Toyota Floor Mat Safety Recall – Can your Prius kill you?

Toyota is sending out floor mat safety recall letters

Toyota is sending out floor mat safety recall letters

Toyota has been making some news lately with their runaway vehicles and they are trying to do something about it. I’ve just received the Interim Notice letter I’ve been hearing about for a few weeks now and set out to see if the floor mat could be a likely culprit, as described in the letter. Here is what I’ve found:

Floor mat interfering with the accelerator pedal

Floor mat interfering with the accelerator pedal

Here is a picture of a potential situation they are describing. The floor mat supposedly jams the accelerator pedal and causes it to get stuck in the wide open position. Please note the only way I could model that is to use a third-party rubber floor mat – the stock Toyota floor mat is too short to reach the accelerator pedal unless you dislodge it which in itself is no small task:

There are few problems with the floor mat interference as I see it:

  1. The accelerator pedal is, of course, spring-loaded. The spring is pretty strong and will easily push away a mat made of anything that’s rubber or carpet. It would be a very frustrating experience indeed if the mat would in any way interfere with the pedal but to let it stay wide-open the spring would have to fail first.
  2. Floor mat hook on a 2009 Toyota Prius

    Floor mat hook on a 2009 Toyota Prius

    The stock floor mat is held in place by two plastic hooks that do not come undone very easily even if you are forcing them to disengage. The hooks can swivel and therefore they are doing a great job holding onto the mat. You really have to flex the floor mat hard to make the mat slide off the hook. I honestly don’t see it happening by itself unless, of course, you were vacuuming your floor mats and forgot to put it back the way it’s supposed to be.

    2009 Toyota Prius - floor mat tucked securely under the left footrest

    2009 Toyota Prius - floor mat tucked securely under the left footrest

    In addition to that the stock Toyota floor mat is tucked rather securely under the footrest which provides an additional anchor point. See the picture for the illustration (and yes, I know my car badly needs vacuuming)

  3. The stock Toyota floor mat has rubber bumps on the underside that embed themselves into the carpet underneath the mat and hold onto it so well that the mat simply does not move! In order to force it to slide forward so it can interfere with the accelerator pedal you have to lift it up from the floor first. See the picture below

2009 Toyota Prius Floor Mat Underside - Part number PT208-47060

2009 Toyota Prius Floor Mat Underside - Part number PT208-47060

Note the part number on the picture – it’s PT208-47060, which is mentioned in the Toyota letter as the correct floor mat for the vehicle. Here is the complete chart

2004-2009 Model Year Toyota Prius vehicles Floor Mat to Vehicle Application Chart
Part Number Model Type ’04 ’05 ’06 ’07 ’08 ’09 Color
PT208-47045-10 Prius Carpeted X X Ivory
PT208-47045-11 Prius Carpeted X X X X X X Dark Grey
PT208-47060-14 Prius Carpeted X X X X Dark Bisque
PT908-21050-02 Prius All Weather X X Black
PT908-21051-02 Prius All Weather X X X X Black

So, all in all, even though the floor mat seems like something that is plausible, I think it is not the culprit or at the very least not the most probable one. Even though this particular issue (if it’s not completely made up) is rather easy to explain to customers and easy/cheap to fix, I can’t think that something so simple to figure out, even under the tremendous stress of driving an unresponsive vehicle, could cause some of the most high-profile runaway crashes, such as California Highway Patrol officer Mark Saylor and his family’s tragic death. I’m inclined to think that the cars’ electronic controls (think the “Start” button that replaced the turn-to-start key) can and do fail, just like pretty much every electronics device you’ve ever owned. The car’s computer just happens to be the most dangerous electronics device that can fail on you and Toyota, as well as all other car manufacturers will do well with the public if they build multiple safety backups for the most important vehicle controls and then disclose what the backups are and how they work.

As consumers demand and car manufacturers provide more and more electronic features in the cars, we become more and more reliant on operation of devices that for the vast majority of the general public are nothing other than black boxes. For as little as we know how the boxes work, we know even less about what would happen if they fail. Radar automatic brakes, camera steering assist that follows the road marking and compensates your steering, semi-automatic parallel parking and other features that we may soon find ourselves accustomed to are all going to have some finite time-to-failure values. So, we better be prepared and have tools provided by the manufacturers to take control when the electronics controls do fail.

pb

In industrial applications things can also get really hairy if some device, say a robot, runs away. For that you will not find any industrial installation that does not have the BIG Red panic button that overrides and shuts everything down.

I want one for my car!

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One Response to “Toyota Floor Mat Safety Recall – Can your Prius kill you?”

  1. sam Says:

    Yes, your absolutely right. we are driving a lethal vehicle and electronics do fail. as we know with computers, mobiles, tvs, and any other electronic devices. Cars most certainly need a emergency stop button just like machines do in a factory. We have our kids in these cars. We must protect them and other drivers… rip that family that was killed. Toyota probably wont tell us the real reason for the crash… all businesses don’t like to admit the true cause, I don’t think it would be the floor mat.. maybe the electronics.

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