Saturday, March 13, 2010

Hype, Fraud Over Toyota "Unintended Acceleration"

Many folks smelled the rat on the "Prius from Hell" story last week, but the shills in the media pressed fast forward with the overwrought coverage.

Micael Fumento details the nonsense and the chicanery.

"In fact, almost none of this was true. Virtually every aspect of Sikes's story as told to reporters makes no sense. His claim that he'd tried to yank up the accelerator could be falsified, with his help, in half a minute. And now we even have an explanation for why he'd pull such a stunt, beyond the all-American desire to have 15 minutes of fame (recall the "Balloon Boy Hoax" from October) and the aching need to be perceived as a victim. The lack of skepticism from the beginning was stunning. I combed through haystacks of articles without producing such needles as the words 'alleges' or 'claims.' When Sikes said he brought his car to a dealer two weeks earlier, recall notice in hand, and they just turned him away, the media bought that, too. In Sikes We Trust. Then the pundits deluged us with a tsunami of an anti-Toyota sanctimony."

Read the Car and Driver story, one which I relied upon on another blog to express skepticism over the hysteria.

"Certainly the most natural reaction to a stuck-throttle emergency is to stomp on the brake pedal, possibly with both feet. And despite dramatic horsepower increases since C/D's 1987 unintended-acceleration test of an Audi 5000, brakes by and large can still overpower and rein in an engine roaring under full throttle. With the Camry’s throttle pinned while going 70 mph, the brakes easily overcame all 268 horsepower straining against them and stopped the car in 190 feet—that’s a foot shorter than the performance of a Ford Taurus without any gas-pedal problems and just 16 feet longer than with the Camry’s throttle closed. From 100 mph, the stopping-distance differential was 88 feet—noticeable to be sure, but the car still slowed enthusiastically enough to impart a feeling of confidence. We also tried one go-for-broke run at 120 mph, and, even then, the car quickly decelerated to about 10 mph before the brakes got excessively hot and the car refused to decelerate any further. So even in the most extreme case, it should be possible to get a car’s speed down to a point where a resulting accident should be a low-speed and relatively minor event.

But Toyota could do better. Since the advent of electronic throttle control, many automakers have added software to program the throttle to close—and therefore cut power—when the brakes are applied. Cars from BMW, Chrysler, Nissan/Infiniti, Porsche, and Volkswagen/Audi have this feature, and that’s precisely why the G37 aced this test. Even with the throttle floored and the vehicle accelerating briskly, stabbing the brakes causes the engine’s power to fade almost immediately, and as a result, the Infiniti stops in a hurry. From speeds of 70 or even 100 mph, the difference in braking results between having a pinned throttle or not was fewer than 10 feet, which isn’t discernible to the average driver. As a result of the unintended-acceleration investigation, Toyota is adding this feature posthaste.

We included the powerful Roush Mustang to test—in the extreme—the theory that 'brakes are stronger than the engine.' From 70 mph, the Roush’s brakes were still resolutely king even though a pinned throttle added 80 feet to its stopping distance. However, from 100 mph, it wasn’t clear from behind the wheel that the Mustang was going to stop. But after 903 feet—almost three times longer than normal—the 540-hp supercharged Roush finally did succumb, chugging to a stop in a puff of brake smoke."

Note that the Prius model in the Fumento story weighed significantly less than the Roush Mustang, and possessed about one fifth the horsepower. These are all factors in determining the effectiveness of an automobile's brakes under circumstances of "unintended acceleration". We won't even begin to talk about driver pedal misapplication, or the other common sense things drivers can do if an event like this actually happened.

2/14/10 UPDATE:

NHTSA agrees with my assessment:

"During two hours of test drives of Sikes' car Thursday, technicians with Toyota and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration failed to duplicate the same experience that Sikes described, according to the memo prepared for the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

'Every time the technician placed the gas pedal to the floor and the brake pedal to the floor the engine shut off and the car immediately started to slow down,' the memo said.

The report says that, according to Toyota's 'residential Hybrid expert,' the Prius is designed to shut down if the brakes are applied while the gas pedal is pressed to the floor. If it doesn't, the engine would 'completely seize.'

The memo continued that in this case 'it does not appear to be feasibly possible, both electronically and mechanically that his gas pedal was stuck to the floor and he was slamming on the brake at the same time.' "



  1. Sikes should consider cutting off a pinkie and dropping it in a bowl of Wendy's Chili

  2. The above comment was mine..

    Fred Gregory