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Runaway Toyotas - I just don't understand
Old 11-04-2009, 12:12 AM   #1
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Runaway Toyotas - I just don't understand

In the last few weeks the stories are increasing about Toyotas (including Lexus) suddenly deciding that they want to live life fast, real fast. And the poor drivers are powerless to rein them in.

I just don't understand. Whether it is caused by a mis-positioned rubber floormat that catches the accelerator, or whether there is a very rare glitch in the drive-by-wire system, what about the driver?

A case in point is the off-duty California hwy patrolman in his 2009 Lexus with wife, daughter, and SIL in the car going down a CA freeway. Car suddenly accelerates, going faster and faster. Braking does not help. SIL in backseat calls 911. You probably have heard the 911 tape by now.
They run out of road at 100+ MPH, all are killed.

Remember, this particular case is a hwy patrol officer. But he never thought to put the trans in neutral?!?!

Most cars and trucks of today have an engine rev limiter, if you put it into neutral with the throttle wide open, the computer turns off the fuel injectors till the revs drop low enough, to protect the engine. But even with old carbureted engines, or older fuel injection systems that did not have an engine rev limiter, if you're flying down a highway out of control and think you're gonna die, the hell with the engine! A flying piston is better than a flying car!

Why haven't any of these people done the obvious? How could a hwy patrolman NOT put it into neutral to defuse the situation? I find myself talking back to the news stories on internet, or talking back to the TV screen. I just don't understand.

Have "we" lost so much of the concept of automobiles that we need a big orange button in the center of the dash that says "PANIC" on it, that pressing that will solve whatever the problem is?
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Old 11-04-2009, 01:13 AM   #2
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...accelerator...drive-by-wire system...trans in neutral...engine rev limiter...throttle...fuel injectors...carbureted engine...piston...concept...
People who drive automatics don't know what any of these words mean.
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Old 11-04-2009, 01:30 AM   #3
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Yes, but with modern technology they probably have the time and the means to upgrade their life insurance coverage in the interval between the car going crazy and the crash. I'm sure there's an iphone application for this on the way.
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Old 11-04-2009, 01:56 AM   #4
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I wondered the same thing myself. Finally saw a piece on ABC Nightline where they mentioned braking and then shifting into neutral. They also mentioned not turning ignition off first since you would lose power brakes and power steering........doesn't that also lock the steering wheel so you can't steer? They didn't mention that.

I wasn't aware that throttle control was electronic (not mechanical)on our 2004 Camry. I always wondered why it coasts so well when foot is taken off gas pedal. Is that programmed electronically so it's a mini-version of cruise control?
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Old 11-04-2009, 02:09 AM   #5
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I don't believe a Toyota could be doing this by mistake. It must be some advanced Toyota system that senses it's actually doing what is best for the driver.
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Old 11-04-2009, 07:03 AM   #6
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I was surprised that Toyota had not tethered their floor mats long ago. This has been standard practice at other manufacturers for years. Generally it is a hook on the floor back near the base of the driver's seat.

After the unintended acceleration problems that almost sunk Audi, there was a lot of emphasis on potential causes by most manufacturers.
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Old 11-04-2009, 07:21 AM   #7
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The floormat on my 2000 Solara has a tendency to bunch up and cause trouble like that. I first noticed it about 6 years ago when (once) it interfered with my accelerator a little and scared me a bit. I was just in front of my house and going slowly at the time. I kept my foot on the brake and simultaneously pulled the mat backwards, not an easy feat, but as a result the problem that could have ensued that day was averted. Then I thought again (duh!) shut off the ignition, got out, and really straightened it out.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Telly View Post
Have "we" lost so much of the concept of automobiles that we need a big orange button in the center of the dash that says "PANIC" on it, that pressing that will solve whatever the problem is?
Yes! I'd like that button installed in my car, please.

Since then, every time I get in the car I check the mat and I suppose that I pull it backwards about once a week. By now, the mat is no longer flat (due to being bunched up so often) so it isn't easy to get it right. After reading about that problem, I think I will just take mine out. What's the point of having a mat anyway? It's not like anyone will care if scuff marks show in a car this old.
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Old 11-04-2009, 07:24 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kaneohe View Post
I wondered the same thing myself. Finally saw a piece on ABC Nightline where they mentioned braking and then shifting into neutral. They also mentioned not turning ignition off first since you would lose power brakes and power steering........doesn't that also lock the steering wheel so you can't steer? They didn't mention that.
The wheel wouldn't lock if you cut the ignition while riding down the road, unless you somehow got it in park I can understand someone crashing into a car in front of hem before they could react but getting in a 911 call and still not figuring it out?
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Old 11-04-2009, 07:50 AM   #9
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I had that problem in my Solara until I finally just removed the floor mat . It would bunch up and get stuck under the pedals . I love my Toyota but I think the brand may be losing some luster .
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Old 11-04-2009, 07:57 AM   #10
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Tragic story - Apparently very smart guy, dedicated family man, second generation cop, and not just a highway patrol officer but a vehicle safety inspector.

A little Googling brings up some new/additional facts that point at contributing factors and maybe a cause. The car was a loaner from the Lexus dealership that was working on the family car. There were some differences between the model they owned and the loaner that might have contributed or even caused the problem.

The loaner car had different floor mats than the family's car, and Toyota originally blamed the accident due the floor mat causing the accelerator pedal to stick in the "bat out of hell" position. Toyota is in the process of recalling the particular floor mats from several different Lexus and Toyo models. But the LA Times has been doing some investigatin' and has a list of other problems:

Quote:
The Lexus sedan was equipped with an automatic transmission control that mimics old-fashioned manual shifters, making it difficult for a driver to shift to neutral while the car is moving.

The power assist brakes rely on a vacuum that diminishes as the engine revs faster, reducing the braking assistance to near zero if the engine is roaring.

The manual brakes are unable to stop a 272-horsepower engine getting an open throttle and moving 120 mph. [Duh, really?]

The keyless ignition system requires a driver to hold a dashboard button down for three seconds to turn the engine off, a fact that is disclosed in the vehicle manual but may not be obvious to a motorist.

And perhaps most-damning, the car's computers do not reduce gas flow to the engine when the brakes are applied.
Regarding the officer being trained and experienced but apparently not being able to get the car under control, I'll just point out that what makes the difference in high-stress, high-risk situations is one's ability to stay calm and under control. People that do risky stuff for a living develop a professional detachment that they can turn on like a switch and that's what helps them to stay calm and in control. But to be honest, when it's your family in the line of danger, it's very difficult to switch that detached demeanor on and keep it working right.

I'm not speculating that he broke down and freaked out, but he was certainly dealing with a whole line of thought that had nothing to do with fixing the problem, but rather what the outcome was going to look like. When you have visions like that percolating in your head it's difficult to stay cool and methodically work your way out of a problem.
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Old 11-04-2009, 08:16 AM   #11
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Forgot to mention that the Nightline story interviewed a number of people who swore that their similar problem did not involve floor mats which the program suggested is pointing to some problem w/ the electronic control system. They showed a plot of incidents rising since 2002 when that control system was introduced. That date is before the floor mat recall date which I think relates to models 2006 and later. The program also mentioned that although Toyota is claiming no evidence pointing to a control system and that everything is under control because the floor mat issue is being addressed, the govt. is not yet giving them a clear bill of health.

I'm thinking I need to have my wife practice the rescue technique on her 2004 Camry.
Any harm to shifting from drive to neutral while moving? Upper speed limit for a practice run?
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Old 11-04-2009, 08:26 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kaneohe View Post
Forgot to mention that the Nightline story interviewed a number of people who swore that their similar problem did not involve floor mats which the program suggested is pointing to some problem w/ the electronic control system. They showed a plot of incidents rising since 2002 when that control system was introduced. That date is before the floor mat recall date which I think relates to models 2006 and later. The program also mentioned that although Toyota is claiming no evidence pointing to a control system and that everything is under control because the floor mat issue is being addressed, the govt. is not yet giving them a clear bill of health.

I'm thinking I need to have my wife practice the rescue technique on her 2004 Camry.
Any harm to shifting from drive to neutral while moving? Upper speed limit for a practice run?

no, just dont shift back into drive while moving...lol
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Old 11-04-2009, 08:43 AM   #13
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I was surprised that Toyota had not tethered their floor mats long ago. This has been standard practice at other manufacturers for years. Generally it is a hook on the floor back near the base of the driver's seat.

After the unintended acceleration problems that almost sunk Audi, there was a lot of emphasis on potential causes of by most manufacturers.
Yes, heaven knows it shouldn't be the DRIVER's responsibility to check that the floormat isn't impeding the accelerator. Did anyone see the recall procedure? OMG, an actual ZIP TIE with a hole punched through the floormat. Just what I would want if I owned a new Lexus. Your New Lexus Floor Mats Will Look Like Crap
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Old 11-04-2009, 08:51 AM   #14
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....But he never thought to put the trans in neutral?!?!

Most cars and trucks of today have an engine rev limiter, if you put it into neutral with the throttle wide open, the computer turns off the fuel injectors till the revs drop low enough, to protect the engine. But even with old carbureted engines, or older fuel injection systems that did not have an engine rev limiter, if you're flying down a highway out of control and think you're gonna die, the hell with the engine! A flying piston is better than a flying car!

Why haven't any of these people done the obvious?
I'm glad you posted this because I never in a million years would have thought to shift to neutral if my car wouldn't slow down, and now I know. I'm going to poll my family and see if they knew to do this--I'm really not sure it's "the obvious" thing to do for most people.

Also, once I was testdriving a car that stalled going downhill on a busy 45 mph road. I could still steer but it took all my strength to wrest the car onto the shoulder and braking was equally difficult.
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Old 11-04-2009, 09:07 AM   #15
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Don't get robbed by the dealer with the "floormat option". Just buy those thick rubber floormats from Sams/Walmart/Costco. They basically double the dry weight of the vehicle , last forever, don't crack from heat or cold and hold a gallon of water/mud/sand. All for less than $20 for 4.

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Old 11-04-2009, 09:15 AM   #16
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no, just dont shift back into drive while moving...lol
Thanks for that reminder!
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Old 11-04-2009, 09:34 AM   #17
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That would scare me to death. Hard telling what I would do, I'm not a very good thinker when nervous. I do remember when I was in high school on a basketball road trip, one of the mothers was driving and her gas peddle stuck. The boy in the front seat had brains enough to pull on the gas peddle and it worked. That's always been in the back of my brain and has always caused me to not trust cruise control - even though cruise control was not even available when I was in high school. I'm glad to know about the neutral thing too.
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Old 11-04-2009, 09:54 AM   #18
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If my car was out of control doing 100 MPH towards a fast approaching intersection, the thought of pulling out my cell phone and calling 911 would never cross my mind.

Work the problem, work the problem has always been my mantra in the few hairy situations I've found myself in over the years. I think skydivers (and maybe pilots) teach that way too. Don't panic and work the problem to the end.
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Old 11-04-2009, 10:13 AM   #19
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It's hard to think quickly when something goes wrong while driving.

Once DH and I were in our car about fifty feet behind a semi on a ramp in a rest area, waiting for the semi to pull forward to exit. No one was behind us, and we were far enough back to be visible to the semi. The semi, instead of pulling forward, went into reverse and was very slowly backing toward us (it turned out the driver was rather impaired as the police report would show).

DH, instead of putting our car in reverse to get the heck out of the way, starts laying on the horn, although I doubt someone up in the cab of a semi could hear someone behind him honking. The damage to our car was minimal, about $1,000. And at least the incident forestalled a potential "real" accident when the police kept the semi driver from driving further that night.

We had time to get the car out of the way, but I can see how one just don't always think of the best solution (problem: semi backs toward us; solutions: (a) honk or (b) get the heck out of the way or (c) both).
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Old 11-04-2009, 11:16 AM   #20
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If my car was out of control doing 100 MPH towards a fast approaching intersection, the thought of pulling out my cell phone and calling 911 would never cross my mind.
True, and that isn't what happened in this situation. It wasn't the driver who made the call:
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I SIL in backseat calls 911.
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