By on April 11, 2009

A year ago, TTAC published a story about out-of-control Toyota Tacomas. Since then, reports continue to surface of “unintended acceleration” events in Lexus ES and IS and Toyota Camry and Camry Solara vehicles. Toyota insists that all-weather floor mats are causing the problem; the accelerator becomes stuck under the rubber. alleges, well, you know. “This is a known problem with over 432 complaints,” the site’s author insists. According to NHTSA’s Defect Investigation’s database, reports of unintended acceleration in Lexus ES models first surfaced around 2004 and continued until late 2008. One report (ODI-NHTSA Complaint Number 10252860) describes the problem:

On November 5, 2008, I was driving on a freeway in my 2008 Lexus ES350 with the cruise control on. I gave the car a little extra gas to pass another car and the car just took off. I tried to disengage the accelerator by trying to turn off the cruise control switch as well as tapping on the brake pedal, but it would not disengage. I tried to turn off the engine by pushing the keyless ignition button, but it would not turn off. I checked the floor to make sure that there wasn’t anything on the accelerator, and there wasn’t. I then put the car in neutral, but when I did this, the engine sounded as if it were going to explode, so I put it back in gear. By this time, I was going well over 100 mph. My only choice was to stand on the brakes. Within seconds, the car was in a cloud of smoke coming from the 4 wheels/brakes. The car began to slow as thankfully the brakes were stronger than the engine which was going at its maximum rpm’s. The car went over a mile before finally coming to a stop. I was then able to put the car in park and stop the engine. After a few moments, when I had calmed down a bit, I started the engine again and it immediately start racing at maximum rpm’s again, so I shut it off . . .

Another report notes that an out of control vehicle traveled eight miles at more than 100 mph before striking two vehicles and becoming disabled. A person in one of the struck vehicles was killed in the collision.

It seems unlikely that a simple piece of rubber could cause so much terror, personal injuries, and, in one case, death. Why has Toyota not recalled the mats that are optional items sold by their dealers? (That’s right. These are OEM mats, not aftermarket items.) hosts a recorded conversation between an affected owner and a technician. The technician experienced the same acceleration problem when picking up the vehicle and driving it to the service center. His later explanation sounds scripted.

Toyota argues that if there was a problem, the computer that manages the vehicle’s speed would detect a difference between the accelerator and throttle positions and cause the engine to reduce power. In their investigations, they claim that no such errors were detected by the computer.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is satisfied with Toyota’s explanation, although, worringly, they cite a lack of resources to investigate the matter any further.

Toyota’s solution to the sticky floormat: a few clips to attach it to the carpet and an orange sticker to stick on the back warning of the problem. But what about the cruise controls that refuse to disengage?

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63 Comments on “Toyota: Unintended Acceleration or Sticky Floor Mats?...”

  • avatar

    The old floor mat excuse eh?Guess they couldn’t use the “driver error”option.Audi did that already.I thought Toyota led the pack with recalls
    must’a missed this one.

  • avatar

    My LS430 has factory rubber mats. The way the accelerator is designed, it hinges on the bottom, rather than from the top like most cars. As a result, the mat doesn’t fit right and has to go over the petal.

    So I can see why they might blame the floormat. But in no way is the engine power even close to overwhelming it’s brakes. This one is probably electrical.

  • avatar
    Paul Niedermeyer

    @mikey: Audi didn’t use the “driver error” option. They didn’t mount any defense, put brake-interlocks on their cars, and watched their sales in the US go down the toilet. It was the NHTSA that said it was driver error – but it took over five years for their investigation to come to that conclusion. Audi was toast, meanwhile. The situation with the Audis was much more clear-cut: the unintended acceleration always happened just after starting or changing gears, almost always in the driveway. Folks really were pushing the wrong pedal.

    I cannot absolutely rule out some bizarre computer malfunction on the Toyotas. But I think it’s unlikely. I have had problems with the same thick mats on my Scion; they were interfering with the clutch, mainly, but once or twice, they also started to catch on my accelerator. I just cut the whole upper portion of them off – who needs a mat behind the pedals anyway.

  • avatar

    Toyota is not known for cover ups, but if they do one and the truth is they have made a defect, their high quality rep will be in the toilet. It will be better for them to come clean and fix it if there is a real issue.

  • avatar

    I know that unintended acceleration is a stressful time, but I still find it amazing that the driver would put the car back in gear after having the sense to try neutral just because the engine was racing. Holy cow, you’re about to die, but you want to make sure you don’t damage the engine in the process! I saw this same thing on some “World’s scariest” show some years ago. The driver was on the phone with 911 and the operator suggested neutral. The driver said that the engine was racing when he did that, so the operator had him put it back into gear. Unbelievable!

  • avatar

    Sorry, but any time I hear that the engine is racing out of control and that the brakes fail at the same time, it’s gotta be driver error. These are two almost completely unrelated systems, that are almost impossible to comprehend failing at the same time.

    The brakes are still operable without any engine power or electricity whatsoever. The only way for them to fail is for a hydraulic line to leak or be cut, and all the fluid pumped out. The test for this is easy enough: If there is still fluid in master and slave cylinders after a supposed total brake falure, then is almost has to be driver error.

    it seems difficult to comprehend, but in a panic situation, people can and often make errors that they wouldn’t otherwise do (e.g. confusing the accelerator pedal for the brake pedal). People obviously don’t want to admit to making such a mistake, and in most cases, genuinely believe that they were pushing the brake pedal when in fact they were not.

    As an IS250 owner with factory winter mats, I’ve got to concur at least with that part of the video. With retaining hooks and nubs, there is no way they are going to move around like Toyota is suggesting.

    • 0 avatar

      Re Brake failure: Ain’t necessarily so. You can have brake failure during a runaway acceleration event if you wear out the brakes trying to stop the car. Despite what many of us assume, it’s bloody hard to stop a car whose throttle is jammed open. If the car is going very fast a few taps on the brake will exhaust its vacuum-booster reserve. So now you lack power assist, and lean on those brakes with both feet. The car will slow for awhile, but if the throttle is still open it will accelerate again as the engine power overcomes the less and less effective brake capacity. I have seen this demonstrated. Quite a surprise, as I always assumed you could halt the car from any speed regardless of throttle position.

  • avatar

    Thalter, most cars use engine manifold vacuum to provide power assist to the brakes. If the engine is stuck at full throttle, there is no vacuum to provide the assist. (Well, almost no vacuum – there is a check valve in the line to store some vacuum in the brake booster – that’s why you get 1 or 2 assisted pedal presses before the brake pedal gets really hard – you can try this in your garage with the car off.)

  • avatar

    So are you guys aware of any cars that actually did have the unintended acceleration which turned out to be a true vehicle problem and not driver error?

    Decades ago, I owned a 944 and once in a while that engine would surge to 4000rpm. Never on takeoff. Usually I popped the clutch in and restarted it, and the engine settled back to normal. I never figure out why it did that before I sold the car. But, these cars weren’t really known as unintended acceleration cars.

  • avatar

    @Paul I noticed that my Impala has a clip on the drivers side.So I guess no vehicle is immmune from the floor mat condition.

    Here’s a plan.NBC Dateline can do a segment.They need to obtain one of those affected vehicles.Now if thier”unable to replicate the customer complaint”
    [guess where I picked up that phrase?}All they neeed to do is get thier techies to rig something up.The Toyota is a little higher tech than an old Chevy pickup.But I’m sure in the name of investigative journalism,the team can pull it off.

    So we show a remote controlled Toyota roaring at high speeds out of control on a closed track.Smashing into a Sienna mini van,and bursting into flame.

    The dummies in both vehicles get fried.

    And hey! RF I mean road test dummies,I,m not
    flaming Toyota drivers.

    The end result Toyota sales tank.Its not like it would be a first for Dateline.Hell they could even wrap themselves in the flag,and claim they did it to save Detroit.

  • avatar
    A is A

    I do not trust cruise controls.

    Besides, when I drive dad´s Volvo S60 I do not engage Cruise Control. I do not like the slight lag of the device if I want to disconnect it nor the sensation of the slushbox going up and down, trying (with mixed success) to keep the car at the same velocity. I can do that job much better.

    OTOH, if to remove the stick and the clutch (Automatics) is bad for drivers attentiveness, to remove also the accelerator is still worse.

  • avatar

    highrpm: I had the throttle return spring break on an old car of mine. I had to hook my toe under the pedal to nudge it back up.

  • avatar

    Hopefully, the NHTSA will regard these complaints with a huge amount of skepticism.

    While it’ll go against this administration’s populist and trial lawyer allies to blame business for every societal fault, deep down their technical experts must know sudden acceleration is caused by mistaking the accelerator for the gas pedal.

  • avatar

    I watched the video and didn’t see any “unintended acceleration”. The guy “proved” the mat likely didn’t catch the accelerator pedal, but he didn’t “prove” to me there’s anything wrong with his IS 250.

    Just drove a brand new ’09 Civic Si yesterday for PDI, and was surprised while slowing to a stop that the revs would not drop and had to push pretty hard on the brakes at first until my mind caught up and I pushed in the clutch pedal. Then remembered I just got a new pair of work boots whose soles are a bit wider then my last pair. Only took a second for me to realize I need to reposition my feet to adjust for different shoes. I’d guess that’s one of the biggest causes of “unintended acceleration”

  • avatar

    The end result Toyota sales tank.Its not like it would be a first for Dateline.Hell they could even wrap themselves in the flag,and claim they did it to save Detroit.


    Even better. If they pimp this hard enough, they can short Toyota stock and make a nice buck.

    THREADJACK Note: Does the SEC have subpoena power over these so-called journalists? /THREADJACK

  • avatar

    In all honesty, it’s quite probable that an electrical (more specifically, electronic) error would cause this sort of thing on a drive-by-wire system. The computer says nothing? Bollocks. Computer diagnostics are completely useless when things really go haywire, you won’t glean any useful information from them. Most dealers rely on the diagnostics to the point that they can’t trace a problem (what do you do when you have 30 error codes from a dozen systems, but only one potential problem? In my case, the mechanic starts replacing redundant things willy-nilly until something changes. True story, I’m afraid.)

    Have you ever had a car with malfunctioning electronics? It’s maddening, impossible to figure out, and it will stump even the best mechanic. I’m quite surprised it doesn’t happen more often. It would be safer, imo, to stick to mechanical connections between the pedal and the throttle.

  • avatar

    Here’s what we get for dumbing down the knowledge and ability required to drive so much that a one armed, one legged monkey could learn to drive (while simultaneously gibbering on a cell phone).

    I write software for a living and know no matter how much you test it, there’s always one set one inputs that could cause it to fail. So I have no trust in the infallibility of engine management units. I’ll never buy a car without a manual gearbox, clutch and old-fashioned lever pull handbrake. If the engine runs away, the clutch won’t depress, I can’t pull it out of gear, the brakes fail and the handbrake has no effect then I’ll just assume mother destiny is pissed off with me and aim the car head first into the nearest concrete wall.

  • avatar

    A guy drove 8 miles against his will and crashed his car in to two other people rather than pop it into neutral. Riiiiiight. If I had gigantic balls of steel, I’d say the car MADE me kill someone too.

    The problem here is that you’ve got a really obscure and hard to detect mechanical problem, or somebody slamming the wrong pedal and/or lying to avoid responsibility. You can guess what 99.9% of the cases were really caused by.

  • avatar

    I don’t quite get the point of the video. It’s not as if we were expecting the floor mat to leap out of position while the car was unoccupied and not moving.

    That being said, I’m with Mr. Niedermeyer here. The description makes this sound much more legit than the Audi case, because those cases were alleging brake failure when there was no proof of it and when there was a lot of evidence to contradict it. In this case, the driver claims that the brakes did stop the car, which is a critical difference.

    If it’s true, it sounds like an electronic malfunction, perhaps with the throttle control.

  • avatar

    I then put the car in neutral, but when I did this, the engine sounded as if it were going to explode, so I put it back in gear.

    He lost me there. What moron would throw their automatic transmission back in gear while it is over-revving?

    Just put it in neutral, TURN THE KEY OFF, and coast to the side of the road.

    The steering column will not lock with the key in and the brakes will have enough power left to stop the car normally.

    Sounded like evolution was trying to weed out a person with a weak brain.

  • avatar

    I read some of the complaints, it happened to one peson who took the floormats out after the second time it happened. In another complaint, the person popped the car into neutral and got the car to a stop, then the tow truck driver confirmed the engine was racing when they picked it up.

    Some of the Lexuses in question have a start/stop button instead of a physical key. One complaint, the person says they hit it a couple times trying to turn off the car.

    The cruise control settings in Toyotas is extremely aggressive. It basically opens the throttle all the way to reach the set speed…so you’ll be cruising along and it’ll snap to WOT suddenly, so I’m not terribly surprised.

  • avatar

    This situation is definitely real.
    My Suzuki Aerio had this floor mat problem. After the plastic hook that holds the mat back/inplace broke, a few days later I was going to work, 40mph, took my foot off the gas to slow down and the car didn’t, stayed at 40mph. I used the brakes to come to a stop, put it in park and figured out part of the mat was on top of about a third of the gas pedal. Within a week I found out the mat, not being held back by the hook, would work itself forward by my feet movement during driving.
    I got another hook from the dealer and it lasted 4 months before the 2nd hook broke. I got tired of remembering to pull the mat back so the mat was put in the trunk.
    Note: Suzuki used very thin carpeting in my Aerio, like a few paper sheets thickness, thus after 6 months without a mat the carpeting wore through. When I traded it in, I put the mat back in covering the baseball size hole in the carpeting.

  • avatar

    I was driving a friend’s ES and this happened. Thankfully I was in park. What had happened was the latch that secures the mat in place can come off easily if you adjust the seats, namely move them forward. Since he’s got a good foot on me, I naturally had to scoot the driver’s seat forward to reach the controls, and hence the mat came loose.

    So, it’s certainly possible. And yeah, he had the all-weather floor mats.

  • avatar

    Oh, I should mention that the engine didn’t redline or anything. While I was parking, I guess when I had hit the brake, I dislodged the mat. The engine just revved up to about 3 or 4 kRPM and stayed there, so I did a quick check around and it was the mat (although, surprisingly, not obviously so).

  • avatar
    A is A

    I’ll never buy a car without a manual gearbox, clutch and old-fashioned lever pull handbrake

    And do not forget a “normal” key, not a card/button to start.

  • avatar

    there is a glitch with these toyotas/lexi with the throttle by wire system. i’m a smog tech out in california and trying to smog these things on the dyno is a real bear. there’s an online smog tech forum to which i belong and it’s a well know fact that there is some sort of glitch, most likely related to the throttle by wire system.

    the problem i see is with the car on the dyno, (tc disabled if applicable,) and it’s very near impossible to keep the car at a steady speed. california smog requires the smog tech to keep the car at a steady speed and rpm for a certain amount of time and these throttle by wire cars are near impossible; throttle by wire cars by others marques don’t seem to have this problem. the cars speed up and/or slow down on their own even if your right foot is dead steady and doesn’t move. i don’t really know what’s causing this but it is not out of the realm of possibility, (at least for me,) that these things can randomly accelerate/decelerate on their own.

    i personally think that the throttle cable was a great thing and am sad to see it’s demise…there’s something a bit unsettling about the idea of the accelerator pedal not being physically connected to the throttle plate.

  • avatar

    @Paul Niedermeyer:
    Audi didn’t use the “driver error” option. They didn’t mount any defense, put brake-interlocks on their cars, and watched their sales in the US go down the toilet. It was the NHTSA that said it was driver error – but it took over five years for their investigation to come to that conclusion. Audi was toast, meanwhile. The situation with the Audis was much more clear-cut: the unintended acceleration always happened just after starting or changing gears, almost always in the driveway. Folks really were pushing the wrong pedal.

    Well, actually they did. Their then US director of marketing, a close friend of mine, said “those Americans just can’t drive” (or words to that effect.) It caused an uproar, “No Audis” signs appeared on parking garages. Audi was as good as dead. He was banished back to Wolfsburg where he ran the advertising department for some years as punishment (hmmmm….) until things calmed down and he was dispatched back to Auburn Hills. There, he fell off a ladder while cleaning the gutters of his house and broke his neck. He barely survived, but was incapacitated for the rest of his life. Turned out he was insensitive, but right: They actually pushed the wrong pedal, had their foot on the gas while shifting into drive. The matter literally died down after a priest ran his Lincoln into a K-Mart and mowed some people down in the progress. NHTSA proved them indeed right. But he should have said “we are investigating these unfortunate incidents.”

  • avatar
    Paul Niedermeyer

    @Bertel – you’re right. I should have said “consistent aggressive defense”.

    BTW, Here’s my take on the Audi 5000 debacle:

  • avatar
    rm -rf

    I’ve got a Chevy truck that exhibited similar symptoms. It would idle at 5000rpm, it would cruise at 70mph with cruise control off and w/o touching the gas. It would be rather difficult to brake to a stop w/o pushing in the clutch, and when you pushed in the clutch, it would race to near redline. It did that repeatedly for several weeks, until I decided it wasn’t amusing anymore.

    Diagnosis? Failed throttle position sensor.

    Skeptical? I’ve been putting wrenches on engines for forty years. I’m pretty sure know the difference between a throttle position sensor and a floor mat.

  • avatar

    An engine “sounding like its going to blow up” is just nonsense. Of course its going to constantly rev against the rev limiter… but its not going to damage anything, hence the entire reason for the rev limiter. Ignorance is the only excuse there.

    But at least he thought to put it into neutral – although that should’ve been his first thing to do after trying the regular methods of disengaging cruise – but too bad he doesn’t understand the basics of modern engine control systems.

    Most people in these scenarios just cover their face and scream, thinking that somehow they are “helpless.”

  • avatar

    This is very similar to what has been reported on some Jeeps, though I don’t know how many unintended acceleration issues are still being reported on them these days. A few years back some newspaper journalists in Salt Lake City got pinned to a wall by a Grand Cherokee experiencing unintended acceleration, so there was obviously quite a bit of local news coverage on the issue. This article published shortly after the incident is interesting, mostly because it points out that the NHTSA doesn’t really follow up on these complaints, which doesn’t make sense to me at all.

    Another interesting point in the article I linked to: an independent investigation of the Jeeps suggested that the design of the cruise control made malfunctions involving extreme unintended acceleration a possibility. I wonder if Toyota uses a similar design in their cruise control, and what we’re seeing from Toyota owners is indeed partly the fault of floor mats and partly due to a faulty design of the cruise control or related systems.

  • avatar
    rm -rf

    @apt34: The person tried to turn off the engine by pushing the keyless ignition button, but it would not turn off

    An old fashioned mechanical ignition would have shut the car off, but left the driver with no power brakes or steering. It sounds like this car doesn’t have a ‘real’ ignition key.

    In any case, having experienced a mild form of un-commanded acceleration, I can see how a driver can get bunched up trying to control it. It threw me off at first, amused me for a while, then got bad enough that I had to get it fixed.

  • avatar

    You know what’s insane? Someone registered to RAV4 forums and spouted about RAV4 engine racing in exactly the same way… and then admitted that he sued makers of his TWO PREVIOUS CARS:
    Quote: “No matter what, this Rav is hazardous to one’s health, so we’ll see how it’s resolved. I have had the unfortunate experience to have had to sue Chrysler and Volvo for hazardous vehicles and won both.”

    I don’t know if this is same kind of orchestrated shakedown campaign as the Bridgestone thing. Could very well be. We will never know though.

  • avatar

    Wow! I too had a similar problem, but my car being a manual really helped me in controlling the situation. This car, a Fiat Palio 1.6, had a mechanical link between accelerator and transmission, but it suddenly started accelerating like there was no tomorrow. Solution, turn it off. When I turned it back on, apparently solution found. Later it started acting up again, but by depressing the clutch I was always able to stop accelerating, and if the the acceleration got to wild, just pulled it up and turned the key (scary the part of the start/stop button not working).

    After some tries a mechanic finally got it. He replaced the sensor that measured the temperatue of the gas entering the engine and Voilà problem fixed.

  • avatar

    Definately a problem that I experienced firsthand. Last year while appraising a 2007 Camry I had runaway acceleration that was only stopped by shutting the ignition. Scary as hell. I thought it might have been an isolated incident but this thread surely proves that this serious and potentially deadly defect must be addressed by Toyota.

  • avatar

    I had the exact opposite problem a few years ago. I was traveling on the interstate and for a long time I could not get the car to go over 50 mph.

    It took forever to get home. When I got home I checked the accelerator and the thick rubber mat had become stuck underneath it.

    I now pull it toward me when I get in the car most days.

  • avatar

    nonono…this is a special option. When the computer detects a seriously skilled driver with hair trigger reflexes, it puts the driver through some additional tests. If (s)he passes, the wings flip out, you’re out of the atmosphere is 2 seconds, and then the star drive kicks in. Really. Just like in The Last Starfighter. And you get to fight BEM to save other BEMs. Really. The guy gave up too soon. Jeez, the opportunity of a lifetime…….

  • avatar

    I call BS at the point where they claimed that the accelerator was pulled out from under the driver’s foot. On a modern car like the IS with an electronic throttle, there is no servo which could do such a thing. The cruise control is handled by the computer sending a signal to the electronic throttle control, not by a servo physically activating the gas pedal linkage (since there’s no physical linkage to activate).

  • avatar

    m130980 :

    That’s a neat bit of info…I wonder if the NHSTA is aware of that as well. My guess on the reason why they wno’t hold steady is because it’s probably programmed to detect engine load so it can run the car at a particular speed with as little throttle opening as possible (for maximum fuel economy).

    Drive By Wire makes TCS, cruise control, fast idle, emissions, etc. much easier to implement now that we have more powerful electronics. No more cold start valves or solenoids, no more complex vacuum lines, no more cables and actuators. Limiters can be easily (de)programmed, etc.

  • avatar

    I could see many of these being caused by idiots, but also could see it actually being an issue. The bad IAC on my Ranger will do this from time to time. Since it’s a stick, I’m just ignoring it. On an auto it could really be bad. On mu car, it usually just maintains speed, and makes me look like an ass when I’m at a light, and the engine is reving out of control.

  • avatar
    John Williams

    The cruise control settings in Toyotas is extremely aggressive. It basically opens the throttle all the way to reach the set speed…so you’ll be cruising along and it’ll snap to WOT suddenly, so I’m not terribly surprised.

    I noticed this on my 1992 LS400, so it’s probably been like that for other Toyotas for a good decade.

    I just don’t use the ACCEL feature of the cruise control. After all, it’s designed for CRUISING, not getting up to cruising speed.

  • avatar

    I had one incident in a loaner ES350 that wouldn’t stop accelerating.

    Fortunately, it was on a quiet city street, so I just stood on the brakes to slow the car and then popped the shifter into neutral.

    I realized the gas pedal was caught, but not on the mat. The gas pedal fits in a depression in the floor, and the carpeting in that area was just loose enough to snag it.

    Once I popped it up, it was OK, and I continued on my way, shaking a little and noticeably sweatier. :p

  • avatar

    In my one experience with a “push button” start/stop car ever (2007 Caddy STS rental), I noticed that I had to “learn” how long I had to push the button to turn the engine off. It is understandable that a brief delay would be built into the design, so that accidentally tapping the button would not cause engine shutoff unexpectedly. But I can also see how a panicked driver would fail to hold the button down long enough the first time and mistakenly conclude the switch had “failed.” Perhaps NHTSA should consider whether the driver should always be able to break the ignition circuit by a switch with a positive mechanical action. Aren’t race cars required to have such a kill switch?

  • avatar

    I could have made the same video with the Michelin rubber mats in my Santa Fe, but the fact is that the mats DO shift forward during driving and they DO hook the gas pedal under full throttle.

    My vehicle once accelerated out of control. The solution was to calmly reach down, pull the mat away from the throttle, then go home and change my underwear. I also removed the factory carpeted mat from underneath the rubber mat, to increase the clearance, and the situation never happened again. Anchoring the rubber mat would be another solution.

    Perhaps the Lexus in question does have a cruise control defect. But the floor mats are the simpler explanation, and therefore the most likely IMO.

    In our litigious society, it is more fun to swap stories of defective products than it is to use common sense.

  • avatar

    I had to add an extra return spring to the gas pedal on my ’08 Hyundai Elantra, mainly because the aggressive throttle mapping makes it really difficult to keep the revs under 2k when starting out (manual tranny). Even though it’s not ‘drive by wire’, it’s annoying to not have a linear response out of an important control like the ‘go pedal’.

    Maybe it makes cars seem more “powerful” to have them literally spring forward at the lightest touch of the throttle, but to me, it’s annoying and has a much higher potential for the “unintended acceleration” scenario.

    (ex) On Good Friday, an elderly priest driving a late-model Buick mowed down four people at a church service near here (Forest Hills, PA), one 89-year-old woman was killed. The priest (close to 80 y.o.) has no explanation as to why his Buick suddenly lunged forward.

  • avatar

    Maybe it makes cars seem more “powerful” to have them literally spring forward at the lightest touch of the throttle, but to me, it’s annoying and has a much higher potential for the “unintended acceleration” scenario.

    Amen to that. Our 2004 Nissan Quest had very abrupt throttle tip-in, and sometimes the smallest low-speed bump would trigger an embarrassing series of lurches as you tried to get your throttle foot under control. An example of vehicle design contributing to unintended acceleration.

  • avatar
    Gardiner Westbound

    The 20th century mechanical linkages that served us well are looking better and better.

  • avatar

    Just another reason to stick with simple, time-proven designs. Like a Trabant. No unintended acceleration there. OK, actually hardly any acceleration at all. But safety first!

    I once had a ’74 Chevy with dealer-installed cruise. The button for “set / accelerate” could catch under the bezel. Take your foot off the brake, and the mechanism would again accelerate the car. Of course, with all the primitive emission controls and enormous mass of those brontosauri, even at full throttle it couldn’t accelerate very well.

  • avatar

    I wonder if the unintended acceleration issue is related to the shift delay or start delay problems all toyota cars have been having recently!

  • avatar

    Some thoughts:

    – The cruise control system seems to be universally blamed, but many of the complaints on autocoverup don’t mention cruise being used or occured at speeds where using cruise would be suicidal. It is of course possible that the cruise is activating of its own accord, though.

    – The problem with any conspiracy theory is that it expects people to be way more silent than they ever actually are. Why isn’t there any “Hi, I’m an engineer for Toyota; I worked on the ECU programming, and yeah, the system is a complete deathtrap. At certain speeds, the thingy interacts with the other thingy and the whole thing goes out of control. The bastards in management wouldn’t even let it throw an exception.”

    – On a related note, there’s a lot of smart engineers out there who like to take things apart, and quite a handful of people who make their money by taking the engine computer apart and fooling with it. They don’t seem to have any specifically bright ideas, either.

    – The consistent theme from Toyota seems to be “We’re very carefully saying you’re not an idiot, but we can’t seem to find anything wrong with these cars.” If they did a full safety inquiry, and said they still couldn’t find anything wrong, would anyone believe them? This is clearly a job for NHTSA, or as mentioned, some private reverse engineering.

    – A lot of the complaints mention putting the car in park to slow it down, which per my understanding will either do nothing or destroy your transmission, then do nothing.

    – Is a >200hp FWD car even controllable at WOT? I can’t say I’ve ever done it, but between supposedly standing on the brakes, torque at the drive wheels, and the general understeer that happens around 90mph, these people seem to be displaying some impressive steering abilities for not knowing how to put the car in neutral. Either that, or modern safety nannies are way more effective than I could have imagined. Also, only applies to FWD models in contention.

  • avatar

    To echo MadHungarian, I wonder if cars equipped with Drive-by-wire, RFID and Start/Stop ignitions shouldn’t be fitted with a fail-safe kill switch. It could be located on the steering column where the ignition key used to go.

    Every single motorcycle sold in the US and Canada comes with one, so I’m sure the automakers can figure it out.

    If I was an automaker, I’d do it voluntarily without waiting for regulations to force me. I have done some PLC programming and with only a fraction of the variables it can be near impossible to simulate every conceivable failure mode, and just as hard to diagnose them after they’ve occurred. Especially transient events.

    I suppose, however, that the inclusion of a kill switch might suggest to your customers that you aren’t sure of your product, so it may be seen as a negative for that reason.

  • avatar

    Going to fast? Step on the brake and the car will stop unless the brakes fail.

    Now rather than 15 minutes of fame everyone will have their 15 minutes of victimhood.

  • avatar

    I can imagine this sort of thing happening with computer controlled throttles, but it’s hard to imagine someone preferring to leave it in gear when it does.

  • avatar

    The 20th century mechanical linkages that served us well are looking better and better.

    Oh yeah, because when your mechanical throttle or carb stuck open, it was so much better.

  • avatar

    I once had a E28 535is with a throttle cable that broke in such a way that it would accelerate out of control only on hard left hand corners. _THAT_ was some scary/entertaining shit right there.

    With my old E28, it was obvious what the issue was. The problem with this stuff on modern cars is that the systems are almost entirely closed. It could be that there’s an error in some code somewhere that causes the engine to go nuts, but we’ll never know.

  • avatar

    I used to have an unintended deceleration problem.

    I had a friend who, whenever he was in the front passenger seat of a car with a handbrake, would randomly yank hard on the handbrake (not removing his hand, so even if the surprised driver quickly realized the issue and reached for it he would try and block access to it), sometimes just for a quick second or sometimes until the car completed a tire smoking 180. Highway, city street, wet roads, dry, didn’t matter.

    I’m convinced he was missing the part of his brain that controlled certain impulses…(as the handbrake thing was just one of his lesser, um, character traits)

  • avatar

    I own a Honda
    Accord, 2002, 6 cylinder. A few weeks ago I experienced an unintended
    acceleration event. As I was pulling onto the highway, my car
    artificially accelerated to 55MPH and NOTHING I did would slow the
    car down. I tried to brake (with BOTH of my feet applied to the brake
    pedal), I pulled the handbrake, I down-shifted to first gear and that
    sucker was still barreling down the road at 55MPH. The car did not
    slow down at al! I was fortunate to be able to get onto the shoulder
    (still going 55mph) to buy some time and jammed the transmission into
    park. The car finally came to a stop. I could have easily been killed
    or have killed or injured others. Honda told me it was the cruise
    control cable clips and throttle body that failed, even though I
    NEVER use cruise control. The throttle had opened up wide. Nothing,
    other than what I chose to do, would have stopped the car, short of
    turning off the ignition, but I would have lost my steering
    capabilities (which was all I had left). Another brilliant person
    suggested that putting it in neutral would have stopped the car, but
    after conducting an exhaustive search on the web, I discovered that
    someone else with the same problem had tried that and the engine
    burst into flames.Honda would do NOTHING for me and it cost $1100 to
    repair. When the service person started the engine prior to the
    repair, the rpms immediately went to 6500. It was a terrifying
    experience that I wish on no one. So, please, don’t tell people that
    something like this can’t happen. It can and does. The real problem
    is that most drivers don’t live to talk about it.

  • avatar

    I found a great quote from a researcher who’s job it is to research all unintended acceleration problems…what she finds is quite enlightening…

    If there “were truly human error, there would be a proportional distribution across models,” said Clarence Ditlow, who has spent years researching sudden acceleration as head of the Center for Auto Safety in Washington. “It’s very difficult to explain how some makes and models have higher numbers of complaints than others absent some flaw in the vehicle.”

    ALL vehicles should have logged a similar number of complaints, but most complaints are falling to toyota (lexus).

    We just had a police officer and his family die here in san diego when the accelerator on a lexus loaner got stuck wide open…his wife was on the phone to 911 when it happened…more details should arise shortly…

  • avatar

    Someone from another website featuring a similar discussion sent me the news story about the policeman from San Diego and his family. His wife called 911 to ask the dispatcher what to do because that the accelerator had a mind of its own and they couldn’t get the care to slow down or stop. Apparently 911 didn’t know how to advise them either. They all died in a fiery crash. So sad and so needless. They were driving a rented Lexus.
    Honda, Lexus, Prius, the list grows. I plan to write a compelling letter to NBC and ask that they feature an informational spot about this on the TODAY show to try and get the word out to as many drivers as possible. When it happens, you only have moments to correct the situation.
    Here is a link to the story from San Diego.

  • avatar

    I had a similar experience with my 2009 prius (7500 miles). I was the first in line at a red light. I accelerated to cross the intersection…and the car continued to accelerate without my pressing on the pedal. I tried to stop it would the brake pedal but it did not respond. For those out there that say that is not possible….It is possible. It happened. If it had stopped, I wouldn’t be spending my time on these sites. Luckily there was no one in front of me so I had the time to think clearly and press the button that turns the car off. I had pulled to the side of the road as I did this, so the cars that were behind me ( a good distance behind me because of my excessive speed on this 25 mile street) were able to get around me and I lived to tell the tale. The first thing I did was check my MATS! I had the all weather mats and like the video they were far away from the gas pedal. When I started the car up again it was perfectly normal. I took all side streets to get the car home and took it in to toyota the following morning. Same story….toyota could not replicate the behavior and found nothing in the computer to indicate a problem. I will not drive this car again. I do realize this could happen to any vehicle but I do believe there is a significant number of incidences with Toyotas and specifically prius. The dealership has been very decent to me. They are exchanging my prius for a rav4 with what I believe is a fair deal. It is good to deal with a reputable dealership. My concern is Toyota corporate . I believe they are not taking these incidents seriously enough. I do not have confidence in the Toyota brand after this experience, but I’m hoping since I haven’t seen many serious complaints about the RAv4 that I will be lucky. I loved my pruis and I’m very disappointed that this happened to me. I know there are many, many very satisfied prius owners…..but it is so technically advanced…there are too many ways to go wrong. I also believe that they need to take a serious look at the wired throttle. There does seem to be a glitch that needs to be addressed. I feel like a lucky one…..I’m alive and I wasn’t involved in a costly accident.

  • avatar

    sorry to tell you … RAV4 is suspect as well. Simply dumping your Prius for another Toyota does not sound like a great idea.

  • avatar

    Copy and paste – watch the truth

  • avatar

    I can only speak for what happened to me while driving my 2002 Honda Accord. People are pretty judgmental about unintentional acceleration and my advice is: be grateful it has never happened to you or someone you love. It was the most terrifying of events. If it ever happens to you…feel free to do whatever you think best in a span of 2 minutes when confronted with the unimaginable. I did what I needed to do. I walked away and my car was still ‘drive-able’ after extensive repairs. Please try to have a little empathy for people (lucky enough to still be alive!) whose cars have been affected by this dysfunction. Trust me, you never want to experience it for yourselves. We all do the best we can when an emergency occurs. Not only is the car racing (even 55 MPH seems like 100 MPH when you have no control), but your mind is racing too. In my case, the red light was fast approaching as were the cars waiting at the light. I actually told myself: “So this is how people die.” Two minutes. You either figure it out or…

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