By on April 7, 2010

The Detroit News has just published a quote that allegedly comes from a January 16 email from Toyota Motor Sales USA group vice president for environmental and public affairs Irv Miller to “company officials in Japan.” Miller’s quote reads:

I hate to break this to you but WE HAVE a tendency for MECHANICAL failure in accelerator pedals of a certain manufacturer on certain models. We are not protecting our customers by keeping this quiet. The time to hide on this one is over. We better just hope that they can get NHTSA to work with us in coming with a workable solution that does not put us out of business.

The DetN says Toyota refused comment on the quote, but doesn’t disclose how it obtained the email. If we had to hazard a guess at the source of the email, we’d say that one of the legion of lawyers currently suing Toyota might know something about it [UPDATE: The Freep says "the e-mail was among the 70,000 pages of documents NHTSA has collected as part of its investigation"]. Several lawyers are already gloating to Automotive News [sub] that NHTSA’s decision to pursue the maximum fine for Toyota’s unintended acceleration problem will help their cases (though this is hardly guaranteed), and they are desperately seeking any kind of evidence of a Toyota coverup. Meanwhile, Toyota’s UA-related recalls aren’t even over yet, as Reuters reports that the world’s largest automaker has only just recalled 13,000 Camrys from the Korean market. But considering that GM won’t have the much-hyped brake-override “failsafe” for unintended acceleration on all of its vehicles until 2012 [via AN [sub]], it will be tough to paint Toyota as being a complete outlier on automotive safety. In fact, the only thing that seems certain about this story is that there are million of reasons for lawyers and reporters to keep chipping away at a phenomenon that seems to largely have been a product of operator error.

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

60 Comments on “Quote Of The Day 2: Toyota Tales Edition...”


  • avatar

    Cue – smoking gun

  • avatar
    Detroit Todd

    Really, Ed?

    But considering that GM won’t have the much-hyped brake-override “failsafe” for unintended acceleration on all of its vehicles until 2012 [via AN [sub]], it will be tough to paint Toyota as being a complete outlier on automotive safety.

    Why is it that in EVERY Toyota SUA story on TTAC, some domestic automaker has to be mentioned? In this instance, an equivalence between GM and Toyota regarding SUA is falsely implied.

    Obviously, GM is introducing the brake-overide failsafe out of an abundance of caution — NOT to remedy a SUA problem. And, yes, Toyota IS an outlier on SUA.

    Finally, when companies withhold information (especially regarding product safety) and fail to comply with regulations, lawyers tend to sue them. That doesn’t sound like anything nefarious to me.

    • 0 avatar
      tooling designer

      TTAC must include a domestic mfg in every Toyo UA story because the TTAC contributors are a bunch of lazy, grandstanding, hacks. Keep in mind this blog is run by a collection of tools. Not real, actual journalists. Thats why.

    • 0 avatar
      panzerfaust

      ^ Maybe you should change your handle if you’re going to continue to call people ‘tools’ :)

      Detroit: Maybe it’s because other domestic manufacturers who have similar problems are not being flayed alive by the NHTSA and the US Congress.

    • 0 avatar
      Detroit Todd

      Panzer, can you show me cases of SUA regarding GM products? I must have missed them in the news, somehow.

    • 0 avatar
      porschespeed

      Ask and ye shall receive…

      http://www.autosafety.org/srr/GMSA2.pdf

      I deliberately chose an older example. Actually, Ford has had similar issues over the years as well. From the early 80s to the present.

      Last week I saw at least two instances on the news of cars that were D3 (which ones were irrelevant) driving into buildings. No big firestorm, because they weren’t Toyos, and natch, further investigation revealed that, the mechanical failure was the driver.

      I am not saying the Toyo thing is false – fully drive-by-wire throttle and braking leave open the *possibility* that there is a software issue.

      Let’s see what NASA determines.

    • 0 avatar

      tooling designer
      April 7th, 2010 at 8:12 pm

      TTAC must include a domestic mfg in every Toyo UA story because the TTAC contributors are a bunch of lazy, grandstanding, hacks. Keep in mind this blog is run by a collection of tools. Not real, actual journalists. Thats why.

      Okay. So tell us what a “real, actual journalist” is.

      I don’t know about the other contributors, but I know that I spend hours researching and writing anything that I submit to TTAC, so lazy doesn’t apply.

      Grandstanding? Every writer likes to promote their own brand.

      Hack? A great musician once told me that hacks copy while artists steal. If you can point to an instance of plagiarism by me or by any of the TTAC writers, feel free, but you’ll be wasting
      your time.

      I’m credentialed by the major auto shows and car events, I’m on the press fleet list, and I get paid $0.05-$0.15 per word so I’m pretty sure that makes be a professional writer. I know how much my opinion is worth. How much do you get paid for your opinion?

      If we weren’t real journalists do you think they’d loan us test cars?

      Yes, some writers on TTAC have had a hardon about the domestic manufacturers. I’ve told people myself that RF worked hard at establishing TTAC’s brand as “Detroit sucks”. However, you’d have to be either blind or stupid to see the site as monolithic. To Farago’s credit, he invited me to contribute so there’d be another voice. Ed and Paul have continued that openmindedness.

      I’ve written positive things about American car companies on TTAC. So have Jack Baruth and Steve Lang.

      You’re welcome to start your own site and see how hard it is to gain an audience, grow traffic and break even (let alone turn a profit). When you succeed in establishing an automotive news and commentary site, and you’re successful enough to have an editorial budget, let me know and I’ll consider submitting articles for publication.

    • 0 avatar
      Detroit Todd

      Porsche, nice twenty-year old, irrelevant data you have there. On this very site, it’s been demonstrated repeatedly that Toyota has much higher SUA rates than other makes. Only the Ford Panthers come remotely close.

    • 0 avatar
      porschespeed

      Detroit Todd,

      Did you read the words? The point I was making is that NO manufacturer seems to be immune from SUA “incidents”.

      Yes, as I noted, I picked 20 year old data on purpose. To illustrate the point that this has been going on for quite a while.

      According to NHTSA Toyota does have a higher rate than the others. I’m not arguing that point of the data. Of course, as you well know, the method for filing a complaint is ridiculously easy, and unverified. Also pointed out on this very site.

      This applies to ALL the cars with SUA captioned in the current NHTSA stats.

      As Ronnie noted, this as much or more, about the apparent cover-up.

    • 0 avatar
      Angainor

      Here you go Detroit. Clearly a case of SUA in a Cadillac Escalade

      http://www.lex18.com/news/suv-plows-through-lexington-grocery-store/

  • avatar
    James2

    Didn’t ToMoCo fire Irv Miller? Hmmm…

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    Mechanical issue. Not electronic or software-related: mechanical.

    Anyone still think that mechanical solutions are inherently superior? Or can we stop with “It was better when we had cable-operated throttles instead of this electronic stuff.”

  • avatar

    Come on does any buddy really believe this? It has absolutely everything you need. You couldn’t make up one better than this. Let me be the first to say – this will be the next big fraud story, much better than the rigged Audi. I love it, history is being made – so lets get busy finding the truth or proving the fraud.

  • avatar

    Like Nixon said, it’s never the original bad act that snares you, it’s the coverup.

    You think Ford’s Pinto gas tank legal problem would have been as bad as it was had there not been a paper trail showing that the engineers had a fix and mgmt decided to overrule the nerds?

    Frankly, I’m shocked the Miller would have been so open in an email. It’s the kind of thing that’s usually communicated verbally, not in writing.

  • avatar

    Tool – I’m a dues paying member of CAJ

  • avatar
    troonbop

    I was a “real,actual” journalist for about a decade. If you’re confident about the product you get in the MSM, you are living in a dreamworld.

  • avatar
    YotaCarFan

    [I]I hate to break this to you but WE HAVE a tendency for MECHANICAL failure in accelerator pedals of a certain manufacturer on certain models. We are not protecting our customers by keeping this quiet. The time to hide on this one is over. We better just hope that they can get NHTSA to work with us in coming with a workable solution that does not put us out of business.[/I]

    Assuming for the sake of argument that the email actually exists, the author’s first sentence implies the suits in Japan are unaware of the mechanical issue. His second sentence implies that they are aware and are hiding it. This is contradictory, and I find it hard to believe that a high ranking executive would be so sloppy when writing an email of great importance to the big bosses in Japan.

    Also, it’s nothing new that Toyota knew there were mechanical problems with the CTS pedals for several years – the changed the design 2x, IIRC, to reduce the stickiness. So, this is just a rehash of known facts.

    • 0 avatar
      NulloModo

      It’s hard to tell if it is sloppy writing without seeing it in context (i.e. what was the e-mail from Toyota’s Japanese headquarters that prompted that response).

      If it is true (and I really really hope it is) it is just what the legions of personal injury lawyers are going to need to nail Toyota to the wall for billions in damages.

      The only thing better would be if somewhere somehow someone from Toyota put something in writing along the lines of ‘We aren’t going to worry about this because it only affects US market cars, Japanese market cars are still safe’. Boy, I’m getting giddy just thinking about it, come on, burn baby burn.

  • avatar

    The reporter is David Shepardson, he has been accused by Debbie Schlussel of fabricating stories in support of terrorists. She said the following about him in 2005 – “But Shepardson relied exclusively on alleged terrorist Hannan’s lawyer, Jim Thomas, for the entire story, and never checked a thing.”

  • avatar
    tedward

    It looks like some government lawyers found a CYA email. It is relevant news because these are the revelations that every product liability scandal rely on to really get traction. Why this post garnered any hostility is beyond me.

  • avatar
    CatFan78

    Don’t really see the so called smoking gun here. The email is written 2 days before the recall, and at the time Toyota was already discussing the issue with NHTSA.

    This fine is definitely politically motivated. LaHood said Toyota knew on Sept 29th and didn’t disclose to NHTSA until end of January. But I just read a story on Detroit Free press that showed Toyota notified NHTSA in November of 3 incidents that happened in late October.

    The question is when did Toyota “know” of a safety defect? Is it the first incident that is reported through NHTSA or a warranty system? If so, then every problem ever reported had to be communicated to NHTSA within a week of the first incident. Looks like NHTSA is just out to try and cover it’s own mistakes by using Toyota as a scapegoat.

    GM and others have recalled several MILLION vehicles for severe safetly problems (brakes, steering, fires, exploding air bags, etc) just SINCE all the Toyota ruckus started. Wonder when GM is getting called up and grilled before congress and slammed with a fine. Double standard. Japan trade bashing by US government who is trying to protect their investment in GM and Chrysler.

  • avatar
    PeteMoran

    There’s more to tell yet, not just from Toyota.

    http://www.businessweek.com/news/2010-03-15/ford-had-20-acceleration-deaths-as-regulators-cited-human-error.html

    “NHTSA, which is responsible for ensuring the safety of motor vehicles in the U.S., hasn’t previously disclosed the non- Toyota deaths. After Toyota’s 51, Ford and Chrysler vehicles were linked to the most deaths — 20 for Ford and 12 for Chrysler.”

    They still haven’t disclosed the information fully either.

  • avatar
    Dynamic88

    In fact, the only thing that seems certain about this story is that there are million of reasons for lawyers and reporters to keep chipping away at a phenomenon that seems to largely have been a product of operator error.

    Do you mean to imply here that it’s operator error independent of some contributing design/mechanical/electrical/computer defect in Toyota cars?

    I ask because the whole thing sure isn’t shaping up as operator error as far as I can see. At least not operator error independent of brand.

    In data supplied by your dad, about a month ago -

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

    -it appears that Toyota is an outlier, having much higher numbers of complaints per 100K vehicles sold than other makers. As an aside, it also appears that GM is an outlier for the opposite reason – many fewer complaints per 100K vehicles sold.

    While virtually all manufacturers have had complaints, it’s clear from the tables that the rates are nowhere near being similar.

    Of course, one of the favorite “operator error” scenarios is that the gray hairs are befuddled and stepping on the wrong pedal. There does seem to be some correlation with age, and yet if that were the sole explanation, then we’d expect Buick to be high (perhaps even tops) on the list of complaints per 100K vehicles sold. Yet, what we find is that Buick comes in at number 97, with the Lucerne having 1.29 complaints per 100K cars, while Toyota/Lexus have 6 spots in the top ten with complaint rates 6 to 24 times higher when compared to Lucerne.

    If you want to make a case that Toyota/Lexus pedal placement is causing the senile demographic to step on the wrong pedal, then make that case. But please don’t just shrug this off as operator error, with the implication that it’s unrelated to brand.

    Of course the elderly befuddlement explanation fails for other reasons as well – namely that there are cars that probably have a low rate of ownership/drivership among the elderly, which none the less have high rates of SUA complaints per 100K cars.

    What is it about operator error that is so appealing that people will dismiss data in order to propagate the notion?

    • 0 avatar
      CarPerson

      +11111111111111111111

      EXACTLY!

      It’s frustrating that there are still people who, on learning SUA was likely operator error, close the books on the issue instead of asking “How is the vehicle contributing to operator error?” Asking that follow-up question is what has made everything from airplanes to gas appliances safer. How is it that a small but vocal minority fail to apply the same to vehicles???

      It really was an “Audi Fiasco”: The powers that be failed to investigate how the space between the pedals (s/b >3”), relative pedal heights (brake s/b >2” higher), and tactile feedback in the Audi 5000 failed to minimize the number of pedal mis-applications.

      Toyota has other problems, including trying to convince people the electronics in the throttle system is robust when it clearly is not. A parallel, linear witness signal from the pedal is only slightly better than no witness signal at all.

    • 0 avatar
      Angainor

      Yes! Cause clearly the vast majority of drivers in the US have no issues with driving and are merely the innocent victims of poor pedal design or intermittent, unreplicatable electronic glitches. Take this poor woman for example. Her Cadillac Escalade clearly accelerated out of control thru no fault of her own. Hopefully GM will come clean about this faster then Toyota did and will do a better job explaining during their Congressional hearings.

      http://www.lex18.com/news/suv-plows-through-lexington-grocery-store/

    • 0 avatar
      b1msus93

      Great post D88
      Where’s the response?

    • 0 avatar
      porschespeed

      “If you want to make a case that Toyota/Lexus pedal placement is causing the senile demographic to step on the wrong pedal, then make that case. But please don’t just shrug this off as operator error, with the implication that it’s unrelated to brand. ”

      How is stepping on the wrong pedal not operator error? Pedal placement may, or may not, be a contributing factor. But regardless of their closeness, stepping on the wrong one seems to be operator error by definition to me.

      So is a floor mat lodged under your gas pedal. Should Toyota have made that error more difficult? Sure. But things like that are not the car being possessed by some phantom uncontrollable force. They’re simply errors that could happen more frequently because the design was not optimized to prevent such errors.

      We can try to determine how much stupidity any company is required to design around – but operator error still falls squarely on the operator.

    • 0 avatar
      CarPerson

      @ Porschespeed: …but operator error still falls squarely on the operator.

      Not so fast.

      Us left-brainers look beyond the “who” and ask “how and why”. If a company’s product supports and otherwise encourages mistaken use, that product is defective by definition.

      Further, if the mistaken use is 6 to 10 times that of comparable products, it points to that specific product being defective in a manner that is promoting and facilitating the mistaken use. Again, defective by definition.

      We want to know what’s behind “Operator Error” so it can be addressed and minimized if not nearly eliminated. This is the brass ring that eluded our grasp with the Audi 5000.

      Wanna bet engineers can’t fix a suspect pedal design to cause “operator error” to plunge into nearly non-existence? A cheap and easy start would be to use more “normal and customary” pedal ergonomics and less of a Road Atlanta design in a mundane appliance street vehicle.

    • 0 avatar
      Dynamic88

      @porschespeed

      How is stepping on the wrong pedal not operator error? Pedal placement may, or may not, be a contributing factor. But regardless of their closeness, stepping on the wrong one seems to be operator error by definition to me.

      I’m fine with calling it operator error. Where I have a problem is when people imply that there is nothing wrong with Toyota. The data is very clear – Lexus/Toyota models are having this problem at rates as high as 24 times the rate of say the Buick Lucerne.

      Look at it this way – why would the elderly step on the wrong pedal 24 times more frequently when driving a Lexus than when driving a Buick? It might be operator error, but there has to be a contributing factor from the car -otherwise there is no way to explain the huge difference in SUA reports per 100K vehicles.

      We know the average age of a Buick owner is in the 70s -http://www.autoobserver.com/2009/09/new-lacrosse-not-scoring-big-with-buicks-preferred-prospects—yet.html, while the average Toyota owner is 47. -http://blogs.cars.com/kickingtires/2008/01/down-economy-mo.html

      [Note that the second article I linked shows the avg age for Toyota owners is 46.6, I rounded up to 47. The same article says the average age of a Buick shopper -which isn\'t necessarily a buyer- was 55. The Enclave is lowering the average age for Buick owners. At any rate, I think we can agree that the average Buick owner is old enough to join AARP]

      So, since Buick owners are older, and “operator error” is supposed to be due to the elderly not being able to tell which pedal they’re standing on, we should expect Buick to have a higher rate of SUA claims. But just the opposite is true. As I pointed out above, Toyota a Lexus have rates 6 to 24 times as high as Buick, despite the fact that Toyota drivers are, on average, quite a bit younger.

      Even if all the Toyota drivers who experience SUA are AARP aged, that still doesn’t explain why Elmer and Elsie step on the wrong pedal much more frequently when driving their Toyota than they do when driving their Buick.

      You can’t look at the data and say operator error, and leave it at that. There has to be something about Toyota/Lexus which contributes to the problem – otherwise Toyota/Lexus would have lower SUA rates than Buick.

    • 0 avatar
      porschespeed

      Fair enough, the ‘how and why’ of operator error are necessary to determine if, in fact, we can prevent/minimize operator error.

      I’m in complete agreement. What I take issue with is the miscategorization of operator error into something that the car actively did. It’s only the car’s fault if the car does it without any mis-input from the operator.

      The Audi 5000 was a horrible press and mass-hysteria driven tragedy – For Audi. Yes, my mother owned one – nope, never an issue with SUA in over 140K miles. Of course, she knew where to put her feet.

      The only single-point fault that was ever identified with the 5000 was a potential solder issue on some Hella sourced cruise controllers. Which could cause the vehicle to accelerate. At least until you hit the brakes.

      None of the “I was standing on the brake, and the car just took off…” stories were ever supported by the forensics. There would have been physical evidence of brake failure post accident. There never was. There would have been evidence of throttle binding, or pedal sticking, or something. Anything. Once again, there never was.

      Dynamic88,

      I’m not arguing that the Toyota stats are not an outlier vis-a-vis the rest of the market. They are higher than everyone else’s, but that’s raw data at this point. As we have covered before, ANYBODY can make a claim of SUA on the NHTSA website.

      I’m not a Toyota apologist, they can do wrong, and they should have designed the pedals to be floor mat idiot proof.

      But, to this day, short of some sticky pedals (a problem, and being dealt with like every other manufacturer), and sliding floormats, there has been no proof that any of this is anything but operator error. As soon as I see some, I’ll change my tune.

      Hell, somebody give me a viable theory, and I’ll buy in to the theory.

      I’m eagerly awaiting the results from NASA’s tests.

      Until then, I give Toyota’s SUA issues the same credence I give to the allegations against Ford and GM – it’s people making mistakes and not knowing better, or people knowing they screwed up and finding the scapegoat.

    • 0 avatar
      CarPerson

      @ porschespeed What I take issue with is the mis-categorization of operator error into something that the car actively did.

      What is driving a distinction between “active” and “passive”? Why is a passive design flaw given a free ride? “Thing” has to reach down from under the dashboard and physically move the driver’s foot from the brake to the throttle before it can be classified as “vehicle error”?

      How about “Operator error induced and coerced by a vehicle design flaw”? (Notwithstanding Microsoft would classify it a “feature”.)

      Pedal designers can design operator error in or they can design operator error out. With Toyota being 6x-24x the norm, it’s pretty evident they designed it in. The bottom line “Operator Error” I see is the person sitting in front of the CAD system and the supervisor who signed off the design.

    • 0 avatar
      porschespeed

      Microsoft would have called it a feature, indeed.

      Were this happening to thousands of people everyday, then I would be happy to jump on the design error bandwagon.

      I’m not saying that it couldn’t have been done better, or that it shouldn’t have been more idiot-proofed. Facts on the ground seem to indicate that more should have been done. We are, after all, dealing with some people who are so unaware that they don’t know how to keep a floor mat out from under a pedal.

      I guess we’re splitting semantic hairs, but I tend to look at this in distinct terms – either the driver committed the error, or something malfunctioned with the car.

      The only way to flesh out what is actually going on here is to figure out which problems are derived from where. Otherwise, none of this will ever get fixed.

  • avatar
    baggins

    I would wager a hefty sum this is a fraud.

    Here are some reasons

    He’s writing to Japanese company officials and says ” I hate to break this to you” The whole thing is way to informal for an email that would be to very senior japanese execs.

    A group VP is stupid enough to write somthing like this in a email

    A public affairs guy is the one to notify Japan?, by email? That they have a multi billon dollar problem?

    It all strains credibility.

    • 0 avatar
      cdotson

      baggins, good point and I agree.

      In the past I worked on an OEM implementation of a Honda small engine. The Honda Power Equipment folks regularly dealt with Japan and had a proprietary Japanese/English translator to use for e-mails and a procedure for the sender to translate E-J-E and proof to ensure proper translation. Such an informal/colloquial statement would never make it through the translator. Only formal and grammatically correct writing would stand a chance of conveying proper intent. I can’t believe that Toyota would operate relying on senior executives’ bilingual abilities through a medium such as e-mail that is so easily translated (and incorrectly).

    • 0 avatar

      So any reaction to the PDF of the actual email that the Freep published?

      And based on the title of “Kogi” whom Irv Miller was addressing the email to (“Executive Coordinator”), it sounds like Miller was a higher-up and Kogi is more of an administrative-type person. It’s not like Miller is emailing Akio Toyoda with the “I hate to break it to you” tone, he’s addressing someone who’s likely several levels below him.

  • avatar
    rnc

    Everyone wondered why in the hell Press would leave Toyota for Chrysler? Wonder if his financial problems have disappeared and any non-disclosure agreements have been signed recently?

  • avatar
    ash78

    What, you mean high-level executives in companies don’t craft their emails the way a 17-year-old boy would?

    Seriously suspect, but not beyond the realm of possibility. Maybe a 1% chance.

  • avatar
    Telegraph Road

    “a phenomenon that seems to largely have been a product of operator error”

    SUA has multiple known causes, including operator error (especially among the elderly), floor mat entrapment (CHP Saylor), sticky accelerator pedals, and fraud (Sikes). Some argue that faulty electronics are a potential cause, but this is debatable–regardless of what ABC News and the LA Times claim. Toyota acknowledges that floor mat entrapment and CTS pedals are potential causes and has issued recalls. Few deny operator error is a cause of SUA in all manufacturers’ vehicles, especially among models driven by the elderly (e.g. Town Car). Even if the majority of SUA claims in Toyota vehicles are caused by operator error and fraud, it’s critical that Toyota and NHTSA don’t ignore the other causes.

  • avatar

    Has Edmunds paid out a million dollars yet to someone who can identify the cause and replicate the problem?

    I suspect Edmunds’s million is safe.

    • 0 avatar
      Paul Niedermeyer

      I’m beginning to wonder if Edmund’s prize is a publicity ploy; last time I checked, their “lawyers are still working out the details”.  I’m going to stay it.

    • 0 avatar
      Telegraph Road

      There are multiple causes–not a singular “the cause”. One cause is floor mat entrapment, which is easy to replicate. Another cause is sticky gas pedals which Toyota engineers have been able to replicate. Source: http://cbs3.com/topstories/toyota.acceleration.investigation.2.1616541.html

  • avatar

    Toyota’s vision/mission states that “respect for people” is a core value. By apparently withholding important safety information from its customers, there is a disconnect between what top management preaches and the reality of what middle management is actually doing.

    How did this discrepancy come about? There are three primary reasons:

    Lack of top management leadership.
    Cracks in the Toyota Production system
    Dysfunctional organizational structure

    I discuss these issues in more depth in my blog.

  • avatar
    b1msus93

    Oh noz Toyota fans

    http://freep.com/article/20100408/BUSINESS01/4080421/1331/Toyota-exec-Time-to-come-clean

    the PDF looks legit to me

  • avatar

    Semantics and why Toyota won’t be fined – It all hinges on legal definitions and semantics of the words “unreasonable” and “risk” as stated in the law. From NHTSA “What is a safety defect” -United States Code for Motor Vehicle Safety (Title 49, Chapter 301) defines motor vehicle safety as “the performance of a motor vehicle or motor vehicle equipment in a way that protects the public against unreasonable risk of accidents occurring because of the design, construction, or performance of a motor vehicle, and against unreasonable risk of death or injury in an accident, and includes nonoperational safety of a motor vehicle.”

    The problem for the government is they have complaints, they have labratory testing and internal company memos from Toyota but they do not have a single real world example of a defect that has caused an accident. This is a huge legal hurdle for the government. A few years ago Transport Canada told me that Ford didn’t have to order a recall for broken coil springs that punctured tires on Windstars because the springs mainly failed when parked and this didn’t constitute undue risk or an immediate threat to safety. Today NHTSA lists (01I007000) a 98 Windstar as having a Safety Improvement Campaign – not a recall! If this is the standard Toyota needs to meet with a sticky pedal then they too can get the “Not a Recall” designation. So if there are no actual accidents in the real world is there an unreasonable risk to public safety?

    • 0 avatar
      Steven02

      While I don’t think that incident with Ford should have been handled that way, what you describe as a legal hurdle for the gov’t in the case of Toyota isn’t. The text says unreasonable risk. Not proof of accident. If this was the case, why would anyone have to issue a safety recall until an accident occurs? That defeats the purpose.

      I believe that the accident in Southlake, TX was a result of the pedal sticking. In this accident, the car sped through a stop sign and ended up in the bottom of a pond where all 4 people drowned.

  • avatar
    PeteMoran

    @ carperson

    Toyota has other problems, including trying to convince people the electronics in the throttle system is robust when it clearly is not. A parallel, linear witness signal from the pedal is only slightly better than no witness signal at all.

    http://www.popularmechanics.com/automotive/how_to/4347704.html

    A couple of small errors, but otherwise a good explanation from a fine magazine.

    • 0 avatar
      CarPerson

      I’ve read this article before and all the comments attached to it. It’s fine for the Main Stream Media.

      Frankly, alot of what has been posted on TTAC, specifically some of the more technical stuff, takes this to a level I have not seen matched anywhere else. Yes, some wrongheaded comments but in the main, solid discussions.

      If the point is Popular Science believes a witness signal differing by only voltage is “robust”, I respectfully disagree (as would trained engineers): It is not.

      The witness signal should be at least non-linear or non-parallel before it is billed as “robust”. Some would insist on both.

      GM appears to be doing at least some of their products this way.

    • 0 avatar
      CarPerson

      “differing by only voltage” should read:
      “differing by only constant voltage”.

      The good professor was able to defeat the witness signal entirely by just determining the constant voltage differential and shorting between the two through an appropriate resister.

      It has been reported that the traces on the circuit boards at the pedal and ECU are close enough that a moisture or “tin whisker” short between the lines, not unheard of in the real world, would totally eliminate whatever safety backup Toyota is claiming for the throttle pedal circuit. Also, because the witness signal appears to be Ok, no fault is trapped.

      A non-linear or non-parallel witness signal would trap this fault and throw an error code.

      Toyota should be faulted for its hubris in trying to blow past an uninformed public a very modest witness signal as something that is noteworthly for its robustness.

  • avatar
    Steven02

    Why comment on GM and having brake override in 2012 and not mention any of the other manufactures that do and do not have this feature in some or all of its cars? What are the dates for everyone else?

    I really don’t see the point in this bringing this up with GM at all, especially in the tone that it will help Toyota with its cases. A defect is a defect, regardless of the safety override. While GM and other manufactures don’t currently have this today, that doesn’t help Toyota with the sticking pedals. If you can proof, preponderance of the evidence proof, that the sticky pedal caused the issue, then you win. If you can’t proof that, you don’t win.

    For Toyota, this isn’t good news. This basically says they knew about the problem before hand and didn’t issue a recall in a timely fashion. Lawyers still have a long way to go to proof the defect caused an accident in most cases.

  • avatar
    Odomeater

    Steven- It is standard procedure to include GM in everything here (if you didn’t already notice). It is actually incredible sometimes.

  • avatar
    PeteMoran

    @ carperson

    Are we talking the same terminology here? What are you referring to as a “witness” signal? Are you talking about ground level monitoring?

    • 0 avatar
      CarPerson

      To check the validity of a signal, control and instrument designers can include a second signal, often referred to as a “witness” signal. It is safe to presume 100% of all electronically controlled throttle pedals have two signals from the pedal to the ECU, one of them a witness signal.

      For ensuring the safety and integrity of the control system, the ECU compares the two signals. If they calculate out as a match, the process continues. If they do not match, a fault is indicated. In vehicles this may include illuminating a dash lamp and branching to “limp” mode.

      Draw the two signals on the same graph, signal vs. pedal position. You do NOT want to see parallel lines. This design is too easily defeated in the real world with the additional danger of the fault going undetected. One has to question the skill of the control designer or the technical management that allows the use of this design. Toyota and a few others are using a parallel witness signal from the throttle pedal.

      Liner vs. non-linear signals each has advocates, each having valid points. Consider it more a secondary point of discussion.

      Don’t let anyone tell you they have a “robust” design then show you two parallel lines on a graph. They don’t.

    • 0 avatar
      YotaCarFan

      Just b/c the two accelerator signals differ by a constant voltage does not mean the design is not robust. The chosen voltages are such that realistic failure modes (short between the two signals, short of one or both signals to ground, or short of one or both signals to 12v power) will always result in the two signals failing to differ by the expected voltage delta, and thus being detected by the ECM.

    • 0 avatar
      CarPerson

      @ YotaCarFan

      A constant voltage delta is NOT a robust design. Coupled with the fact the delta, in the Toyota design, can freely vary over a surprisingly large value, it is a design that belongs in a cheap RC toy, not a real vehicle.

      BTW, The discussion relates to trapping any and all shorts between the control and witness signals, not shorts to power or ground.

  • avatar
    PeteMoran

    @ Angainor

    You’re forgetting another Escalade SUA incident that hasn’t received attention from the NHTSA;

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport2/hi/golf/8383782.stm


Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Subscribe without commenting

Recent Comments

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Staff

  • Contributing Writers

  • Jack Baruth, United States
  • Brendan McAleer, Canada
  • Marcelo De Vasconcellos, Brazil
  • Vojta Dobes, Czech Republic
  • Matthias Gasnier, Australia
  • W. Christian 'Mental' Ward, Abu Dhabi
  • Mark Stevenson, Canada
  • Cameron Aubernon, United States
  • J Emerson, United States