Unexplained Sudden Acceleration, Explained


Quelle surprise : the NHTSA has found that the *other* case of a runaway Prius from last week (coming to the end of a driveway, the car suddenly shot across a busy street and smashed into a stone wall. The driver swore up and down she had hit the brake and the car just, like, accelerated) “appears to be a case of driver error.”  Data recorders show the brake was never touched, the throttle was wide open.

Ok, maybe it wasn’t driver error. Maybe the electronics in the car are so screwed up they even screwed up the car’s data recorders so much that they recorded the exact opposite of what was happening. Or maybe it’s all something far more sinister…


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Unexplained Sudden Acceleration, Explained

  1. Occam's Razor: people are stupid.

    • Sadly, my immediate thought was perhaps somebody was trying to set up a lawsuit againt Toyota.

  2. The brake pedal is the one on the left, lady. The other left.

  3. Anyone want to cry Big-Brother over the invasion of privacy that is the examination of the car's black box? I look forward to calling it evidence, myself…

  4. I think we can expect more of this. Every time someone acts like an idiot and crashes their Toyota…..they'll use the same excuses.

  5. From a conspiracy theory viewpoint, the North American auto makers, who managed to mismanage their way into near insolvency, wouldn't have anything to do with any of these reports of 'unintended acceleration' incidents, would they? It's not like they would feel justified because a 'foreign' car maker has taken over their top-spots.

  6. My print column weekend goes into this in a bit more depth, but I'm increasingly convinced there is nothing seriously wrong with Toyota's cars. Between ABC's asinine news report, the various Prius hoaxsters, political opportunism, and the general madness-of-crowds angle, I think Toyota is being screwed.

  7. Sure Andrew, people driving an automatic transmissioned car are not smart enough to take their foot off of the gas pedal.
    Why were the one guy's brakes smoking if he had his foot on the gas pedal only?

    • Because he was feathering the brakes while flooring the accelerator, keeping his touch on the brakes light enough to keep the engine from cutting out. That's already been established by the NHSTA.

    • 25 March 2010

      For reasons of national security,Toyota should NEVER have been allowed to put auto engines under computer control.
      There are two scenarios in which we will want the ruggedness of ‘70s era
      mechanical linkage on the throttles of our vehicles.
      A Carrington storm-sunspot activity aimed at the earth as in 1859 when a solar storm overwhelmed the telegraph system for most of a month.
      Nuclear explosion. The last of the atmospheric nuclear tests in the ‘70s
      disabled computers (then relatively rare) by electromagnetic shock in Hawaii – a thousand km from ground zero.
      In time of disaster when the ATMs are unserviceable, we will want to revert to our vehicles because they are autonomous, self contained mobile systems , many with communications capability (such as OnStar).
      The gains in pollution reduction and fuel economy brought about by computer controlled throttle systems are not worth the vulnerability inherent in these complex systems.

  8. Perhaps the black box is indicating a problem with Toyota's software rather than the actual facts.
    These are software programs and sometimes one little bug can make a lot of things go wrong.
    If you were familiar with software, you would know this.

    • Sure — the bug is so crazy it records the exact opposite of what the driver claims she was doing. Or maybe the cars have gone genocidal, like in Stephen King's movie.

  9. Years ago, Audi had similar allegations laid against its cars. Several people swore their new Audis accelerated unexpectedly; they applied the brakes with all their might; and the cars plowed through walls, houses, and people anyway.

    Audi engineers said from the start that driver error was the cause. Then, CBS hired a mechanic who modified an Audi so that it would fail and sure enough it failed in front of millions of television viewers. It took Audi years to recover its reputation in the United States.

    • Hi. We had an Audi, mid '70's model, with an acceleration problem. Turned out it was in the linkage between the gas pedal and carburator – the spring would break on pressing the gas pedal, so the engine was on maximum rev (yes, red lining!). The immediate solution was to put it in neutral and get out of traffic, the short term solution was to carry a bag of the springs ordered from Germany in the glove compartment in order to pop the hood and replace the spring, and the long term solution was to sell the darn thing and buy a Mazda.

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