By on August 18, 2010

I am looking under every rock and asking the question: Is there anything wrong or unusual about our pedals? We are continuing to look to see if there is something that we could do differently.

Toyota’s Steve St. Angelo tells the WSJ [sub] that Toyota is reviewing its pedal designs in search of a cause for its recent Unintended Acceleration scandal. Thus far, Toyota’s UA issues have been traced only to sticky pedals and floormat interference. Attempts to trace UA to malfunctioning throttle units have thus far been abortive, with a government research panel finding that brake misapplication occurred in many of the Toyota UA incidents.

And Toyota isn’t the only party studying pedal placement in Toyota vehicles. According to the WSJ

A few months ago, Consumer Reports began studying pedal designs in vehicles made by Toyota and others. The magazine measured the distance between the pedals and the floor as well as the position of the steering wheel and seats but so far hasn’t found anything unusual about Toyotas, said David Champion, the director of automotive testing.

St. Angelo echoes CR’s frustrations, saying nothing has yet jumped out as a potential cause for UA.

When I look at the data, it shows our pedals are right in the middle. They are plain and boring. Frankly, I was hoping that there would be something different, so I could solve the problem

Pedal misapplication has been blamed for the Audi UA scandal of the late 80s and early 90s, and Audi was forced to redesign its pedals in the aftermath of that scandal. But with Toyota and Consumer Reports unable to find any objective problem in Toyota’s pedal design, the hunt for a cause for Toyota’s UA issues remains inconclusive.

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24 Comments on “Toyota Studies Pedal Design...”

  • avatar

    Just use a brake “button” rather than pedal like the Citroen SM had.

  • avatar

    Too close together.

  • avatar

    I think it’s mainly the angle of the photo that makes the pedals look too close together.

    • 0 avatar

      You may be right. I certainly know that whenever I have the distinct pleasure of driving my mom’s RAV-4 whenever they’re visiting the city the pedal positioning seems very tight and unnatural.

    • 0 avatar
      Robert Schwartz

      My wife owns a 2007 RAV4. The pedals are too close together for my taste. I occasionally depress both of them while trying to move from one to the other.

  • avatar

    Back around 1998 I did a huge study of pedals, while working on adjustable pedal design criteria, at Delphi when it was part of GM.

    My memory of that study is that some GM cars defined the boundaries of pedal step over height and spacing, and everyone else was somewhre in the middle.

    The step over height, the height distance between the gas and brake pedals, is critical when quickly moving the foot from the gas to the brake. My memory is that the closest pedlas were in the Eldorado and the Lexus 400, and some older cars. The worst was the 98 Chevy Blazer.

    It occurs to me that in the global scheme of things, the incidence of pedal misapplication is so rare that trying to find any statistical correlation my well be futile.

    People make mistakes, and, lacking an obvious cause, it can be hard to pinpoint any design changes to fix that. A complete rethinking may be required in the control system.

    Cars definately need to be re-thought when it comes to accommadating short people, but as long as companies are run by taller than average males, that in’t going to happen.


    • 0 avatar

      ’98 Chevy Blazer you say? I distinctly remember driving one of those rentals from Cleveland to Detroit and back and being surprised how in such a big vehicle my feet felt more cramped than in wife’s ’91 Corolla.

    • 0 avatar

      Cars definitely need to be re-thought when it comes to accommodating short people

      You must have meant to say:

      “Cars definitely need to be re-thought when it comes to accommodating tall people”

  • avatar

    Toyota should take a step back and simply study design in general.

    • 0 avatar

      Word. As GM & Ford stop engineering their cars to fail prematurely, Toyota has its work cut out to remain ahead of the pack. Even a vague grasp of design would help. I like my ’08 Toy, and it’s been bulletproof, but there are layout WTF’s all over the place.

    • 0 avatar

      Sure hope they don’t hire the guy that green-lighted putting the on/off button right next to the place where one grabs to open/close the lid on the HP Photosmart Premium scanner/printer.

      It was so easy to in advertantly hit this button when opening the lid, that I finally had to put a little flap over it to prevent this. (sometimes I think some things go right from design to production without anybody ever trying them to see if they have TGW’s like this.)

  • avatar

    Proven solution: Bottom hinged gas pedal attached to the floor, a la Porsche 911.

    • 0 avatar

      +1 I would like if more cars had bottom hinged pedals. although I think they have the same risk as regular pedals. One problem I’ve seen is that the pedals are too much to the right(for LHD cars, I haven’t driven a RHD car), that throttle pedal is too close to the wall. There might be a safety reason for this but I don’t know it. It doesn’t make ergonomic sense.

    • 0 avatar

      Even better, roller pedal, a la 1950’s VW.

    • 0 avatar

      I was thinking the same thing only with GM cars from the ’60’s. Their pedals were all attached to the floor and pivoted on two small ball studs which protruded up through the carpet. It was a real simple design and worked well.

      I’m still hung up on study results that report this problem as driver error. If Toyota’s results state that, “it shows our pedals are right in the middle. They are plain and boring.” then how come it is only Toyota that is having such an significant problem with UA and not other brands?

    • 0 avatar

      For a quality guy, the Toyota guy is either a) not very precise in his language, or b) great at summing up a complex topic with an accessable term.

      What means “right in the middle” and measured relative to what?

      Offset from seat c/l?
      Offset from column c/l?
      distance pedal pivot to floor?
      fore-aft distance to seat?
      pedal to tunnel gap?
      inter-pedal gap?
      inter-pedal fore-aft offset?
      pedal forces?
      pedal travel?

      There are a lot of relevant things that can be measured…
      Then one must apply statistics…
      Talk median, mean and standard deviation…

      Would be interesting if TMC would publish their benchmarking results so the rest of us can look at it…

  • avatar

    Considering an automatic has only two pedals why not set it up like a go-kart? Minus the steep and destructive learning curve hitting the wrong pedal would no longer be a good excuse.

  • avatar

    Leave the third pedal in and teach people how to drive a car the way they were meant to be driven.

  • avatar

    Around Boston, we seem to be having an incident a week of pedal confusion. A couple of weeks ago a 91 year old hit spectators at a parade in Newburyport MA, last week an 88 year old on a test drive in a new Focus went into a bakery. Todays incident was someone younger that went through a brick wall.

    Here are links to this months incidents:

    91 year old in Newburyport

    88 year old on test drive

    Camry through wall in Burlington, MA

  • avatar

    It seems to me that it’s easier to get something underneath a hanging gas pedal than to get something behind a floor mounted pedal. Therefore, I would suggest that Toyota switch to a floor mounted gas pedal.

    So that I can heel and toe during downshifts, I prefer the brake and gas pedals to be separated laterally by half the width of my size nine shoe. They should be at the same height when the brake pedal is pressed hard. The brake pedal should be quite firm so that minor variations in pressure as I work the gas pedal do not result in big changes in deceleration.

  • avatar

    @ frizzlefry: Yeah, they had the same thing on the Citroen DS19/DS20. Just a punch ball instead of the pedal, hardly to dose properly. Awful design. Imagine driving with wet boots! Definitely needed some training to get used to it.
    @ h82w8: That was the standard design with the VW Beetle, too. But as the brakes were also floor-mounted, how should such a design help against mixing up brake and gas pedal? With the Beetle such a problem never occurred, as this car did not accelerate, neither intended nor unintended.
    There simply won’t be any fool-proof design, as we all know that fools are ingenious.

  • avatar

    Pedals that are less than 2-1/2 inches apart and less than 2 inches difference in height foster, promote, and encourage driver error. I thought we learned that lesson with the Audi.

  • avatar

    @Herb: You are certainly right in that fools are ingenious, maybe we should focus on double-screening “Grey Power” drivers rather than re-engineering the apple.

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