Engineers Say Not Just Toyotas Vulnerable to Unintended Acceleration

2009ToyotaMatrix
The Detroit Free Press talked to a number of engine experts who explain that with electronic systems controlling an engine’s acceleration, cell phone signals and microwave and radio towers could lead to unintended acceleration. This would happen on all cars, including past Toyotas not part of the recall that have been reported to accelerate out of control.

However, Toyota says its throttle-control system has fail-safes for such an occurrence and these parts would return a specific error when brought in for repair.

Since the most recent Toyota recall, many analysts are calling for Toyota and others to add “smart brake” technology that would allow depressing the brake pedal to override the throttle control, thus canceling any acceleration, intended or otherwise. Most European and luxury automakers and Nissan already use smart brake technology, but Ford, GM, Chrysler, Honda and Toyota do not.

Overall, unintended acceleration is fairly rare no matter the cause. Based on a Consumer Reports study of 2008 complaints to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, about one of every 50,000 Toyota, one of every 65,000 Ford and just one in every 500,000 GM vehicles experienced a problem.

Toyota's problem in other vehicles (Detroit Free Press)
By David Thomas | February 1, 2010 | Comments (20)

Comments 

That's going to become A really price mistake for Toyota

Jim

Boy I sure hope this is optional or can be disabled on manual transmission cars.

Paul

Simple fix.....drop drive-by-wire systems.Simple.

One note that not many know about....on GM 4.8/5.3 engines one spark plug wire is very close to the drive by wire pass thru from the firewall.There have been cases where feedback from the plug wire has influenced the accelerator.Watch how you route replacement wires on those vehicles!!

Karen

Why the incorrect statement that Chrysler and certain other automakers do not offer smart braking technology when the Detroit Free Press article you linked to clearly states that Chrysler does offer it and that Ford and GM hadn't responded by press time?

Graham

To those luddites who think that eliminating drive by wire will prevent this problem:

It is quite possible for mechanical linkages to jam, or return springs to break. Furthermore, these types of electronic controls have been in places for decades on aircraft and are will proven. Are they perfect? No, of course not: nothing is.

In addition, there is no way at all to implement brake override on a mechanical throttle control system.

Of course, the best thing would be for people to actually learn how to do slightly more than absolute minimum to get their cars from a to b. It isn't difficult to stop a car with a jammed open throttle, it just requires a modicum of thought.

Jim888

I know that some people think this whole issue is either funny or bogus. That indicates to me that they nor anyone they know has experienced this very terrifying "problem".

We have! Less than three months after buying a 2007 Avalon (without a "warn accelartor"), I was just moving my car over a few feet in my brother-in-law's drive. I must have been going all of 1-2 miles per hour. Upon applying the brakes to stop the car, the engine went to about 6000 RPMs with my brother-in-law and his garage just in front of me - he was directing where to re-park.

I was able to keep the car from moving forward or I would have run over him and hit their garage. NOT FUNNY!

A month later, this same thing happened in our crowded downtown area while stopping for a car in front of me. Luckily I again knew that I had my foot on the brake pedal and kept the car from moving forward, again with the engine at about 6000 RPM and smoke coming from the car's exhaust. This happened twice two blocks in a row.

I parked the car and had it towed to my dealer and did not drive again (another 3 months).

To summarize:
1. I have witnesses for these incidents.
2. I did not have all-weather mats, only properly attached Toyota carpet mats properly secured to the floor.
3. I had not pressed the gas pedal hardly at all - negating the current "fix" for "sticky gas pedals" that won't return and stay at what ever RPM rate they were. I fail to see how that “problem” would cause the RPMs to go higher.
4. Also you would find reports where the driver describes the foot pedal "being sucked downward toward the floor on its own" with out them applying more pressure. What caused that????
5. The Toyota service departments in both cities where this happened said that they had not seen anything like this before.
Now we know better - too late for some people.

If you care to get informed about this particular version of "unintended sudden acceleration" problem, just read through incidents on the NHTSA website to find many instances of this.

You will find complaints going back much farther that the two years that most of the news agencies are reporting (what they hace been fed)- how about 6-7 years!

Many people have been injured and somewhere about 20 people have been killed according to published reports!

I am not alone in thinking that the current "fixes" are not the whole part of the problems that people are experiencing.

How many customers didn't even know to report their experience to NHTSA? Several THOUSAND DID report their incidents.

Toyota has stone-walled this severe safety issue for too long.

I hope that neither you nor anyone you care about gets to experience the fear caused by these problems.

This is a very real problem.

Weber

To summarize: You lie and are just desperate for attention. You fool no one but yourself.

Graham

Assuming Jim888 was driving an automatic, there is no way the engine can reach 6,000 rpm while the car is moving at 2 mph or less. The torque converter will stall with the engine at well below 3,000 rpm (2,000 or so for most passenger cars). If it is a manual transmission, then yes, it could sit at the rev limiter, but only if the clutch was fully depressed. Smoke from the exhaust seems very unlikely in either case from a healthy (i.e. not severely worn) engine.

I'm sure what you experienced terrified you, but what you actually describe could not have happened.

There is also no way a drive by wire throttle can move down by itself. It contains no kind of motor to cause this, so it must have been telekinesis.

anthony

Does anyone remember when this same bullcrap happened to Audi? Come on people! Learn how to drive.

Derrick G

I get so tired of hearing this learn how to drive BS. Major point: no matter how scary or disheartening it is to hear all these people recount their experience and realize none of them ever began to think of going into Neutral or turning off the ignition instead of going into a river or hitting a parked car, fact is ONLY Toyota has a large number of such complaints and they go far back before the media attention started.

Should these people be better trained? Sure. But even more so than that they shouldn't be put in cars that speed up on their own. They are a danger to ALL of us on the road, not just their non-thinking selves, and Toyota needs to fix this.

Bowrider

Not everyone can be as smart as Graham apparently is. I'm sure he is just as knowledgeable at every other topic imaginable.

Peter Collibelli

An an x-ASE certified Ford mechanic I can confirm that Graham's post is 100% accurate.

suidae

Plenty of non drive-by-wire cars have cruise control mechanisms that operate accelerator pedal under software control.

I don't know if newer Toyota's do this or not, but I would think that as a user interface feature that would be desirable, as it allows the user to turn off the cruise control without changing the throttle setting (if the pedal wasn't already at the appropriate location for the current speed then the user would have to hunt for the correct setting after turning off the cruise).

My RAM 1500 had the accelerator get stuck and caused me to crash badly. Here is the story:
http://imimpulsive.blogspot.com/2010/01/stuck-throttle-accelerator-that-almost.html

And here's what it looked like after: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rXbJ6p4NAmA

JR in San Antonio

Actually, Jim888's story of the Toyota Avalon is not far off. My mother-in-laws 2003 Avalon was off and parked in the parking lot. When she inserted the key and turned the ignition, no starter, no motor, no ignition, but the instrument panel went crazy including here speedometer showing she was going 120 mph. Again the motor was off, but her electronic instruments when haywire. She couldn't get the car to start and couldn't get it out of park. Toyoto diagnosed the problem as a bad battery, but that never made since. Twice since then there have been strange occurences of failure to start and couldn't get the car out of park. Fortunately, she's never had the experience of a racing speedometer when the engine was actually on.

Graham

Now here we have a classic example of confusing two entirely different issues.

JR has just described a problem with the dashboard control module (or whatever Toyota call their part). This caused instruments to go haywire, but this did NOT affect throttle control functions.

OTOH, Jim888 described actual unwanted engine acceleration. The fact that the symptoms could not happen exactly as described does not alter the fact that these are two entirely different things.

David

there is no electrical or mechanical mechanism in drive by wire that can make the accelerator pedal move...
even the cruise control does not move the pedal...
only the operators foot or another object can move the pedal.

Blake

When you review all the required OSHA electrical saftety standards for machines in the workplace, one of the most important pieces is the EMERGENCY STOP button. Maybe we will have to install a large red ESTOP on all dashes to shut down the computer in the car. I think this fly-by-wire issue should cause automakers to ABANDON a keyless ignition since the "OFF" command is software and in no way real. The computer can do what it wants to if there is a glitch. That's scary. We really should learn from industrial safety standards and make sure computers cannot make decisions about whether the car goes or stops. And I still have to ask myself: every automatic transmission has a neutral position, and every car produced today has an ignition switch or button. Turning the key to ACCY or putting the transmission in neutral will allow the vehicle to slow down. Am I the only one who knows this? I experienced a throttle linkage failure in a vehicle--yes I was surprised, but I quickly turned the key to "OFF" and the vehicle slowed down. I would rather have the engine self destruct at high RPM (although the computer should prevent this if it is not schizo) than die from an out of control situation.

gggnyc

Well even though I may not understand all of this drive by wiring , sticky gas pedals, etc, I own a jeep Cherokee Laredo and this unintended acceleration is no joke. I had my son in the jeep with me when my vehicle started accelerated without my foot being on the gas pedal. very scary when you press the brake and it doesn't slow down.I press the brake even more and I had to put my jeep in park because I was about to hit the car in front of me. Someone had to help me push my jeep to the side of the road. he saw what happened since I was right in traffic and said, I should take my son out the do not drive the jeep. I called my husbnd, he came to pick us up and we had a tow company drop our jeep to the mechanic. all of u that want to make fun of other ppl stories and assume their lying, is pretty sad. instead of making fun and assuming they cannot drive, show some respect and consideration before u pass judgment

Gamblinbug

I own a 2010 ram 1500 hemi. Me and my family were heading home 9/28/14 from Ohio. We had slowed down for a semi exiting the highway. When I hit the resume on the cruise lever the truck accelerated like it was floored and would not idle down when I touched the brake. I popped it into N and reached for the key. The engine had stopped and was seized. The truck has a rev limiter but it did not seem to be in play. Not sure yet what caused it but hope the dealer has some answers when they fix it. Yes it was very scary with the family riding along. This seems to be talked about by many people on the web. Just thought I would share.

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