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It seems everyone knows about the fiasco going on with Toyota cars right now. Several models of Toyota vehicles have a serious design flaw in which the car will spontaneously start accelerating to dangerous speeds, often leading to deadly car accidents. At first, Toyota claimed that this problem was the result of an interfering floor mat, but when the accidents continued to occur in cars where the floormats had been placed safely in the trunk, Toyota was forced to consider that the problem was more serious.

Now, Toyota has announced a massive recall of all the models that have been known to be affected by this problem, so that they can fix the accelerator pedals. Sounds great, right?

Except for the fact that many people, including Injury Board’s own Robert Hillard (who has filed a class-action lawsuit against Toyota in Texas) believe that the problem is electronic, and that fixing the accelerator pedals will do nothing but give drivers a false sense of security. According to Mr. Hillard,

“The problem is not unique to the model, it’s unique to the design of the electronic throttle control system. What happens is there used to be a manual system if you press on the brake, you do not accelerate. But now Toyota has done away with that with the electronic throttle control system-intelligent (ETCS-i). It doesn’t matter if you are on the brake, suddenly you have a runaway car.”

This opinion is also shared by one of the founders of Apple Computers, Steve Wozniak, who has also come out stating that he believes the problem does not involve the accelerator pedal, since he has experienced problems with his Prius while the car was in cruise-control. He argues that, since his foot never touched the accelerator pedal, and yet the car continued to accelerate out of control, that the problem lies somewhere else, probably in the software. So we have at least two very intelligent men making very reasonable arguments as to why the problem isn’t in the accelerator pedal, and that Toyota should keep looking for the real solution to the problem. One of these men, who has significant credentials in the electronics industry, believes that the problem lies with the electronics of the car, and yet Toyota will not listen to his opinion. I only hope that the decision to fix the accelerator pedal, rather than fix the electronics, does not result in any more untimely deaths.

3 Comments

  1. Gravatar for Lev freidin

    I am sure this problem has a firmware [error] or an electronics [Electromagnetic Interference] reasons. So called "Brake Override System" (which stops engine if both brake and accelerator pedals pressed together) can even make it worst, because without engine there is no power steering nor power brake, so a driver could loose the reminder of the control over the "running away" car (especially if the car is heavy and the driver is tiny). Instead of increasing the "brake-engine" link with additional electronics/firmware, the best solution is to decouple/disconnect/remove any links between engine and brakes. The brakes must works non-conditionally at any time. Maybe emergency switch to the neutral gear is acceptable, not killing engine.

  2. Gravatar for Barry White

    Toyota is not the first company to have this problem.

    Volvo had an almost identical problem with models around 198 to 2002.

    It was caused by the use of carbon potentiometers in the electronic throttle control system.

    The potentiometers wear and give poor contact to the wiper which causes the signal being sent to the engine management system to have erratic levels and the computer responds to the erratic signal with erratic speeds.

    This problem in the Volvo is different to the Toyota in that sustained acceleration did not occur.

    However the use of carbon potentiometers is dangerous. In the electronics industry they would not be used for such a function.

    Ever heard the crackling in old radios when you

    turn the volume control ?

    Thats what the problem is.

  3. Gravatar for Gerry McGill

    Lev and Barry, thanks for the intelligent, informative comments to my post. Although my undergraduate degree was in engineering, it was focused more on naval and mechanical engineering than electronics or electrical engineering. I can't believe that the President of Toyota in America continues to state that there is no possibility of computer or electrical problems.

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