Toyota Investigation Hits A Wall

Bertel Schmitt
by Bertel Schmitt
toyota investigation hits a wall

All eyes are on Harrison, NY, today. Technicians from Toyota and NHTSA will head to the NYC burbs and pour over a 2005 Toyota Prius that crashed into a stone wall in the tony bedroom town of Harrison. Its driver claimed the hybrid had sped up on its own. Toyota will read out the data recorded in the Prius computer. According to the Associated Press, Toyota techs will “use equipment to determine how many times the driver hit the brakes and gas. It used the same tools earlier this week to cast doubt on a California driver who claimed his Prius sped to 94 mph before a patrol officer helped him stop it.”

Harrison Police so far has no indication of driver error. A 56 year old housekeeper told police the car sped up on its own as she eased forward down her employer’s driveway on March 9 and hit a wall across the street. Nobody was hurt.

Toyota will turn over its findings to the Harrison police, but will not hold a press conference or share the results with the media. Capt. Anthony Marraccini , acting Harrison police chief, will most likely not pass up on the opportunity.

Stay tuned. This will be interesting.

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  • MadHungarian MadHungarian on Mar 17, 2010

    Toyota is now trapped in the Audi vortex -- every accident involving one of their cars is assumed to be caused by some ghost in the machine. Guilty until proven innocent. This incident is reminiscent of a common Audi scenario, where the driver is not the primary driver of the car and s/he zooms straight ahead into an obvious nearby obstacle when attempting to move off from a parked position. Will one of the post-mortems to Toyota's descent into UA hell be that Toyota did NOT blame the drivers soon enough and often enough? Two more observations about lessons to be drawn from Audi: 1. It took a while, but Audi did eventually get control of the message and shift the balance of opinion to understanding the problem was largely NOT with the cars. 2. Audi's sales slide after its UA controversy was only partially related to UA. At the same time, all the early adopters of Audi were coming to realize they were very unreliable cars. Way too many owners didn't get too many chances to experience acceleration, intended or otherwise, because the cars were constantly in the shop. Relevance of those to Toyota: First, Toyota is still known as a car that is NOT in the shop constantly, and that will keep the bottom of the sales plunge from being so deep. Already GM is finding that UA scares are not enough to persuade lots of people to buy Cobalts instead of Corollas. Second, Toyota ought to be able to use the Lake Wobegon effect to its advantage. Ninety percent (at least) of Americans think they are above average drivers. They KNOW they would not be so stupid as to hit the gas pedal a bit too hard coming out of the driveway and then push down harder on the same pedal until they ran into a stone wall.

  • CarPerson CarPerson on Mar 17, 2010

    I just finished reading Exponent's "Evaluation of the Gilbert Demonstration". Summary: It is my opinion I'm reading 43 pages of highly suspect material that really calls into question how much Exponent can be trusted. It would seem to me anyone with a moderate amount of engineering and critical reasoning skills would have serious questions about what Toyota and Exponent are trying to foster off as scientifically sound research. If the past is any indication, it appears that Toyota (and Exponent Failure Analysis Associates if they are involved) will do nothing to advance the understanding of the problem. The entire effort will be to throw the focus off Toyota if it is anything like this effort. I believe if Toyota or Exponent really intended to clear some of this up, they would acquire 250 2002 Toyota Camry throttle pedals and ECMs from accross the nation and examine the circuit boards for "tin whiskers" using the proper technology. Either them or NHTSA. I am unconvinced Toyota is interested in anything other than finger-pointing elsewhere.

  • Log Log on Mar 17, 2010

    Every time someone has a wreck in a Toyota, they're going to blame it on the demon car.

  • Mailbox20 Mailbox20 on Mar 17, 2010

    Tin whiskers if I recall correctly are a product of non-lead solders. The elimination of lead from solder didn't start until well after the 2002 MY and should not be a factor is this issue. Also, conformal coating prevents tin whiskers. All of these automotive electronic components use conformal coating as protection from the harsh automotive environments. So what's your next suggestion after they study 250 circuit boards and find no evidence of tin whiskers?

    • CarPerson CarPerson on Mar 18, 2010

      Some (presumably) good circuit board characteristics with an inference of a positive association to the Toyota product, speculation as to the outcome of some specific testing, then asking for a speculation on a speculative outcome. Rather than more speculation, what is needed most is actual testing to put an end to the speculation. In my humble opinion, Exponent Failure Analysis Associates was long on the un-tested speculation and very short on the testing. What little they did do confirmed what Professor Gilbert said would happen.