By on March 14, 2010

A few days ago, James Sikes and his runaway Prius was all over news. Until we mentioned that something is fishy. Sikes’ driving skills were put in question. Stories about a wife swapping website emerged. Stories about bankruptcy. Stories about an unpaid lease on the Prius. And sundry other stories. Quickly, Sikes turned into Balloon Boy 2.0

Michael Fumento, director of the Independent Journalism Project, went on Neil Cavuto’s show on Fox Business and said: “It appears that everybody on planet earth suspected that there was something horribly wrong with this picture – except for the national media. The real hoax wasn’t James Sikes, it was in fact our press.”

On his own blog, Fumento fumed at the press: “To test his claim that he actually reached down and tried to pull the accelerator up but it wouldn’t budge I did something that apparently occurred to no other reporter in the country. I actually got in a 2008 Prius to see if it was physically possible to reach that far. I couldn’t get anywhere close. An orangutan could, but whatever Mr. Sikes is, that doesn’t seem to describe him.”

The real blame is on the press, says Fumento: “The red flags were popping up right from the beginning and the media ignored them because they wanted to ignore them. There’s a Toyota feeding frenzy going on and reporters just want their chunk.”

Well, now they dropped the video, and it looks like their editors sic them on Sikes.

The Wall Street Journal [sub] reports that “the investigation of the vehicle, carried out jointly by safety officials from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and Toyota engineers, didn’t find signs the brakes had been applied at full force at high speeds over a sustained period of time, the three people familiar with the investigation said.

The brakes were discolored and showed wear, but the pattern of friction suggested the driver had intermittently applied moderate pressure on the brakes, these people said, adding the investigation didn’t find indicators of the heavy pressure described by Mr. Sikes.”

As we vividly remember, ABC had led the “let’s burn Toyota on the stake” faction with the Gilbert video that subsequently turned out as a fake. Now, as the tide turns against Sikes, ABC goes with the flow: “A memo drafted for a congressional panel says the Toyota Prius involved in a California runaway car incident performed exactly as it is designed to in tests trying to replicate the situation…The memo says that each time the technician floored the gas pedal and hit the brake at the same time, the car shut off as it is designed to do.” ABC got ahold of Patty Sikes who complained that “the couple’s lives have been turned upside down and they are getting death threats.”

According to CBS News “a congressional spokesman said the finding casts doubt on the driver’s story.”

Looks like Sikes won’t testify.

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75 Comments on “The Sikes Aftermath: Lead Balloon Boy Going Down...”


  • avatar
    Dr Lemming

    Call it a neurotic reflex if you will, but when I read that someone was interviewed on Faux News I wonder about their political agenda. So I googled Michael Fumento. He tends to write for right-wing outlets like the Washington Times (that’s the Moonie paper).

    Am I defending the news media on Lead Balloon Boy? Nope. But when the right wing starts piling on, it does give me pause. Any astroturfing going on here?

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Denver

      Let me get this straight – when the media hype a phony story and uncritically repeat the press releases of trial lawyers’ shills, that’s news, but if someone shows some skepticism toward a a story that’s unbelievable on its face, that’s astroturfing. Got it. Yes, there’s astroturfing going on here, but not from where you think.

    • 0 avatar

      Folks, the term “astroturfing” commonly refers to a bogus grassroots organization (as in artificial grass.) Unless Jim Sikes and Brian Ross are found on the payroll of whoever (who, I can’t imagine), there is no astroturfing.

      What we had were cases of unintended acceleration with no proof.

      What we now have are two proven cases of deliberate hoaxes. And what we see is most likely just the tip of the iceberg.

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Denver

      What would you call Sean Kean’s outfit ( the one that hired Gilbert) – the misleadingly “Safety Research & Strategies” if not a bogus grassroots organization? A supposed “consumer watchdog” group that is actually a profit making business funded by trial lawyers. Ralph Nader is crazy as a loon but at least he is not in it for the money. Nowadays we have a whole cast of characters who “do well” by supposedly “doing good”. And whose work is enabled by a media structure (including guys like Ross) who are all too willing to buy into their agenda, whether that is Toyota bashing or “global warming” or whatever. “Astroturfing” is really a two step process – step 1- someone with hidden agenda sets up phony “grass roots” organization (SR&S, the “Coffee Party”, whatever). Step 2 (and this is where Ross comes in) – big media gives phony organization far more attention than it deserves, because it suits their OWN hidden agenda (which may be ideological and/or financial – this Toyota thing has not been exactly bad for Ross’s Nielsen ratings). It’s not a “successful” astroturf unless you can get media coverage for your phony operation.

  • avatar
    jeremy5000

    It’s fun how the media can start frenzies without even delivering any actual facts.

  • avatar
    Patrickj

    Remember Dan Rather? Mr. Sikes has just bailed out Toyota single-handedly.

    Both have taken a situation where there is probably a real issue, and by creating or promoting fabrications, turned that situation into a total hoax.

    The Toyota sudden acceleration issue will blow over before the end of the month. To avoid reminding us of their gullibility, the mainstream media certainly won’t want to give further credence to the story.

    • 0 avatar
      jeremy5000

      Essentially yes, they will be on to something new.

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Denver

      This may happen but it hasn’t happened yet. Yes, the bonfire that may consume Sikes’ mount of BS has been lit by the blogs, fanned a little by a couple of mainstream stories (depending on whether you count Fox as “mainstream” – in leftist land it isn’t even though it’s the #1 cable news network by far) but it hasn’t burst into a full blown media firestorm (such as the one currently raging against Toyota). There are people who have an interest in the flames dying out so that attention remains on the Toyota bonfire instead and they are surely going to try to pour cold water on the anti-Sikes news (it’s not really news, its astroturfing by the right wing, just like Rather’s destruction was – got it?). Nothing to see here folks, move along. Sikes – who’s he? What Sikes did was fake but accurate. Etc. But, just as with Rather, given the amount of fuel that Sikes has provided, the amount of gasoline that he has poured on himself, I think the flames have a pretty good chance of remaining lit. But it will take a couple of days more to see which way the winds blow.

      And as for “poor” Sikes who says his life has been turned upside down – he don’t know the half of it. By the time this is all over, he’ll be lucky not to end up in jail like Balloon Boy’s dad or jobless like Dan (not that Sikes isn’t already unemployed). If you play with matches, you’re liable to get burned.

    • 0 avatar
      Patrickj

      @Jack Denver

      Even though I think Obama’s real problem is that he’s at heart a rather timid moderate, I find all the cable news operations to be equally destructive to the Nation.

      Fox preaches to the converted, while CNN preaches the same message avoiding hard-right buzzwords to keep its audience from changing channels.

      MSNBC is a joke; a talking-head channel that employs a couple of liberal commentators for whitewash. At least Fox has some actual reporters.

  • avatar
    reclusive_in_nature

    Now how about some objective journalalism into all the people that have made false allegations about Detroit’s vehicles? I’m sure every aspect of their lives could use some scrutiny too.

  • avatar
    Telegraph Road

    I agree that Sikes tried to perpetrate a hoax. But what was his motive? Probably just a broke guy trying to get out of his millstone lease from Toyota Financial without further damage to his credit score. Auto lessors see this kind of fraud all the time. There is no need to create another ridiculous conspiracy theory around the Gilbert-debunking timing or around his Corvette jacket. No one with a desire to discredit Toyota would possibly have hired someone this unbelievable.

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Denver

      Yes, Sikes is just another pathetic loser. But what enabled this *ssclown to get national coverage? Not just national coverage but coverage that displayed not the slightest degree of skepticism. The journalistic credo back in the Front Page days used to be cynical to a fault – “if your mother tells you she loves you, check it out”. Nowadays, there seems to be a corollary – “unless what your mother is saying suits your own political agenda or will make money for you – then push her story like crazy”.

      People seem to be under the impression that “news” is a natural force like “weather” but in fact what gets reported on page 1 of the national media and what gets ignored or printed in a 1/2 column inch on page 37 of Section F is a highly man-made process and one that is, it is becoming clear, in the hands of people who cannot be trusted to be impartial about their selections. And the “scientific experts” whose finding they (selectively) report, it turns out, are not oracles of truth either, but themselves flawed humans whose findings are equally subject to bias. For that matter, even the weather report is subject to political spin (see “global warming”). Only rarely, as in the case of Dan Rather, Climategate (and now Sikes), when the manipulation is too great and falls into the realm of outright fraud (Gilbert and Kean are the kind of guys who dance on the edge of fraud but have enough lawyers to stay just on the right side of the line) , is the curtain pulled back and we get to see how the media sausage is made and it ain’t pretty.

  • avatar
    tlcfargo

    Dr. Lemming’s BS meter, above, seems to be functioning fine regarding Michael Fumento, who posted a recent OpEd piece (“Toyota Hysteria”) in the LA Times.

    Seems that, back in 1992 near Big Sur, Fumento drove his wife off a cliff in their MR-2, maiming her for life. He reveals a telling quote in the article which states that the majority of accidents happen because drivers don’t leave enough margin for error (true enough), and that “individual responsibility” has been eclipsed by “sexy crusades against deep-pockets corporations” after these events.

    Here’s the kicker: Fumento later “discovers” that Toyota, while admitting no liability, wants to pay him off for his troubles. He takes the money. Doesn’t even have to “crusade” — Toyota does the crusading for him. Not only does it bring his Guilt Meter down out of the red, he’s starting to get that warm and fuzzy feeling about Toyota.

    But, as for those other people now claiming that their Toyotas are turning into Christines, his answer is simple: their claims are false. Because, after all, from Fumento’s viewpoint, “I got mine.”

    • 0 avatar
      geeber

      tlcfargo: Seems that, back in 1992 near Big Sur, Fumento drove his wife off a cliff in their MR-2, maiming her for life.

      Actually, it happened in 1991.

      tlcfargo: Here’s the kicker: Fumento later “discovers” that Toyota, while admitting no liability, wants to pay him off for his troubles. He takes the money. Doesn’t even have to “crusade” — Toyota does the crusading for him. Not only does it bring his Guilt Meter down out of the red, he’s starting to get that warm and fuzzy feeling about Toyota.

      Is there a link to prove this?

      tlcfargo: But, as for those other people now claiming that their Toyotas are turning into Christines, his answer is simple: their claims are false. Because, after all, from Fumento’s viewpoint, “I got mine.”

      No, he never said that. Here is what he said:

      Every accidental death is a tragedy. But the imagery of Toyotas running amok like something out of a Stephen King novel is simply false. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration frequently receives “speed control” complaints; a recent New York Times analysis found the agency received almost 13,000 over the last decade.

      Yes, that analysis found that Toyota had the second most complaints and by far the most incidents connected to crashes — even before publicity sent the number soaring. This and other sources seem to indicate that Toyota has an exceptional problem. But when compared with the vast number of cars Toyota sells, the current reaction is wholly out of proportion. (emphasis added)

      He is hardly letting Toyota off the hook. But, unlike others, he is wisely waiting until there is PROVEN cause before rushing to condemn Toyota.

      The point of his editorial is this:

      Yet there’s another tragedy in this hysteria, some auto safety experts say: the wrong focus.

      “Nobody wants to minimize any deaths Toyota defects may have caused,” says Russ Rader of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. “But vehicle defects are just a tiny, tiny part of what leads to crashes.” (emphasis added)

      Leonard Evans, author of the book “Traffic Safety,” also bemoans what he calls “the lethal American obsession with technical flaws.” Evans said: “Whether it’s … defect or a child darting into the road, most crashes occur because drivers don’t leave an adequate safety margin.”

      Those aren’t his words…he is quoting other parties.

      Sorry, you aren’t hurting Mr. Fumento’s credibility by misquoting him or taking his statements out of context. If anyting, you are helping him, because it makes everyone go back and read more carefully what he said.

  • avatar
    CyCarConsulting

    I laughed my ass off when Cavuto was sceptical about airing something that may not be true. Cavuto should watch Fox the other 23 hours.

  • avatar
    VLAD

    They should prosecute Sikes and lock him up like the other balloon boy.

    Maybe they can find him a 300# UAW member as cellmate.

  • avatar
    Robert Schwartz

    Toyota Hybrid Horror Hoax
    Michael Fumento, 03.12.10, 01:37 PM EST
    Exploring an overblown media frenzy.
    http://www.forbes.com/2010/03/12/toyota-autos-hoax-media-opinions-contributors-michael-fumento.html

  • avatar
    golden2husky

    The media should really vet information better before jumping on the pile. But with the pressure to be on the cutting edge of reporting, nobody wants to be late to the party. That is a perfect storm for this to happen. All of the main media outlets, irrespective of their political alignment, are guilty of this. I strongly suspect that there will be a big increase in fraudulent reporting on unintended acceleration.

    It is correct that “news” is highly dependent upon those who put the stories together and the agenda that they have. Your typical network meteorologist is not qualified to talk about man made climate change (for or against, it makes no difference). They were selected for their on-air image, not for their ability to do scientific research. Stories that should be of concern to all may not even appear in the press at all. Consider the recent Supreme Court decision allowing unlimited corporate money to be spent to influence the democratic process. Not only was the decision important in its own right, but the ban had stood for 100 years and was backed by both major political parties for a century. So, why did the story become first page news in the Times (and others) yet was nowhere to be found in other papers like the NY Post? The Post is easy because Rupert Merdoch structures his media empire to support his business empire, whether it means slanting or omission. Perhaps other media outlets simply figured that something like this is just not as important as Michael Jackson. Either way, it is a compelling reason to check out a multitude of news sources. When my neighbor’s turn of the century mansion burned down in the late ’70s, the story in the paper about the estate, the present owners, and the house itself was about 50% accurate. As a kid that really opened my eyes…

  • avatar

    Now that the media are finally acknowledging that recent highly publicized “runaway Toyota events” are in all likelihood staged, will they begin to openly discuss the possibility that sudden acceleration in general is just bad drivers driving badly?
    Corporate conspiracies, irreproducible system failures and heart-wrenching near miss stories get all the press, but no one seems to want to talk about the one cause that we know is behind most auto accidents: the driver. http://blog.vanno.com/

    • 0 avatar
      Boff

      “To get a sense of the dangerous ways people drive cars, just glance over the comments posted to a recent New York Times story about possible government regulation that would require a brake override system, ostensibly in response to the spate of Toyota sudden acceleration claims. The number of drivers who freely admit to (and defend) using the “heel and toe” technique, or actually drive with two feet (one for the brake and one for the gas) is mind boggling.”

      Ummmm those are advanced driving techniques, not bad habits. I heel-and-toe all the time…makes for a smoother ride for my passengers and ensures that I’m always in gear and in the right gear. Good practice for the track, too.

      The rest of the post was spot-on, though.

    • 0 avatar
      CarPerson

      New car models come out every year.

      In 2002, one came out with the spacing between the throttle and brake pedals tighter than the rest, heights of the pedals more similar then the rest, and front-loaded the throtle response more steep then the rest. Drivers of that vehicle have displayed markedly more problems controlling the throttle and brakes of that vehicle ever since and nearly every newer vehicle from that same manufaturer.

      Should the whole issue be rubber-stamped “driver error” as NHTSA has done since the Audi years or should that manufacturer review its pedal designs and see if a less “pedal mis-application” -prone design can be devised?

  • avatar
    Geo. Levecque

    Its not only your USA Media that carried the No.2 Hoax, it was carried here in Canada as well as in the United Kingdom, what a mess, will anyone say they are sorry? not very likely eh?

  • avatar

    I think people are being a bit too dogmatic about the news media. The NYT is guilty of some huge goofs, notably (ex) reporter Judith Miller’s credulous acceptance of Ahmed Chalabi’s claims that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, without which we might never have gone to war in Iraq, leaving thousands of US soldiers, and probably hundreds of thousands of Iraqis alive. The NYT also has at least one reporter on the immigration beat who appears to work hard to pretend that mass immigration doesn’t take jobs from US citizens. If Julia Preston read her colleague NYT columnist Nicholas Kristof’s article on the subject (google “compassion that hurts”) she would have to face some facts which she seems to find very uncomfortable. Yet, most of the NYT’s reporting is highly competent and informative.

    On the other side, Fox is the place where you can hear how Pres O is a socialist. I know Pres O’s chief economic advisor, as well as Larry Summers’ parents (both also economists and both siblings of Nobel economists). Larry would not be working for a socialist. Yet, I’m sure even Fox sheds light on stuff from time to time.

    golden2husky is absolutely right about the pressure to be first on a story. And as he says, they frequently get details wrong. I had the same sort of lesson as a kid when a fire burned up my father’s office at Tufts University.

    • 0 avatar
      crash sled

      “Yet, most of the NYT’s reporting is highly competent and informative.”

      .

      Except that they do so little reporting, and most of their alleged reporting is editorializing. That’s why they’re sinking like a stone. The public sees them for what they are, and are responding accordingly. The public is the market, and they are failing within this market.

      .

      .

      “I know Pres O’s chief economic advisor, as well as Larry Summers’ parents (both also economists and both siblings of Nobel economists). Larry would not be working for a socialist.”

      .

      .

      Summers is a greedy pig, slopping at the government trough, who facilitates the trough slopping of all his Wall Street buddies, same as Geithner, Bernanke, Paulsen et al have done. No matter that they give weathermen-economists Nobels, they’re still weathermen, and these particular weathermen are not interested in the weather in any event. They’re interested in cashing in, and off the taxpayers’ cash, if at all possible.

      “Socialist”? Of course he’s a socialist, if we properly define socialism for what it is… the few cashing in off the many. Summers is one of socialism’s most spectacular proponents.

      Get back with me when this Summers snake embraces some common sense, rather than enriching his buddies, as he’s historically done.

    • 0 avatar

      “…probably hundreds of thousands of Iraqis alive.”

      Other than the ones that would have met Allah after passing through Saddam’s shredders and firing squads. Interesting how the Left ignores reality. Since Obama and ilk are taking credit for the war’s success now it’s alright to support the war… get on board already!

  • avatar
    detroit9000

    Anyone who decreases market share of a company that makes nothing but uninspiring junk is a hero in my book. Keep on keepin’ on, my balloon boy friend. Not like Toyota always played by the rules over the years.

    • 0 avatar
      detroit9000

      Two addendum: 1) Toyota used to make good cars, 15 years ago. 2) this website is a media outlet, and carries all the same risks of bias, for or against Toyota.

    • 0 avatar
      BuzzDog

      I don’t have a problem with anyone who uses the truth to blow the whistle on a company that is purposely doing something illegal or immoral.

      But if Sikes is making up lies for his own benefit – or to discredit a company, deserved or not – that’s just plain wrong.

      And I don’t care if the “biased media” is involved. Lying is lying…and it’s wrong.

      It’s sad that I have to explain this to adults.

    • 0 avatar

      So if I attempt to decrease your credibility by making a slanderous accusation — something along the lines of, “detroit9000 molests children” — then justify it to myself and others by noting you post nothing but uninspiring junk, that’s OK?

      Keep on keepin’ on, man!

    • 0 avatar
      detroit9000

      Nice ad hominem attack there. I’m sure there are no problems with that hypothetical.

      @BuzzDog: Not a fan of Robin Hood, eh? Not saying Sikes is some hero or anything. He seems pretty sleazy. But if a guy gets media attention for having a problem just like a bunch of other folks had, maybe it’s not all bad. If the guy becomes personally wealthy, then he really is sleazy, because any money that comes out of this should be used to prevent further problems, not to make one guy rich.

    • 0 avatar

      Ah, so it’s OK then since you’re only attacking a Big, Mean, Evil, Faceless, and FURRIN’ Corporation. I stand so humbly corrected…

    • 0 avatar
      BuzzDog

      And I’m not getting the Robin Hood analogy…this is about lying for personal gain or to discredit, not stealing. Although both lying and stealing are equally unethical.

      I’m sorry that your hometown (Detroit) is having troubles, but I fail to see how untruths about the competition will help…at least not in the long-term.

    • 0 avatar
      detroit9000

      @Finrock: I think you may have misquoted me. In any case, I guess I would add to your laundry list, “deliberately abuses the law to mislead the federal government during an investigation into why people are dying due to an alleged defect.”

      @BuzzDog: it would be a lot worse if what he alleges happened weren’t really happening to people. The squeaky wheel gets the oil. If he’s really doing this just to expose the problem, then it is sort of a robin hood maneuver. And, another ad hominem attack.

    • 0 avatar
      BuzzDog

      @detroit9000: I fail to see how my ethics – or my pity for the citizens a ravaged city – qualifies as an “attack,” but if that’s what it is I suppose I will apologize. Although I’m not sure why…

      (Offstage, Buzz shakes his bald head in confusion…)

    • 0 avatar
      JuniorMint

      yes, i agree. thank goodness we have a robin hood to step up and call attention to this problem (and maybe get a free car)

      this toyota thing has gone largely unnoticed by the media. like do you know how long it took me to find an article about UA or toyota’s recall? about five hours.

      now that sikes has stepped up, hopefully the government will notice…maybe they’ll even get involved.

      OH WAIT

    • 0 avatar
      The Walking Eye

      An ad hominem attack is one in which your premise is discounted or ignored due to some characteristic of yours, with the most common usage people cite in the form of a personal attack. What I see is two people disagreeing with you and attempting to point out fallacies in your arguments. Disagreement is not attacking, nor is using a hyperbolic hypothetical.

      BuzzDog, you owe no one an apology.

    • 0 avatar
      detroit9000

      Um.

    • 0 avatar
      geeber

      detroit9000: Anyone who decreases market share of a company that makes nothing but uninspiring junk is a hero in my book.

      That’s what Toyota and Honda have done to the domestics over the years, so you must REALLY like those two companies.

      detroit9000: Not like Toyota always played by the rules over the years.

      Yes, making products that are superior to those of the competition really is unfair.

      If that is an example of “Detroit Think,” it’s no wonder GM went bankrupt. The miracle is that it didn’t happen sooner.

  • avatar
    chicagoboy

    IS TTAC unequivocally saying that Toyota has no sudden acceleration issues?That all these deaths / accidents including recently the one involving a police officer in a LExus are a hoax or a government conspiracy ? I find it astounding that you can in the same breath say that the govt is inefficient and claim that it is capable of orchestrating these national and international conspiracies against your pet organizations.

    • 0 avatar
      210delray

      That all these deaths / accidents including recently the one involving a police officer in a Lexus are a hoax or a government conspiracy

      We’re talking 52 alleged deaths in 10 years, whether caused by vehicular malfunction or driver error. The crash involving the police officer had a very specific cause — a rubber mat from the wrong model Lexus was placed unsecured on top of the carpeted factory mat. This improper mat got caught in the gas pedal.

      A few days earlier, a different driver of the SAME loaner Lexus experienced sudden acceleration but was able to stop the car and pull the mat out of the way. He even reported this problem to the dealership, but no action was taken.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      No, I don’t think that’s the case.

      TTAC’s normal point of view is cynicism. People who don’t read all the postings, or get really offended when TTAC sticks a dart in a favourite target, miss this, but from the time I’ve been reading this site it really has come across as universally skeptical or, when Mr. Farago was in fine form, unabashedly and scathingly cynical.

      There’s nothing wrong with this, and it’s a nice change from many other sites which are more obiviously partisan or painfully milquetoast. But you have to get used to it, and to the cognitive dissonance it often causes.

      They’ve been as hard as anyone on Toyota; what they haven’t been is kid-gloves when it comes to the theatre surrounding it.

    • 0 avatar
      detroit9000

      @psarhjinian Years ago there was a good rant on autoextremist.com where he alleged that the Motor Trend Caliper went to whichever company had a decent car and put forth the best proposal to buy advertising. Ever since then I rarely know who to believe. But I suspect you’re right here.

      Just wish more people would appreciate that this guy is kind of funny. Balloon boy wasted the time of the police, which is really serious. This guy is just needling Toyota, which has/had more money than they know what to do with.

      Personally, I believe Toyota is THE embodiment of function over form, and as an enthusiast I don’t think there’s much good that comes from the commoditization of cars.

    • 0 avatar

      Chicagoboy: IS TTAC unequivocally saying that Toyota has no sudden acceleration issues?That all these deaths / accidents including recently the one involving a police officer in a LExus are a hoax or a government conspiracy ?

      Where did we say that? Citation needed.

  • avatar
    CarPerson

    If an automaker promotes, encourages, and ensures “pedal misapplication” due to tight spacing between the throttle and brake pedals, similiar heights of the pedals, and front-loading the throttle response, should the whole shabang be rubber stamped “driver error” as NHTSA has done since the Audi years?

    See the following broadcast at the times listed below:

    http://www.autolinedetroit.tv/journal/?p=8680#more-8680.
    (Compliments to Accazdatch for posting this link)

    12:30
    16:00
    17:40
    21:40-23:30

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    Sikes should consider himself lucky. Hicham Dequiedt was sued by Renault when we pulled the same stunt.

  • avatar
    Jerry Sutherland

    Sikes might be last week’s news but it sure looks like Toyota has bigger hurdles coming up this week.
    Gentlemen, circle the wagons-it’s time to fight another battle for Toyota.
    http://www.montrealgazette.com/business/Toyota+defects+lawsuit/2678922/story.html

  • avatar
    Sandy A

    Seems to me that there are still too many contradictory stories going around regarding Sikes. I’ll reserve judgement on his story for a while longer.

    Fumento’s logic doesn’t make sense, however. He claims that Sikes should have been able to stop the car while stepping on the brakes. All those who have been following the unintended acceleration story as long as I have (over three years now) know that isn’t necessarily true. Take the Saylor case for example. Regardless of the cause of the full-throttle condition (pedal entrapment or otherwise), a CHP officer with specialized training was unable to stop his car with a wide-open throttle.

    We also know that brake assist doesn’t work if you pump the brakes. I’ve seen estimates that suggest one would require between 200 and 350 pounds of pressure to slow a vehicle down with an open throttle and without brake assist. I believe Consumer Reports has a video that demonstrates this fact.

    And, just today, I saw news stories that claimed that Sikes brakes were completely worn down. What bothered me was that the source of those stories was the same congressional ‘draft’ memo that apparently casts doubt on the incident. What the f…! I can’t tell who is feeding me garbage for data.

    The fact that NHTSA or Toyota couldn’t duplicate the problem means absolutely nothing. Once again I’ll bring up Single Event Upsets as a possible cause… The article below was written in 2006…

    http://www.planetanalog.com/features/showArticle.jhtml?articleID=188700453

    Even if SEU isn’t the cause, the state machine in the embedded control system may have entered an unanticipated state. Having two microcontrollers doesn’t help here if both are being fed the same data, and if both are using the same code. True redundancy is achieved with at least two different CPUs (not on the same die) and with different code using two different communication buses. There are good reasons why avionic system use triple redundancy. Toyota doesn’t actually even have double redundancy–it’s microcontrollers are on the same chip and they use a single comm bus.

    People also seem to think that having a brake override or “smart pedal” is a “fail-safe.” BS. It’s still software! There is now documented evidence that some of the Toyotas that were recently reprogrammed with this new “fail-safe” feature aren’t working as they should. You can apparently still step on the accelerator pedal and gas at the same time without disengaging the throttle. Toyota claims that the “fix” wasn’t properly done, which is possible, but the point is that it is only software, and software only does what you told it to do, not what you intended it to do.

    So anyone who suggests that a runaway Prius is impossible because it is equipped with such a “fail-safe” feature is blowing smoke where the sun dont shine. If NASA can unintentionally send a spacecraft costing millions of dollars crashing into a planet’s moon because of an error in units, Toyota can certainly unintentionally create an open-throttle condition.

    Let’s see what Toyota is going to announce Monday regarding Sikes. Somehow I don’t think they are going to be supportive of Sikes story.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      Take the Saylor case for example. Regardless of the cause of the full-throttle condition (pedal entrapment or otherwise), a CHP officer with specialized training was unable to stop his car with a wide-open throttle.

      Saylor panicked, pumped the brakes, and both used up his brake assist as well as . That his car’s brakes were smoked should be evidence of this, as anyone who has engaged in autocross in a stock car can attest.

      This point comes up whenever TTAC runs a story about the lack of driver training, and the points that people commonly miss is that driver training isn’t nearly as effective as people wish it was. Training is good for teaching you the rules of the road in a controlled situation; it is not good at teaching you how to handle panic situations—that’s what conditioning is for. The military, for example, expends much time, effort and resources conditioning soldiers because training is not going to cut it.

      We also know that brake assist doesn’t work if you pump the brakes. I’ve seen estimates that suggest one would require between 200 and 350 pounds of pressure to slow a vehicle down with an open throttle and without brake assist. I believe Consumer Reports has a video that demonstrates this fact.

      Consumer Reports did say that, but it’s actually very easy to generate that kind of force. Most adults can do it when they stand from a squatting position. If Sikes weighs over 180lbs, he certainly can.

      It’s also moot if you have power assist. Or, you know, if you use the power assist, which Sikes did not do, despite being instructed.

      And, just today, I saw news stories that claimed that Sikes brakes were completely worn down.

      What happened there was that the officer on the scene noted he could smell brake use. Well, yes, he probably could. If you were standing outside a vehicle that just made a stop from high speed you’d smell it, too.

      That Sikes was able to slow down when effectively forced to do so by the CHP (eg, the choice was either stop, or hit a cruiser and risk jail time and/or financial loss) should have set off warning flags for the media.

  • avatar
    mcs

    I can simplify the Sikes story. If there really was a stuck accelerator in the car and the override did in fact fail, the brakes would have been more that enough to stop the car.

    The 1NZ-FXE engine in that car puts out 76 hp. Given the situation, I’m guessing the battery and electric motor were out of the picture, so we’re talking about overcoming 76 hp. C’mon. That fact alone is enough to convince me he’s lying. Let’s see Sikes attorney prove that the Prius brakes can’t overcome 76hp.

  • avatar
    shaker

    “The Media” reported on a series of dramatic events that fit in with an ongoing investigation. To suggest that the intent of “The Media” was to ignore the possibility of a hoax (because it would support their ‘anti-business’ agenda), and then end up with a hoax on their hands that would possibly support Toyota’s claims is a totally contradictory idea that only Fox (Business) News could twist into ‘Anti-Toyota’ bias.

    IOW, if “The Media” has such an agenda, wouldn’t they take great care to NOT report happenings that would weaken their case against big, bad Toyota?

    Note that Fox ‘business’ news could care less if Toyota went to hell in a handbasket in previous times, but with the auto bailout and the survival of the unions being ‘blamed’ on the present administration (even though the genesis of these ‘unpopular’ situations was in the last administration), they are suddenly the ‘champion’ of this ‘downtrodden’ corporation.

    BTW, if anyone is annoyed by my use of single quotes in this post (which implies double-quotes, which also implies a ‘quoteable source’), well, sorry. I’ve been reading foxnews.com.

    • 0 avatar
      detroit9000

      If Fox News is promulgating this, that explains a lot.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      To suggest that the intent of “The Media” was to ignore the possibility of a hoax (because it would support their ‘anti-business’ agenda), and then end up with a hoax on their hands that would possibly support Toyota’s claims is a totally contradictory idea that only Fox (Business) News could twist into ‘Anti-Toyota’ bias.

      Not that I like Fox News—I’m an unabashed Pinko—but I suspect Fox’s intent was to throw a dart at the established networks.

      Fox is very much a johnny-come-lately, an upstart that cracked the ABC/CBS/NBC cartel, and there’s significant rivalry there. It’s to Fox’s advantage to show them as incompetent and/or biased.

      Fox is not innocent of the same charges, mind you, but it’s pretty typical of the industry and a symptom of the short news cycle. There’s no incentive to being late to the story and thorough in your investigation, which is why only non-profit news (eg, PBS) will even approach reasonable depth of coverage. Conversely, there’s a whole lot of disincentive for good journalism: on 99% of stories, being first and loudest gets you the most eyeballs an being late to a story gets you nothing. Back when the news cycle was longer the delay allowed a pause for thought and analysis, but there was always pressure to get to press first.

  • avatar
    bmoredlj

    I’d like to meet the poor lawyer(s) Sikes has hired to defend him through this…who ever they are, they probably shouldn’t hold out hope he’ll, you know, pay them, judging from his previous behavior.

  • avatar
    mcs

    From an attorney that has litigated sudden-acceleration cases:

    http://www.sfexaminer.com/opinion/columns/oped_contributors/Accusations-worries-about-Priuses-unfounded-87629942.html

  • avatar
    John Horner

    Big media goes for eyeballs. Sensationalism wins every time. This isn’t so much about any political agenda as it is about a craven search for more dollars. Just as people stop to gawk at the unfortunates who have been in an auto crash, they tune in for the sensational on the TeeVee.

  • avatar
    MidLifeCelica

    Even when the truth is revealed, the media prefers to stick to the more ‘exciting’ version. Here in Nova Scotia, there’s a big political scandal unfolding as it’s been ‘discovered’ that MLA’s from all political parties have been expensing stupid stuff on their accounts (big surprise, right?). One idiot in particular had bought himself a 52″ TV and a $3000 generator for his house. But when the reporters found a receipt listing ipods, hard drives, and something called DDR from an electronics store, bought with taxpayer money, they immediately asssumed this was the game ‘Dance Dance Revolution’ and made this into a huge deal. It emerged later that this was, in fact, DDR MEMORY for a constituancy office computer, and actually a legitimate expense (the ipods, not so much)! However, to this day, the papers continue to bring up the ‘Dance Dance Revolution’ meme as though it really happened. It’s so hard for media now to give up a great scandalous sound bite, even when faced with contrary facts.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      It’s so hard for media now to give up a great scandalous sound bite, even when faced with contrary facts.

      This is where you really do need something like an updated Fairness Doctrine. It is far, far too easy for the media to say whatever they like (often, and loudly) and see little or no repercussions when called on it. It’s also a call for the separation of medium and message: you cannot assume that an organization who controls both the transmission mechanism and the content can be fair or even checked in their power.

      Now, all the said, this kind of shallow, soundbite driven reporting is exactly why the mainstream media is suffering so badly: they’ve burned their customer retention by chasing eyeballs. When all you offer is shock and awe, the bulk of the populace will drop you in a second for whomever is able to be more shocking and awful than you.

    • 0 avatar
      Toad

      psarhjinian, do you really want the government deciding what news is “fair” and what news is not? Would “fairness” apply to this website as well as broadcast and print media? We have always had journalists give us biased reporting (from all political perspectives), but when the government gets to decide what is “fair” upon penalty of fines, jail, or worse we will live in a much different, and worse, society.

      One of the great things about this country is the 1st amenendment and the wide variety of views it encourages. If it is required that every viewpoint in every media have a contrasting point of view presented, will that really be more fair? Or are you just looking for a lifetime job as a federal fairness auditor? :)

    • 0 avatar
      geeber

      The Fairness Doctrine isn’t needed here – not when there are bloggers ready to dissect a story and check out the facts. The internet has rendered it obsolete.

      The old Fairness Doctrine really didn’t work, either. We just didn’t know any better, because what constituted the news was basically determined by three networks (ABC, CBS and NBC) and two newspapers – The New York Times and The Washington Post.

    • 0 avatar
      JeremyR

      psarhjinian, in your first paragraph you state that some form of Fairness Doctrine is needed, and in your second, you suggest that the problem is taking care of itself…

      Cheers,
      Jeremy

  • avatar
    Tricky Dicky

    I am SO SO GLAD to have the BBC. Makes me want to go out and pay my Licence Fee all over again. Is paying a levy to fund a communally available service (someone’s idea of ‘socialism’ I suspect) a bad thing? Make no mistake, even if Sikes does prove to be an unwittingly bad fraudster, Toyota’s brand will suffer far more damage in economic terms than he will ever be held responsible for.

  • avatar
    Sandy A

    Bertel Schmitt: “However, that’s too simple an explanation for people who believe in cosmic rays or divine intervention.

    I can’t speak for divine intervention. My prayers are never answered…

    However, single-event upsets (SEUs), which are caused by cosmic rays, are a proven scientific reality. In fact, aside from driver error, it is probably the simplest scientific explanation for sudden unintended acceleration (SUA) in drive-by-wire or throttle-by-wire systems. Driver error doesn’t explain a 300% jump in SUA incidents in Camry’s starting with model year 2002. There was no change in the pedal arrangement. The only significant change that year was the move to electronic throttle control (ETC).

    I’m not saying that single-event upsets is the cause of SUA for Toyotas, but it does explain the random, unpredictable, and non-repeatable nature of these incidents.

    A basic understanding of SEU is provided here:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Single_event_upset

    Unlike electromagnetic interference (EMI), which can be protected against with conductive shielding, SEUs are caused by particles that can penetrate through various layers of shielding. There is a higher likelihood of SEUs at higher altitudes and the avionics and space industry has been battling SEU for over sixty years. The term “space hardening” is due to SEUs. The triple redundancy in avionic systems is required because of SEUs.

    The automotive industry largely ignored SEUs until the early 2000’s. This was primarily due to the fact that until recently automobiles were largely mechanical systems. However, as electronics took over and as semiconductors started getting smaller and using lower voltage components, the likelihood of a SEU at ground level went up.

    One of the first technical papers on ground-level SEUs is the following:
    SEU_at_Ground_Level.pdf [Google it... TTAC is not allowing me to include links without requiring moderation. One of my posts from two weeks ago is still waiting for approval...]

    While electronics can be “hardened” to mitigate SEUs, redundant electronics and logic is the best way to detect and counter them. Fault-tolerant design is absolutely necessary. The system should also have more than one communication bus. Most automotive systems rely on a single bus and it is well known that the predominant event-driven communications bus in the automotive industry, the CAN bus, is not fault tolerant.

    The problem with SEUs is that they cause “soft errors.” Meaning they don’t leave any evidence. A bit is flipped and unless there is redundancy, it will not be detected or mitigated. Double redundancy is not sufficient. Triple redundancy is required.
    http://www.eetimes.com/op/showArticle.jhtml?articleID=18902738

    While avionic systems have anticipated SEUs for a long time, SEUs are not even mentioned in the automotive literature until the early 2000’s. Here is one paper by Delphi Electronics from 2006 that recognizes the danger of SEUs in automotive electronics: [see page 18]:
    2006-01-0368.pdf [Google it]

    I quote “While significant information has been written about the phenomenon of radiation induced single event upsets (SEU) it is a fact that this issue must be considered. Alpha particles or cosmic neutrons that are present in normal background radiation cause these transistor upsets”

    In fact, some manufacturers include warnings against using their products in automotive applications:
    doc4066.pdf [Google it]

    See the disclaimer on the bottom of page 4: “Unless specifically provided otherwise, Atmel products are not suitable for, and shall not be used in, automotive applications. Atmel’s products are not intended, authorized, or warranted for use as components in applications intended to support or sustain life.”

    Furthermore, some electronics are more susceptible than others. RAM, SRAM, DRAM, ASICs, FPGAs, etc… can all be subject to soft errors. Just Google “Single-Event Upsets” to find out much, much more. They exist and they are an unfortunately reality with drive-by-wire systems.

    What is incomprehensible to me is that NHTSA has only two electrical engineers and no software engineers. Embedded systems design requires knowledge of both. NHTSA is incapable of diagnosing the root cause of SUAs in Toyotas as previous rules governing mechanical systems no longer hold.

    “Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore…”

    I welcome you to the world of X-by-wire systems!

    P.S. I appologize for the lack of links. TTAC is not allowing me to post comments with too many links.

  • avatar
    Gottleib

    Did the Calif. Highway Patrolman that stopped Sikes give him a ticket for speeding? Maybe Sikes was trying to avoid a speeding ticket.

  • avatar
    Sandy A

    Bertel Schmitt: “However, that’s too simple an explanation for people who believe in cosmic rays or divine intervention.

    I can’t speak for divine intervention. My prayers are never answered…

    However, single-event upsets (SEUs), which are caused by cosmic rays, are a proven scientific reality. In fact, aside from driver error, it is probably the simplest scientific explanation for sudden unintended acceleration (SUA) in drive-by-wire or throttle-by-wire systems. Driver error doesn’t explain a 300% jump in SUA incidents in Camry’s starting with model year 2002. There was no change in the pedal arrangement. The only significant change that year was the move to electronic throttle control (ETC).

    I’m not saying that single-event upsets is the cause of SUA for Toyotas, but it does explain the random, unpredictable, and non-repeatable nature of these incidents.

    A basic understanding of SEU is provided here:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Single_event_upset

    More to follow…

  • avatar
    Sandy A

    Installment 2: [Posts with too many links are not being published...]

    Unlike electromagnetic interference (EMI), which can be protected against with conductive shielding, SEUs are caused by particles that can penetrate through various layers of shielding. There is a higher likelihood of SEUs at higher altitudes and the avionics and space industry has been battling SEU for over sixty years. The term “space hardening” is due to SEUs. The triple redundancy in avionic systems is required because of SEUs.

    The automotive industry largely ignored SEUs until the early 2000’s. This was primarily due to the fact that until recently automobiles were largely mechanical systems. However, as electronics took over and as semiconductors started getting smaller and using lower voltage components, the likelihood of a SEU at ground level went up.

    One of the first technical papers on ground-level SEUs is here:
    http://www.boeing.com/assocproducts/radiationlab/publications/SEU_at_Ground_Level.pdf

  • avatar
    Sandy A

    Installment 3:

    While electronics can be “hardened” to mitigate SEUs, redundant electronics and logic is the best way to detect and counter them. Fault-tolerant design is absolutely necessary. The system should also have more than one communication bus. Most automotive systems rely on a single bus and it is well known that the predominant event-driven communications bus in the automotive industry, the CAN bus, is not fault tolerant.

    The problem with SEUs is that they cause “soft errors.” Meaning they don’t leave any evidence. A bit is flipped and unless there is redundancy, it will not be detected or mitigated. Double redundancy is not sufficient. Triple redundancy is required.
    http://www.eetimes.com/op/showArticle.jhtml?articleID=18902738

    While avionic systems have anticipated SEUs for a long time, SEUs are not even mentioned in the automotive literature until the early 2000’s. Here is one paper by Delphi Electronics from 2006 that recognizes the danger of SEUs in automotive electronics: [see page 18]:
    http://delphi.com/pdf/techpapers/2006-01-0368.pdf

    I quote “While significant information has been written about the phenomenon of radiation induced single event upsets (SEU) it is a fact that this issue must be considered. Alpha particles or cosmic neutrons that are present in normal background radiation cause these transistor upsets”

  • avatar
    Sandy A

    Last installment:

    In fact, some manufacturers include warnings against using their products in automotive applications:
    http://www.atmel.com/dyn/resources/prod_documents/doc4066.pdf

    See the disclaimer on the bottom of page 4: “Unless specifically provided otherwise, Atmel products are not suitable for, and shall not be used in, automotive applications. Atmel’s products are not intended, authorized, or warranted for use as components in applications intended to support or sustain life.”

    Furthermore, some electronics are more susceptible than others. RAM, SRAM, DRAM, ASICs, FPGAs, etc… can all be subject to soft errors. Just Google “Single-Event Upsets” to find out much, much more. They exist and they are an unfortunately reality with drive-by-wire systems.
    What is incomprehensible to me is that NHTSA has only two electrical engineers and no software engineers. Embedded systems design requires knowledge of both. They are incapable of diagnosing the root cause of SUAs in Toyotas as previous rules governing mechanical systems no longer hold.

    “Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore…”

    I welcome you to the wonderful new world of X-by-wire systems!

    • 0 avatar
      Log

      The Atmel disclaimer is typical of most electronic chip companies. They just don’t want the liability if something goes wrong. They know their chips are going to end up in medical devices, aircraft, etc., but they think they can use the disclaimer as ammunition against a product liability lawsuit.

      As for single event upset (SEU), you can forget about it being the cause of any automotive accidents. It’s a non issue. The SEU problem is so unlikely to occur except at very high altitudes. Unless cars start sprouting wings and flying in the upper atmosphere, you can forget about it. I won’t say it’s impossible at sea level; it just so improbable, the Delphi paper notwithstanding.

    • 0 avatar
      crash sled

      “As for single event upset (SEU), you can forget about it being the cause of any automotive accidents. It’s a non issue. The SEU problem is so unlikely to occur except at very high altitudes. Unless cars start sprouting wings and flying in the upper atmosphere, you can forget about it. I won’t say it’s impossible at sea level; it just so improbable.”

      .

      .

      Log, I can’t say as I have enough background to agree or disagree with you on your statements, however I can say that it is peculiar that this SEU phenomenon has been anonymously invoked to NHTSA as a potential cause of SUA, and concurrently we have Sandy A. in here pushing that SEU story right now. This all smells like more Gilbertine “science” to me. Very convenient, very timely, and very suspicious.

      Easy enough to prove, though, Sandy A. Set up an oven and bake those Toyotas with those “cosmic rays” you mention.

      Then, you can somehow explain to us why the “cosmic rays” suddenly stopped affecting Toyotas after the initial 2002 burst of SUA reports. And why haven’t the “cosmic rays” affected their entire fleet? Also, can you explain how it is the other makers have hardened their equipment and managed to keep it safe from the scourge of “cosmic rays”?

      Not saying you’re wrong, just that like Gilbert, you’re throwing something on the table, with no support.

  • avatar
    Sandy A

    Today the WSJ reported that:

    “Test on Prius is inconclusive.”

    The system worked when engineers performed a test drive of Sikes’s vehicle, the agency said. Engineers also noted that “there was very little left of the car’s brakes,” the agency said. The inboard front brake pads were completely gone and the outboard pads were down to about two millimeters to 2.5 millimeters, it said, and the brake rotors were damaged.

    “We would caution people that our work continues and that we may never know exactly what happened with this car,” the agency said.

    • 0 avatar
      mcs

      I’d disagree with that conclusion. Again, even a Rousch Stage 3 Mustang will stop at full throttle when the brakes are applied. The Prius is only 76 hp. Full brake application will stop the car even with the throttle wide open. He did not apply the brakes fully because even if the throttle was wide open, the car would have stopped.

      http://www.caranddriver.com/features/09q4/how_to_deal_with_unintended_acceleration-tech_dept

  • avatar
    Moparman426W

    I read today that they may recall 1.2 million corollas and matrix’s from years 05-07 for stalling problems due to failing modules.


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