indicates a pedal arrangement issue.
      I would like the UA issue to be clearly broken down across all makes and models by the type of event, then we could begin to break down the issue and deal with it constructively.

    • 0 avatar
      wsn

      Dynamic88, if you look at the case break down, Camry doesn’t really stand out. It’s the ES. Can we say that the ES attracts a certain group (i.e. old, wannabe, uninformed, easy to complain, etc.)?

    • 0 avatar
      Dynamic88

      @ PN

      I would like the UA issue to be clearly broken down across all makes and models by the type of event, then we could begin to break down the issue and deal with it constructively.

      I second the motion!

      @wsn

      You can say what you like about Lexus drivers, but then you still have to explain why their very similar compatriots driving Buicks aren’t having UA incidents in the same proportions.

    • 0 avatar
      CarPerson

      The graphs at this link seem to show the Toyota Camry UA incidents well above like vehicles with like drivers:

      http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/nhtsa-data-dive-2-ua-rates-1990-2009-by-manufacturer-updated-with-new-charts/#more-347666

    • 0 avatar
      Quentin

      Everything I’ve read indicates pulling out of parking lots, pulling into garages, etc for the the “lurching” claims. These are the ones I feel are most likely driver error. It makes sense. You have a shuffling of feet during these actions. One thing I wonder is if Toyota’s have “slicker” pedals as far as rubber type and “tread” pattern. Could flats and other shoes tend to slip off Toyota pedals more than other brands? I know I have to be careful w/ my GTI when wearing my chuck taylors and it is wet out. Those aluminum pedals are quite slick and I’ve had my foot slip off pedals before (thankfully no incidents). I’d be interested to see the pedal placement and pedal material comparisons between Camry, Avalon, and other vehicles that older folks drive… simply because every news report I see seems to have a 50+ driver.

      The stuck gas pedal makes sense for those that mash the gas to merge or pass and it continues to accelerate. I think that is what the floormat fix and pedal fix are supposed to correct.

  • avatar
    Ron

    As I recall, part of the Audi 5000 problem was that the brake and accelerator were closer together than on most other cars. People with wide feet hit both pedals at the same time.

    • 0 avatar
      porschespeed

      If you were used to the pedal spacing of say, a ’70 Eldorado, they might have seemed to be a bit close at first blush.

      If you were used to Euro/Asian cars, not so much.

      I’ve got 10.5 EE feet, not sure what counts as “large”.

  • avatar
    Shane Rimmer

    It seems that this problem is made worse by most manufacturers configuring the throttle on automatic transmission equipped vehicles such that taking off from a stop is more of a controlled lunge. If the throttle had a less sensitive tip-in, I know it would get panned by the press, but it seems it would lessen these types of things.

    Personally, I propose that a mechanical system be mandated for all vehicles that immediately disengages power to the wheels. The suggested interface would be an extra pedal located to the left of the brake.

    • 0 avatar
      CarPerson

      +1 Shane Rimmer!

      I have two cars that dramatically front-load the throttle and I HATE IT! One of them a 2007 Honda Accord.

      I’ve tried the dealer and checking rebuilding things myself to see if it could be modified and so far the answer is no on both cars. If the UA issue causes automakers to stop doing this I’d be totally estatic!

    • 0 avatar
      MBella

      I agree with the Honda Accord statement above. It seems that they do have a good amount of throttle at idle. You have to hold the brakes pretty strong to avoid lurching forward.

  • avatar
    supremebrougham

    A few of my personal thoughts…

    Personally I think that the whole thing is being blown way out of proportion. While I imagine that there are some legit cases of UA, such as with the man from NJ with the Avalon, I tend to believe that it has to be a combination of driver error, and people looking for attention and a (really stupid) way to make a buck at Toyota’s expense.

    Back before Christmas, there was an accident at a grocery store the next town up from me where an elderly lady was backing her 1999 Buick LeSabre out of a parking place and the car sped up and hit a couple of kids, killing one, before slamming into the store itself. After a couple of months of supposed investigation, the police determined that the cause was mechanical error with the car. While this was indeed a horrible tragedy, I can’t help but wonder if the findings would have been slightly different if this whole Toyota thing wasn’t so prevalent in the media.

    And one more thing about the average Toyota driver. First of all, absolutely no disrespect is meant here, but if you think about it, most Toyota drivers are not exactly mechanically inclined, hence why they buy Toyotas, so it could be possible that they are just not going to think about how to control the car during a panic.

    Like I said, just a few of my thoughts…

    • 0 avatar
      Quentin

      I have a 2010 4Runner on order and will be buying the Toyota FT-86 as soon as it comes out. I do all my own oil changes, I’ve rebuilt at least 10 engines, and 1 5speed automatic. I’m also a mechanical engineer in my 4th year as a manufacturing engineering specialist. I’d like to think that I’m somewhat mechanically competent. The 4Runner is simply the best BoF SUV that you can buy as far as offroad capability and fuel economy. It’s a rather nice place to be w/ the premium package as well. Sooo…. I must be an anomaly.

      Is there something particular that makes you think that Ford Fusion owners are mechanically inclined?

      My point is that 90% of people out there think that the only thing they need to know to drive a car is how to turn the key, move the shifter to “D” (WTF is “N”?), and push the go and stop buttons down by their feet. I personally feel that everyone w/ 4 functioning limbs should know how to drive a manual transmission and maybe even take their driving test in it. If you can drive a stick, you understand what neutral is and what the transmission actually does and how it can govern what the wheels do. People need some sort of understanding of the 4000lbs of metal that they are propelling down the road.

    • 0 avatar
      jkross22

      Quentin,

      Bingo… I do wonder how many people would actually fail a driver test if the test was with a 5 speed. I would suspect, more than half.

      There’s some traffic relief in that!

  • avatar
    johnny ro

    I will never buy a car with deliberately non-linear throttle response.

    This is like falsies on a woman. It makes it worse not better. I notice at the first throttle event, get out and and never look back. My dads JEEP grand wagoneer had that, POFS that it was.

    On the Audis it was pedal size/placement issue as mentioned above coupled with what I think of as stupidity and dumbness etc. And panic. Its actually sad though, this is not darwinism at it best.

    We have set up things so basically everybody no matter what needs a car so they should be idiot proof like washing machines. They are not.

    If they were working off GPS with speed control, there would be less chance of this.

    And voice commands operate radios and phones, why not panic stops?

    -Computer.
    -Yes Captain
    -Please execute emergency stop protocol apha one..on my mark…..now. execute!

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    Has anyone spent time sketching out the leg & ankle angles, spacing and placement of Toyota and Ford pedals (specifically the ES and Panthers, which have high SUA rates) versus those of GM or Nissan, who seem absent from the tables?

    I’ve wondered if, besides the floor mats, there might be an ergonomic or kinesiologic issue with the pedals and that panic over a “ghost in the machine” is obscuring. After all, it is simpler and more likely to trap or mis-press the physical pedal than to fake out a electronic pedal or throttle with multiple, redundant and sanity-checked inputs.

    Maybe Toyota’s issues really are more akin to Audi’s pedal placement trouble, only more subtly so.

  • avatar
    niky

    All this hubbub could have been avoided decades ago… nearly a century ago, actually… if automakers had agreed upon a more logical arrangement of pedals…

    http://www.modelt.ca/images/controls.gif

    Say what you want about the Model T’s ergonomics, but the brake is right beside the firewall, and hard to get mixed up with anything else. The throttle is operated by an entirely different limb, which eliminates confusion.

    Motorcycles got this more nearly right. The same hand operates both the throttle and brake, but the motions are entirely different. Of course, the twist-throttle creates problems all its own with sudden unintended acceleration, as personal experience and numerous youtube videos can attest to.

    What I really hate is that more and more manufacturers are resorting to foot-operated emergency brakes. What good are foot-operated emergency brakes when your feet are already confuddled and faced now with four pedals instead of just three? (I don’t understand why manuals get foot-operated e-brakes, either). The best new e-brake I’ve seen is on the new X6. Activating the parking “switch” disengages the transmission and slows the car to a stop.

    Eliminate the foot-operated throttle, though, and all three pedals on the floor will stop the car… just as in the Model T.

  • avatar
    210delray

    Well, we’re not going to go back in time to the Model T’s layout. Nor will we see the day when manual transmissions make a big comeback. That horse left the barn in the 50s. We’re lucky we can STILL buy true manuals today, but I fear the end is nigh with these dual-clutch thingies and paddle shifters.

  • avatar
    210delray

    One more thought: it’s pretty clear there was a gas pedal interference problem with the original all-weather (rubber) mat used in the 2007 and later ES and Camry (both cars being identical under the skin). This is especially true when the rubber mat was placed unsecured on top of the factory carpet mat.

    I would suspect (but can’t prove) that a greater percentage of ES 350s were sold with the accessory mats in comparison to the more pedestrian Camry. That is for a more expensive car, you’re more likely to buy a mat to protect another mat.

    This aspect could all be solved if we went back to rubber floors — why do we need carpets in cars at all?

  • avatar
    criminalenterprise

    These are not the classic Audi 5000 cases of brake/accelerator misapplication. The data tell a story that something is wrong with these specific cars.

  • avatar
    John Horner

    Human factors engineering is part of the car engineering team’s job. One of the reasons Audis had a higher UA rate than other cars did at the time was the relative positions of the brake and accelerator pedals. Audi clearly did a sub-optimal job of human factors engineering way back when.

    But, that really is neither here nor there with regard to the current Toyota situation. I will stipulate that many reported cases of UA are almost certainly driver error. However, that does not mean that all cases of UA are driver error.

    Back to the Audi analogy. At that time, the primary failure mode reported was Audis supposedly taking off from a dead stop. The current Toyota reports are mostly of a different nature. People are driving along at normal road speeds and then report the car accelerating on its own.

    Finally, as others have said, Toyota has already stipulated that there are at least two defects which led to some fraction of the reported UA incidents: Floor mats and sticky accelerator pedals. Again, this is quite different from the old Audi situation.

    Toyota today is not Audi twenty years ago.

    • 0 avatar
      crash sled

      “Toyota today is not Audi twenty years ago.”

      .

      .

      Except the data doesn’t preclude that. The TTAC guys have boiled and baked that data 14 different ways, but haven’t precluded that Toyota today isn’t any different than Audi 25 years ago, when there was no explanation other than driver error, despite the hysterical claims to the contrary.

      And yes, stupid drivers incorrectly using their floor pedals is driver error, both 25 years ago and today.

      And yes, stupid drivers allowing their floor pedals to be blocked by a floor mat or any other obstruction is driver error, both 25 years ago and today.

      We go where the data takes us, if we’re pursuing this diligently. 25 years ago, it took us to driver stupidity. I suspect we’ll eventually get to that same location today, if we follow the data.

  • avatar
    eastcoastcar

    Here is an experience I had two months ago. I’ve been driving for decades, cars like the BMW 2002, 320i, VW Beetle, VW Rabbit, and two Mercedes 300D’s—a sedan and a wagon. Never ever had acceleration problems. But, two months ago, I got into my 300D wagon, did the diesel pre-heat, and turned the key when the light went off, heard the engine start and put it into R. The tach jumped way up, the car lurched back, and I put it in neutral as I saw the tach zoom up to 4000 rpm..I turned the engine off. But, when this happened, my mind had been somewhere else, I was used to the car, and was in that pattern when the engine revved and the car lurched backward. No damage done. But I drove home carefully and put it into neutral at lights. The problem didn’t come back on subsequent starts. Then, one morning, when the turned the key to pre-heat, I felt the accelerator pedal depress under my foot. It was a problem with the cruise control,but the first time it happened I had no presence of mind at all to notice the pedal had depressed. This car had 170,000 miles on it and had never malfunctioned with acceleration before. Lessons learned. Had I not had SOME neural bandwidth left, I might have ended up crashing the car on those two times. The car never took off when in motion, but could have, until I had the cruise looked at recently.

  • avatar
    vento97

    Simple formula:

    Incompetent (inattentive) drivers + Ambulance-chasing Lawyers = Unintended Acceleration ($$$$$$$$)

  • avatar
    Dr.Nick

    McElroy on Autoline claims that Audi was making big conquests among Buick drivers before the unintended acceleration. He also said that the Buick pedal design was spaced farther apart because there was no need to make room for the clutch pedal, as Audis still had manuals on their sedans for Europe back then. This combo of circumstances seems a plausible explanation for the unintended acceleration to me.

  • avatar
    NickR

    “the introduction of automatic shift lock”

    I’d forgotten the genesis of that thing…God I hate it.


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