To quote Edmunds.com Jeremy Anwyl in a YouTube video made just after the Department of Transportation announcment exonerating electronic throttles in Toyota ‘sudden acceleration’ incidents: “This issue is not going to go away”.
Which is roughly what Audi found after a similar ‘scandal’ in the 1980s, from which its sales took a long time to recover.
The Audi saga resulted in those annoying interlocks that prevent you hoiking the automatic selector into a drive range without first pressing the brake, or taking the key out unless in ‘Park’, or starting a manual transmission car without pressing the clutch. Did they stop unintended acceleration reports? Ask Toyota …
This time around, we could get rules to require brake override systems, to standardise operation of keyless ignition systems (hooray!) and to require the installation of event data recorders in all passenger vehicles, at least in the US.
DOT and NHTSA also want more research on the reliability and security of electronic control systems and research on the placement and design of accelerator and brake pedals, as well as driver usage of pedals, to determine whether design and placement can be improved to reduce ‘pedal misapplication’.
Until CCTV aimed at the pedals and linked to the data recorder is installed in every car, with the results as protected as an aircraft flight recorder, we can never know for 100% sure if any claimed unintended acceleration event was an electronic gremlin or simply ‘pedal misapplication’ – you put your hoof on the wrong one, bozo.
I’m sure we’ve all done it. First time I recall hearing about it, a teacher of mine in 1970 switched from a manual Morris 1100 to an automatic Mini and, first night she got it home, added an unwanted door to the back of her carport. Electronics? In a Mini? Nah, Miss got her pedals muddled, plain and simple.
In the mid-80s, I had a Honda Civic get away on me in, of all places, a McDonalds drive-thru queue. Electronics? Nah, it still had a carb. GR managed to get his Size Nines over both pedals at once so, as fast I pressed the brake, I also pressed on the gas. Fiddling with the stereo, I was not concentrating, which saved the day as I hadn’t noticed the queue move up two cars and had time to sort myself out before concertina’d cars were lined up at the order window.
The feds’ announcement, as Anwyl notes, exonerates Toyota of just one factor. The loose floormat recall holds. So does the one for sticky throttles. The US$48.8m in civil penalties as the result of NHTSA investigations into the timeliness of several safety recalls last year ain’t being repaid.
And the lawyers ain’t yanking their lawsuits, either.
As the Edmunds man said, this one is simply not going to go away, even if rocket science was called upon.