Feds Find Driver Error in Toyota Investigation

Toyota

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that in an ongoing investigation, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has found that issues of unintended acceleration in Toyota vehicles were due to driver error and not an issue with the vehicles themselves.

The newspaper cites “people familiar” with the finding, as the government has neither released the information publicly nor confirmed the Journal’s sources.
 
The reports say that NHTSA analyzed dozens of data recorders in Toyota vehicles whose owners claimed experienced unintended acceleration. In all of them, the data shows the throttle was wide open and the brakes were not depressed, suggesting driver error, not a problem with the vehicles themselves. These tests were done independently of Toyota, and NHTSA selected the cars to test.
 
These findings seem to vindicate Toyota, but the recalls for sticky accelerator pedals and floormats are still blamed in a fatal crash involving a California state trooper and his family that led to the recall of millions of vehicles.
 
NHTSA says its investigation is incomplete and will take months to finish. This report, while intriguing, is far from the end of the story.

Crash Data Suggest Driver Error in Toyota Accidents  (Wall Street Journal)
By David Thomas | July 13, 2010 | Comments (18)

Comments 

Tim

It is nice to see them vindicated and to have the blame placed where it belongs (assuming the report ever comes out).

They could have done a better job handling this fiasco in the first place, but live and learn. Lets hope they remember this and react differently the next time they have reports about faulty vehicles or equipment.

Dan

I will be interested to see the full report when it comes out. What we've seen so far still doesn't answer why driver error has a very strong bias toward Toyota vehicles, built in a certain range of years using a certain set of parts. Also, why after replacing those parts, driver errors seem to have subsided.

Derrick G

YES, Dan, there's still the matter of how many more Toyota's had complaints even before it became a big media event. And have any cars been crashed under conditions of both throttle opened and brake off and throttle closed and brake on to make sure the recorders are working correctly?

Obama Skeptic

All that remains is for Ray LaHood to publicly apologize for slandering Toyota in a blatant campaign to prop up GM and the UAW.

J

Can we just forget about the idiot trooper?
He should know better on how to keep the vehicle under control.

JR

the trooper died along with his family, J. the least we can do is show respect.

toyota seemed to have moved on from this issue and so should we. personally, i would want to read the report (if it ever is made public) to see how the NHTSA analyzed data.

ORD

Nice to see that the feds have been bought off.....when a SPECIFIC grouping of production models exhibits a SPECIFIC characteristic, then their IS a problem. Anyone suggesting that 'driver error' is the issue is not qualified to comment on study data of any kind. The ONLY thing that may be said is that the throttles were WIDE OPEN. Now, I don't know about anyone else, but how many of you ever drove with the throttle WIDE open.......????? Further to this, what is to say that the recorder itself isn't screwed up and giving back false or impartial data. As far as I'm concerned, this is just chapter 2 in how Toyota have learned to manipulate the system, and the Feds complicity.
As for the state trooper, that was a CALAMITY, and I'm sure that he WAS trained in vehicle control, so let's not start name calling, shall we, J?, you pompous ass!

Nelson Lu

The fact that there may be "driver error" in the sense of the driver pressing the gas pedal when not intending to does not absolve Toyota of all responsibility, for three reasons:

1. Toyota's floor mats were bad, causing gas pedals to get stuck.

2. Toyota's gas pedal assemblies were bad, causing gas pedals to get stuck.

3. And, even when 1/2 aren't in play, a design that causes a driver to be more likely to press down the gas pedal in a Toyota in unintended situations than with other cars is still faulty.

J

JB,

Respect is not to be asked, but to be given willingly by a person. Look at it the other way; he had sufficient training in controlling a vehicle, but he FAILED, which not only cost his own life but also his family's.
A failure like that does not deserve respect.

First off, the trooper accident was indeed tragic, but was determined to have been caused by having an improper floor mat installed in the driver's front position. The vehicle was a dealership loaner car (a Lexus ES350); and the dealer had installed an all weather mat for an RX350 (which is longer than one meant for an ES350) in it. After the accident the pedal was found to be still lodged underneath this incorrect floor mat. So someone was indeed at fault for this tragedy, but it was the dealer that installed the wrong floor mat, not Toyota as a whole. This was in Ray LaHood's testimony before the congressional committee, but no one in the media ever seems to mention it. The NHTSA has stated that the only proven cases of unintended acceleration (UA) have been a result of an incorrect floor mat being installed, or incorrect installation of a proper floor mat; so how exactly can this be called a "defect"? If you pour power steering fluid in you engine and your engine fails, is that an defective engine? No, it was an error on the consumers part. No one in any official capacity either from Toyota or the Government has said that the floor mats themselves are defective, this is just how the media has interpreted/reported it. It is also interesting to note that the reports of unintended acceleration skyrocketed after the initial recall announcement, making you wonder if it's a case of automotive hypochondrics or just people trying to get in on a lawsuit. Internally Toyota is furious about how this whole situation has been handled. They are still confident that there is nothing wrong with the cars, but the PR people won out by arguing that they should not risk offending their customer base by saying its their fault, so they made some over-cautious "modifications" that basically just idiot-proof their cars so that even when someone puts thier cheap aftermarket tazmanian devil floor mats in their car, they still won't get caught up. The media's coverage of this issue is the biggest shame of all: rather than simply report the facts as they should, they took bits and pieces to make it more sensational and whip the public into a frenzy without any regard for how it would effect people or Toyota as a company. Think about how many people loved their Toyota before all this, never had an issue because they understand the concept of hooking 2 hooks into a floor mat, but have now had their opinion of their car ruined for no reason. Toyotas are certainly not the most exciting cars on the road, but not everyone wants or needs to be engaged in having fun or driving out on twisty back roads; many people just want to have a nice, relaxing ride home after work, or to go pick up the kids. Toyota should not be demonized for building cars like that, it is just building what people want. And as far as those who point out that Toyota has more cases of "UA" than anyone else over the last 5 years or so, well Toyota has sold more passenger cars than anyone else over the past 5 or so years, so it makes sense that they would have more as there are more late model Toyotas out on the road. Another interesting bit is that among all reports of "UA" from all car brands, the number of incidents reported by drivers between the ages of 61-81 were more than triple of number total of complaints from drivers from 21-60. So 20 years worth of drivers accounted for more than 70% of the claims while 40 years worth of drivers accounted for less than 30%? Not to be "aegist" but that kinda speaks for itself, especially when you consider those numbers are pulled from all brands, not just Toyota. Funny too how the NHTSA has no comment on this (their own findings) when they can no longer raise the pitchforks towards the "big bad foreign auto company." WHEW that was a long one, just been getting tired of all the misinformation and unfair portrayal of Toyota in all this; and I'm glad to see a story that finally seems to handle this in a reasonable fashion.

Dan

Ben C.-

Why does it happen much more often in Toyota's than other cars? If it isn't a defective product, the only solution is that Toyota buyers are stupid. I haven't seen that to be true. Have you?

In a report of the complaints received by the NHTSA over the past 10 years, Toyota accounted for 9.1% of all complaints, sounds like a lot, but when you consider that Toyota accounted for 13.4% of the market over that same time period they had far less than their share. The only companies that had a lower percentage of complaints were Mercedes-Benz & Porsche. The same report also shines light on the validity of a NHTSA "complaint", stating that 10% of all reports were duplicates and used as an example one complaint stating 99 people had died in one vehicle as a result of an accident.

And as far as saying that it "happening so much" in Toyotas, that is still open to speculation as no one (not Toyota, not the Government, not any of the independant research companies) has been able to sustantiate the claims of "UA". This in itself is suspect in that why has it never happened in the thousands of hours & miles these organizations have driven these vehicles, has there been not one case of "UA"?

Doug L

I have been involved with General Motors cars during this Toyota unintended acceleration fiasco and also back int he 80's during the Audi unintended acceleration fiasco. I can assure the number of customer concerns with unintended acceleration on GM cars increased many times over during the time this was in the news. Once someone has it in their head that it can happen, they are much more inclined to make a pedal error, because when the car takes off they do not think "Oh, I have my foot on the wrong peda1" Instead they think " Save me Lord, the car is running away with me!"

Doug L

I have heard some information about the Lexus ES350 that I believe to be true, but have not personally verified. Keep in mind the oficer that was killed inthe crash of this vehicle was not familiar with this vehicle.
The keyless ignition system does not immediately turn off the engine if pressed to the off position while the car is being driven, it takes about 3 seconds held in the off position to turn off the engine. It does not respond to multiple hits on the button, but has to be held for, one-thousand one, one thousand two, one thousand three, all while trying to control a the runaway vehicle, while in a general panic.
The shift pattern is somewhat unusual and may be difficult to find neutral. So therre you are, in an unfamiliar vehicle, gas pedal stuck to the floor by an incorrect floor mat, you can't find neutral and the engine does not stop when you hit the off button.

art

Ben C is right on. This same thing happened to Audi in the 80's. Their engineers told management that there was no problem with the car. But the public was against the car. Took Audi 8 years to dig out of their perception problem, and millions lost during that time. In the end,, it turned out to be driver error. Toyota wanted to avoid a similar problem and over-reacted. Note; the UA is also just an American problem. We need to pay more attention to our driving habits.

Swiper

Art and Ben C. has hit the nail on the head. It is just an American problem. there are toyotas all over the world and no UA's.

I guess a lot of people tried to cash-in on the lawsuit.

hwertz

Not to say there is a problem with the Toyotas, but the black box alone really proves nothing. The proposed problem was an electronic fault making the engine management system think the gas pedal was mashed down when it wasn't... the black box would then just record the same faulty data, also indicated a mashed down gas pedal. (These vehicles have electronic throttle control, so the gas pedal is not actually connected to the throttle.) Of course even if they do have an isolated problem, it won't be common, with the vast vast majority still being driver error.

Solutions? 1) They already retrofitted the software to have the engine power cut when the brake pedal is pushed. 2) They really need to get rid of these controls you have to hold a button for seconds on end to use. In an emergency, I like to think I would keep it together enough to throw my gearshift into neutral, or turn off the engine (of course that may risk locking the steering column...).. but holding some button for **5 SECONDS**? I don't know.

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