What's Wrong With This Picture: Who's Bashing The Buff Books Now? Edition
Bashing the buff books is a regular exercise for we bitter car bloggers who are forced to earn a living writing about cars without manufacturer junkets, auto show swag, or a steady stream of the latest, hottest vehicles to test. And one has only to look at their circulation numbers to see that they probably deserve much of what they get. But in the midst of a media frenzy about sudden unintended acceleration in Toyota’s, would you believe that Car & Driver has actually made a contribution to the national discourse that’s worth more than a week’s supply of frenzied-yet-ultimately-inaccurate headlines? Believe it. Not only do the paper-and-ink guys prove that a V6 Camry can be braked from 100-0 at full throttle in under a hundred feet more than it can at no throttle, but they even explain how to control a car that experiences unintended acceleration. You know, besides suing the manufacturer or giving self-righteous testimony under oath, before congress. Now that is auto journalism.
The truth is that the vast majority of drivers are poorly skilled and not properely trained. People seem to remember you need to push on the brakes hard in some situtions and your seat has to be positioned to allow you to depress the pedal more than half an inch. Simple things such as seat placement, think about it, people of size sit back but can they push the pedal more than a fraction of an inch with any force in a panic situation? Wait for congress to raise this question. Based on speed limits, every car should be governed at 80mph max, not legal reason to go faster . I don't want to hear well I can drive faster because blah blah, its the law, congress needs to enforce so engine limits. Now after congress sets engine limtie, why does your average sedan need 250+hp, na drop that down to 120max governement limit, its a win-win congress saves lives and helps government motors meet cafe limits, (Ha ha) now relish the drive home where you can drive as crazy as you like as fast as you like.
I thought that as a great piece by Car and Driver. I should add that I've enjoyed many of the changes that Eddie Alterman has made at the magazine. Back to the topic, though, I do have to wonder if the Audi debacle could have been on the minds of some of the NHTSA folks when the complaints about UA started coming in. The agency seems, in hindsight, to have been much too quiet about the results of their actual findings in that case until long after the damage had been done to Audi's reputation. I have to assume that the physics demonstrated in the C and D article could also have made some folks at Toyota too quick to write off such complaints as "loose nuts behind the wheel" as well. But this is complete conjecture on my part. One key difference between Audi and Toyota is that in this case there apparently IS a defect causing unintended engine acceleration... and Toyota has acknowledged this. In the Audi case, there apparently was no mechanical issue with the accelerator pedal, just one with over zealous trial lawyers and shoddy journalism by 60-Minutes. Some other general thoughts that come to my mind in this situation: 1- My kids will definitely learn to drive on my manual transmission cars... I want them to understand what's happening under the hood and how to control the car. 2- I hope that manual transmissions don't go completely the way of the Dodo bird. Having a clutch pedal to engage would be a really quick way to stop unintended acceleration... in fact I've never heard of any such claims from cars with 3 pedals... is it more engaged drivers or simply fewer computer overrides? 3- I can understand how all of these computer controlled drive-by-wire systems help improve fuel economy and reduce manufacturing cost, but have we reached the point of diminishing returns and unintended consequences? Are computer failures too much of a risk relative to their benefits? 4- How many of the drivers on the road have had ANY serious form of driver training beyond parallel parking and using turn signals? I got my license at 16 and got a fairly comprehensive driver training class through my high school before hand. But, I also read the buff books religiously since I was 12 and at least had an interest in learning about the physics behind cars that helped to balance some of my inherent incompetence and stupidity at that age. I've since taken additional classes, from motorcycle training and racing to some high-performance driving classes. I'm still never going to say that I'm a great driver (I relate to Captain Slow on Top Gear pretty well) but these classes have given me a great appreciation for the limits of my cars and myself. I'm much more aware and careful on the street as a result... primarily as a result of riding motorcycles for so long. If I can afford it, my sons will attend some advanced teen driving courses by the likes of Skip Barber or Bob Bondurant before they drive off alone. As a result of continuous budget cuts, do public schools still offer multi-week on-road driver training like they used to? Despite all of the chatter by organizations like the IIHS about safety gadgets in cars, why haven't they pushed for (or sponsored) more and better driver training... perhaps the most effective active safety device I can think of?
Anyone have a link to that video clip of the Camry that backs up and on top of a police cruiser? The one where the thing is on the rev limiter while up in the air? Wonder what the driver might be saying now after all this stuff with stuck accelerators.
I think people have missed some of the points here. In a controlled test, when the brakes are applied fully at first, sure they can slow the car down. But when people pump the brakes, or don't fully press them hard from the beginning, what will happen? This test doesn't mean anything to the driver who isn't expecting the problem. It doesn't include the time a driver is going to take on making the decision of what they are going to do next. I do not think that a defect on a car that isn't properly responded to by should kill people. There have also been reports of this happening when people let off the brake at a stop light and in a garage. What are you going to do when that happens? It isn't like there is a lot of time to put the car into neutral before you hit someone. On the comparisons with Ford and Toyota on the complaints and the percentages... The comparison by Consumer Reports was for 1 model year. http://blogs.consumerreports.org/cars/2009/12/sudden-unintended-acceleration-sua-analysis-2008-toyota-lexus-ford-gm/comments/page/2/ While it doesn't say that Ford does or doesn't have a problem, it would be good to know how this compares to the 2000 reports of Toyota UA problems over the past decade. Back to the article though, these tests don't prove how the average driver reacts. If the average driver pumps the brakes, doesn't shift to neutral, or doesn't turn the car off, we probably have failed in educating drivers. But that doesn't mean that the car manufacture shouldn't be sued. There are instances where the car accelerates and you don't have time to do something before there is damage that is caused. The bottom line, there are defects in these cars. That is why Toyota is getting sued and should be sued. The defect set things in motion.