Sorry, Toyota, I’m still unconvinced

Toyota has a news conference coming up shortly. Apparently they are going to address the issue of San Diego driver Jim Sikes and his runaway Prius.

Reports are that engineers have been unable to duplicate the problem as Sikes described it, in either Sikes’s car or another car of the same model.

Frankly, I still see no reason not to believe Sikes. Where both mechanics and computer electronics are involved, the actual cause of an intermittent problem can be really, really hard to pinpoint. (Ask any computer owner!) Just because engineers can’t replicate the problem doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. And so far there’s has been no reason to think Sikes lied about it.

Seems to me that the very fact that some of the recalled and repaired Toyotas reportedly have continued to have problems indicates that Toyota engineers themselves may not have accurately pinpointed the source of the problems they “fixed.”

It would be pretty easy for a corporation like Toyota to discredit a single private citizen. Their doing so doesn’t prove anything.

Just sayin’ …

7 thoughts on “Sorry, Toyota, I’m still unconvinced

  1. Not sure either way.

    As I understand, hybrids are designed so that the engine can’t continue acceleration when you apply the breaks. There are governors in place to prevent this. If these systems fail and you do manage to apply while the engine is powering the wheels, then there’s damage. This kind of makes sense considering that the hybrids are designed to recycle the momentum of the car and turn it into electricity for the battery. Toyota investigators have found no damage to the engine, and the governors to prevent acceleration during breaking were intact and functioning normally. If this had happened as the guy claims, then there should be at least some damage.

    So, is Toyota covering up the damage they found, or is the guy lying? Does it benefit the guy to lie? What could he expect to gain? Has there been an independent investigation of the vehicle?
    That’s my point. The guy has nothing to gain by lying. He’s even said he doesn’t intend to sue. Maybe he’s just trying to give Toyota another black eye. Hard to say. He doesn’t look or act like an old man who doesn’t know how to drive, although I’ve heard some people do drive with one foot on the brake and one on the accelerator.

    I’m puzzled by one Toyota guy’s statement that the vehicle stopped on its own and not by the police car. Yet we’ve seen pictures of the car resting against the patrol car’s back bumper, and damage to the car’s front end.

    1. The most unusual aspect of this whole story (to me) is that no one person either in the media or the government has taken the time to illustrate that there is no production vehicle on Earth with an engine capable of overpowering it’s brakes. I’ve even called local television outlets and challenged them to go out to their employee parking lot and select the most powerful vehicle they can find and attempt to duplicate the Toyota problem. Even take any Toyota on the lot. It doesn’t matter which car or truck they choose, it will stop in almost the same distance with the accelerator on the floor or with the engine idling.

      The only possible conclusion is that the braking system has failed. The braking system now days includes more than just hydraulics and pistons and levers and friction. Many vehicles also use what is being called “drive by wire” and “brake by wire” meaning that there is no physical (other than electronic) connection between the pedals on the floor and the function to which they are dedicated. As any driver of competition vehicles knows… that leaves the computer.

      There could be other contributing factors involved. If you’ve never activated the ABS system, you might not understand what it feels like and might be inclined to quit pressing as hard on the brake pedal. The only other factor I can think of is – If the accelerator is on the floor, the engine isn’t producing vacuum and the brake booster requires vacuum to provide the “power” to power brakes. Pumping the brake pedal depletes a portion of the stored (in a tank) vacuum which isn’t being re-created. I don’t see how either of these situations could affect the outcome of pressing the brake pedal in a panic mode… which means pressing it as hard as you possibly can.

      I’m not well versed on braking mechanics but thought I understood from the reports that electronic/computer problems were suspected. Lord knows computers can come up with glitches nobody ever dreamed of, and I’ve never trusted them over pure mechanics when it comes to moving cars. Brakes, accelerator, and steering should function effectively without any computer. Computer assist, fine. But if that computer fails, the mechanical systems better work on their own. IMHO.

      1. I agree. Most of the computer enhanced functions in vehicles today are the result of governmental demands for greater fuel economy, but also result from the competitive edge that each manufacturer tries to maintain. When they’re functioning properly – all of the computerized functions actually do provide a definite benefit. The other side of that coin is that when the computer screws up, bad things can happen. Your children and mine are computer programmers and I imagine they’d equally agree that computerized safety critical functions all ought to have fail-safe and redundancy mechanisms built-in so that a failure wouldn’t lead to catastrophic results, but only to a warning that some system had failed and required maintenance. For instance, almost all aircraft and military computerized systems are redundant with fail-safe backup built in during the strategic design phase. I only say “almost” because I don’t know about all of their computerized systems.

        However: Why has no one in the media taken the little time it would take to prove to everyone on Earth that no production vehicle’s engine can possibly over power it’s properly functioning brakes? To me, that’s just mind boggling. It’s as if they’re trying to hide the facts and give credence to the NHSTA pin heads and Toyota nitwits who maintain that there is some question remaining. The problem is computer related. Period.

        Having worked for a state DOT for over 30 years, I can almost guarantee that an administrative decision is keeping the NHSTA engineers silent for some reason related to an opinion by their general counsel to restrain public statements that are in conflict with those of Toyota’s administration.

        BTW – how do you use XHTML to insert links? I’ve tried HTML’s the link and it doesn’t work. Or I made a typing error maybe.
        The one example I saw of a media attempt to test the Toyota problems was a ditzy blonde driving a Prius down a city street with the camera focused on her face while she said something like, “See, I just drove over that bumpy grate and there was no hesitation at all in the braking response.” Uh, yeah. I think I’ll pass on the media testing. However, if you think it’s worthwhile, why not pitch the idea to a local TV station? With your DOT background, you might get their attention.

        NHTSA may be constrained by the lawyers, but Consumer Reports sure didn’t hesitate to issue a “do not buy” recommendation on those Lexus SUVs. I was really surprised to see CR being so blunt and Toyota reacting so quickly to the negative report. Once again, however, Toyota had to be caught by someone else before they acknowledged a problem. That, or their testing program is so shoddy they didn’t even know there was a problem.

        RE links, some WordPress themes provide coding assistance for comments; unfortunately, this one does not. You had it right in your earlier comment with the link to the health care reform bill. The comment got caught in the spam filter because there were two valid, working links in it.

  2. I think my response got lost because I tried to include a question about how to create a link and I entered the html tag syntax to illustrate what I’d already tried.

  3. I’ll try again. The government mandates greater fuel economy and the easiest way to get it is to computerize engine management systems. Besides that, computerization is responsible for Anti-Lock Braking systems (ABS) and Stability Control Systems that help meet requirements for stopping in slippery conditions and Roll-Overs mainly associated with SUV’s. There are even steer by wire systems in production. Any critical function related to safety should have a redundant system with a fail-safe switch over. Computerized aircraft systems all (that I know of) meet that criteria.

    Regardless of all that: Why has no one in the media demonstrated that there is no production vehicle on Earth with an engine able to overpower it’s properly functioning braking system? It’s as if they have some vested interest in protecting the pin heads at NHSTA and nitwits at Toyota who maintain that there is some question remaining.

    Having been a state DOT employee for over 30 years, I think I know why the NHSTA administration isn’t being truthful, but I can’t understand the media’s lack of interest in facts.
    Steer-by-wire and drive-by-wire remind me of the last time I heard about “by-wire” controls. Remember the Air France Airbus that was fly-by-wire and crashed into the ocean because the pilots couldn’t or didn’t assume manual control of the aircraft? I made a mental note then never to fly on an Airbus. (Boeing, on the other hand, opted to make the pilot the ultimate authority.) No computer could have done what Sully Sullenberger did that day on the Hudson.

    1. How very weird. For some reason, the posting of my initial response was delayed enough so that I wrongly assumed that it was filtered away like my first attempt at adding links. Oh well.

      I think our opinions are equal regarding the media and it’s overall dedication to discovering and reporting facts as opposed to regurgitating someone else’s story. Believe me, I did try to instill some interest in the news staff’s of several local TV stations. First by email and finally by personal phone calls to producers of news pieces. What I got were polite words designed to make me believe they really gave a (expletive voluntarily deleted here.)

      You have an interesting and provocative style and I’m eager to see what you come up with next on the front page.
      Not so weird. Your link, or attempt at a link, got the comment caught in the spam filter. It stays there, unposted (as intended), until I happen to (a) log on, (b) notice it’s there, and (c) approve it for publication. Then it will appear. The idea is to favor a visitor’s own thoughts and opinions over a list of links/sources that would just send readers elsewhere to read someone else’s ideas, propaganda, sales pitch, etc. I’ll try loosening the parameters a bit. Genuine spam, and lots of it, stays in the filter and I delete it periodically.

      Thanks for the complement. Always appreciated.

  4. I stumbled upon a couple of articles that come close to – if not perfectly on topic.

    See if you recognize these car company problems and solutions.

    On the nature of future vehicle technology.
    Love the flow chart. I’ll bet every auto manufacturer has one, whether they realize it or not.

    I’m all for the technology described. Nav, entertainment, climate control, etc. systems are wonderful additions to the driving experience as long as they are implemented in ways that don’t distract the driver or interfere in any way with the ability to control the vehicle. Nor should their failure, if it occurs, affect vehicle control.

... and that's my two cents