Well, you’re probably too young to remember, but back in the 1980’s we had this thing where people would buy Audi 5000’s and then they’d press the go pedal when they meant to press the no-go pedal. Drivers were crashing into swimming pools, killing pedestrians – it was carnage. The funny thing was, though, that if you kept your foot on the brake your Audi 5000 wouldn’t go anywhere.
The Canadians (Transport Canada, eh?) looked into it and called these unintended acceleration crashes the result of “driver error” but the NHSTA came up with the polotocally correct phrase “pedal misapplication.” No matter, it means the same thing. To sum it all up, here are some peoples’ takes on this issue and here’s a different perpective from the Center for Auto Safety*
The point being is that the whole theory that plaintiff’s lawyers initially came up with to explain what was going on was complete garbage. If you want to talk about how best to size and locate the gas and brake pedals for the relatively unskilled, a-driver’s-license-is-my-birthright American driver, well then have at it, but it’s sort of funny how these accidents didn’t happen as much in Honda Civics, which had an almost identical pedal layout. And the upshot is that sales did recover in the U.S., and Audi is back to being the sexy chariot of the yuppie it was back in the ’80s.
Anywho, it’s 2010 and we now have a another entry in the annals of unintended acceleration: the 2010 Toyota Vehicle Recalls. Floormats and the gas pedal setup both appear to be part of the problems.
Toyota’s tip on how to operate your floor mats:
And here’s Toyota’s advice on how to not kill yourself when your sticky throttle sticks wide open, from a time when the floor mats were considered the primary cause of trouble (but it’s still good advice):
First, if it is possible and safe to do so, pull back the floor mat and dislodge it from the accelerator pedal; then pull over and stop the vehicle.
If the floor mat cannot be dislodged, then firmly and steadily step on the brake pedal with both feet. Do NOT pump the brake pedal repeatedly as this will increase the effort required to slow the vehicle.
Shift the transmission gear selector to the Neutral (N) position and use the brakes to make a controlled stop at the side of the road and turn off the engine.
If unable to put the vehicle in Neutral, turn the engine OFF, or to ACC. This will not cause loss of steering or braking control, but the power assist to these systems will be lost.
-If the vehicle is equipped with an Engine Start/Stop button, firmly and steadily push the button for at least three seconds to turn off the engine. Do NOT tap the Engine Start/Stop button.
-If the vehicle is equipped with a conventional key-ignition, turn the ignition key to the ACC position to turn off the engine. Do NOT remove the key from the ignition as this will lock the steering wheel.
O.K. fine. It still baffles me how a CHP officer who inspected vehicles as a major part of his job couldn’t figure this out when his Lexus loaner sedan’s throttle got stuck full-open. He didn’t know how to navigate the needlessly-complicated shifter into N? The brakes failed? He didn’t know he had to press the ignition off button for three seconds? I mean, I would have thought he could have done those four things done in about ten seconds, but the period of time where the car was out of control was much longer than that.
(Some people say to not try to turn off the engine, but I say go for it. As far as how difficult it is to turn off cars with keyless ignition switches, well, how did you intend to turn off the car at the end of your trip? That’s what you should do when you’re barreling along the highway out of control.)
Could Toyota intall a “brake-to-idle feature” so that when you’re under full throttle and you hit the brakes the car realizes that and closes the throttle no matter what? Yes, it looks like that would end this issue for the most part.
In the meantime, Government Motors is mocking Toyota over these recent deaths, offering $1000 to Toyota owners who trade-in for a General Motors car. The problem with that, GM, is that Toyota can’t hear your mockery because they’re way up in nosebleed territory on the mountain of cash they’ve managed to accumulate over the years. Nice try tho, GM.
Somebody could write a book about this, maybe they’ve already started.
*This doesn’t make sense: “…cars with full acceleration take an average of 65 feet to stop.” If you’re saying that cars at freeway speeds with throttles stuck wide open take an average of 65 feet more to stop than similar cars at idle, then you might have something there, CAS.