I think this adds a bit of balance to the discussion. Seems there's
now some info to offset a bit of the hysteria and lies:
(Of course, this certainly does not mean there is no problem...)
WSJ: Drivers In Some Toyota Crashes Hit Accelerator, Not Brakes
By Mike Ramsey and Kate Linebaugh
Of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
The U.S. Department of Transportation has analyzed dozens of data
recorders from Toyota Motor Corp. (TM, 7203.TO) vehicles involved in
accidents blamed on sudden acceleration and found that, at the time of
the crashes, throttles were wide open and the brakes weren't engaged,
people familiar with the findings said.
The results suggest that some drivers who said their Toyota and Lexus
vehicles surged out of control were mistakenly flooring the
accelerator when they intended to jam on the brakes. But the findings
don't exonerate Toyota from two known issues blamed for sudden
acceleration in its vehicles: sticky accelerator pedals and floor mats
that can trap accelerator pedals to the floor.
The findings by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
involve a sample of reports in which a driver of a Toyota vehicle said
the brakes were depressed but failed to stop the car from accelerating
and ultimately crashing.
The data recorders analyzed by NHTSA were selected by the agency, not
Toyota, based on complaints the drivers had filed with the government.
(This story and related background material will be available on The
Wall Street Journal Web site, WSJ.com.)
The findings are consistent with a 1989 government-sponsored study
that blamed similar driver mistakes for a rash of sudden-acceleration
reports involving Audi AG (NSU.XE) Audi 5000 sedans.
The Toyota findings, which haven't been released by NHTSA, support
Toyota's position that sudden-acceleration reports involving its
vehicles weren't caused by electronic glitches in computer-controlled
throttle systems, as some safety advocates and plaintiffs' attorneys
have alleged. More than 100 people have sued the auto maker claiming
crashes were the result of faulty electronics.
NHTSA has received more than 3,000 complaints of sudden acceleration
in Toyotas, including some dating to early last decade, according to a
report the agency compiled in March. The incidents include 75 fatal
crashes involving 93 deaths.
However, NHTSA has been able to verify only one of those fatal crashes
was caused by a problem with the vehicle, according to information the
agency provided to the National Academy of Sciences. That accident
last Aug. 28, which killed a California highway patrolman and three
passengers in a Lexus, was traced to a floor mat that trapped the gas
pedal in the depressed position.
Toyota has recalled more than eight million cars globally to fix floor
mats and sticky accelerators.
A spokeswoman for NHTSA declined to confirm the results from the data
recorders. She said the agency was continuing to investigate the
Toyota accidents and wouldn't be prepared to comment fully on the
probe until a broader study is completed in conjunction with NASA,
which is expected to take months.
Transportation Department officials, however, have said publicly that
they have yet to find any electronic problems in Toyota cars.
Daniel Smith, NHTSA's associate administrator for enforcement, told a
panel of the National Academy of Sciences last month that the agency's
sudden-acceleration probe had yet to find any car defects beyond those
identified by the company: pedals entrapped by floor mats, and
"sticky" accelerator pedals that are slow to return to idle.
"In spite our investigations, we have not actually been able yet to
find a defect" in electronic throttle-control systems, Smith told the
scientific panel, which is looking into potential causes of sudden
"We're bound and determined that, if it exists, we're going to find
it," he added. "But as yet, we haven't found it."
Toyota officials haven't been briefed on NHTSA's findings, but they
corroborate its own tests, said Mike Michels, chief spokesman for
Toyota Motor Sales. Toyota's downloads of event data recorders have
found evidence of sticky pedals and pedal entrapment as well as driver
error, which is characterized by no evidence of the brakes being
depressed during an impact.
Some company officials say they are informally aware of the NHTSA
results. But Toyota President Akio Toyoda has said the company won't
blame customers for its problems as part of its public-relations
Toyota is still trying to repair damage to its reputation caused as
much by disclosures that the company hid knowledge of safety problems
with its vehicles as by the reports of sudden acceleration.
NHTSA levied a $6.4 million fine against Toyota earlier this year for
failing to notify the agency in a timely manner about its sticky-
accelerator issue. Toyota's handling of a rash of safety complaints
involving high-profile models such as the hybrid Toyota Prius has
prompted Congress to consider a far-reaching overhaul of U.S. auto-
Last week, Toyota showed reporters the inner workings of its labs,
including how it has been testing its electronic throttle-control
The car maker also has tested its vehicles' responses to strong
electromagnetic radiation, such as the waves generated by cellphones
and radio towers, which some critics have said could be causing a
malfunction. The only interference engineers have encountered after
bombarding cars with electromagnetic waves is static on the car radio.
U.S. Reps. Bart Stupak (D., Mich.) and Henry Waxman (D., Calif.) have
been critical of Toyota's efforts to track down alternative causes of
unintended acceleration. They have said Toyota has been slow to react
or has been evasive. Toyota has said it is doing everything in its
power to respond to both Congress and customer complaints.
This is old news in a way. Independent psychologists (i.e., not
employed by Toyota, its subsidiaries, or contractors) speculated some
time ago that at least some Toyota drivers may have been pressing the
accelerate when they believed they were pressing the brake. This was
subconscious; they were not aware of it. There are documented instances
of this phenomenon in past cases of unintended acceleration, as well as
in airline pilot errors; pilots believed they were doing one thing and
they were doing exactly the opposite. Some accidents resulted, some
errors were caught by copilots. If this were true of Toyotas it would
explain "The harder I pressed on the brake the more it accelerated"
story. Again, that story wouldn't be a lie, but it would be incorrect.
Then, it is speculated, mass hysteria (also subconscious) set in, and
more Toyota drivers were led to do the same thing. People who dismiss
this possibility tend to be those who dismiss everything in science
that contradicts their preconceptions.
No, it doesn't mean there's not a problem. I'm keeping an open mind
because I do not know if a mechanical or computer issue is involved.
But I believe that the cause of runaway acceleration needs to be
discovered they only way truth can be discovered, through methodical,
rational, rigorous scientific investigation and not through emotionally
charged opinions and accusations.
I'm not big on the floor mat thing. I would need three inches of floor
mat pushed forward in a way that has never happened to me in fifty
years of driving in order to jam the floor mats under the gas pedal. I
tried repeatedly while parked and while driving to loosen my Toyota
floor mats (06 Avalon, 06 Prius) with my feet. They remained locked on
their hooks and I could not make them slide forward. Of course, if
someone removed their floor mats for cleaning or another purpose and
then failed to reinstall them correctly due to inattention or laziness
that would be a different question. If such a person sues, they had
better hope I'm not on the jury!
I agree with almost everything that you have said and almost everything that
you will say in your entire life.
usenet *at* davidillig dawt cawm