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Toyota's bad luck continues with runaway Prius in California

Toyota's run of bad luck and terrible timing continues.

On the same day that Toyota launched a counterattack against the assertion that electronics may be at the heart of its runaway acceleration problem, a Toyota Prius took its driver on a 30-mile wild ride on a California interstate not far from Toyota headquarters.

Outside of San Diego on Monday, James Sikes found himself behind the wheel of his blue Toyota 2008 Prius hybrid with what he said later was a stuck accelerator. In interviews after the incident, from which he emerged safely, Sikes said that his Prius accelerated up to 94 mph.

Sikes said that his gas pedal felt stuck. He said he looked to see if the floor mat was interfering, but it was not. He then said that he tried to pull the gas pedal back with his hand to no avail. This, by the way, is exactly the sort of driver behavior that can turn a bad situation tragic. It is an understandable reaction, but imagine trying to steer a car traveling more than 90 mph on a road with other vehicles -- while you're scared -- and then leaning down under the wheel to try to pull the pedal back. Don't do that.

Sikes said he then called 911 for help. A state trooper arrived alongside him shortly afterward and, through the cop car's PA, instructed Sikes to apply the brakes and the parking brake. The trooper said after the incident that he could smell the Prius's brakes burning, even at that high speed. After applying both brakes and repeatedly pushing the Prius's ignition switch -- it has a button, not a keyed ignition -- Sikes was able to cut power to the runaway car and roll to a stop on the side of the interstate.

Toyota released a statement Monday night saying it has "dispatched a field technical specialist to San Diego to investigate the report and offer assistance." The National Traffic Highway Safety Administration also said it will examine the Prius.

"An investigator is flying out to California to examine the car and look for potential causes," Transportation Department spokeswoman Olivia Alair said. "NHTSA is reminding owners of all recalled vehicles to contact their dealers immediately if they are experiencing problems.”

Okay. Several things:

  • Sikes said he did not want to cut power to the Prius when it was at high speed, for fear of losing control of the vehicle. That's actually the correct response. It's natural to want to turn off an out-of-control car, but if you do, you're cutting power to the steering and brakes, as well. They'll still work, but only with manual power, which means the steering will be extra-hard to use. Also, on some vehicles, the steering may actually lock up, which could be deadly.

  • The state trooper said he told Sikes -- through a PA system -- to put the Prius in neutral. Question: Why didn't Sikes put his car in neutral when the runaway incident began? If this happens to you, the VERY FIRST THING you should do is put your car in neutral. This disengages the gas pedal from the wheels, in the simplest possible terms. The engine can race the livelong day but if it's not connected to the wheels, you won't go anywhere.

  • Toyota has issued a recall for possible floor-mat entrapment in the 2008 Prius, but not for a sticky gas pedal. Sikes said that, in the days before the incident, he took his car into a Toyota dealer to ask about the gas pedal and was told the Prius pedal was not under recall, which it is not.

  • NHTSA has received about 50 complaints of runaway acceleration on that model Prius.

  • There is another factor at work here and it's psychological and cultural. NHTSA has said that, historically, it has seen the number of driver complaints spike about particular vehicles immediately after those vehicles have appeared in news reports as having problems. That is to be expected for various reasons: The news may have jolted a driver's memory, the driver may be remembering incorrectly or, frankly, the driver may want to get a piece of any forthcoming class-action judgments against the automaker.

    Remember this: Anecdotal evidence is not scientific evidence. It is the brain's job to record data and try to make patterns out of the information. But the brain often creates patterns that are plain wrong or grossly oversimplified.

    An example from 100,000 years ago: The brain sees three of its caveman brain buddies get eaten by saber-toothed tigers. The caveman brain creates a simple pattern about a simple problem: All saber-toothed tigers are deadly. They are to be avoided. That may not be true, but it's close enough for the caveman brain.

    An example from today: The brain sees another runaway Toyota. The brain creates another simple pattern: All Toyotas are dangerous. But the brain is wrong this time because this is not a simple problem. It's a highly complicated one. And we need to make our brains stretch to fully comprehend what is happening, instead of applying a simple, though understandable, solution to a complex situation.

    And don't forget the media's role in this: Do you think this incident would have been as widely reported, or perhaps reported at all, if the runaway vehicle had been a Ford Focus or a Chevy Malibu? Because it's a Toyota Prius, the media jump on the story. I'm not blaming the media; I'm just saying this is another element of potentially overweight data that our brains are using to create a pattern, a picture, about Toyota.

    Bottom line, however: another bad day for Toyota.

    Follow me on Twitter at @theticker

  • By Frank Ahrens  |  March 9, 2010; 12:13 PM ET
    Categories:  Autos , Corporations  | Tags: Runaway acceleration, california runaway prius, runaway prius, toyota, toyota recall model and years  
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    Comments

    I have a Saturn Ion that, just last week, started to have the power steering problem that has been reported with the GM cars. My car isn't part of the recall. I filed a complaint with the NHTSB.

    Posted by: philmphile | March 9, 2010 12:48 PM | Report abuse

    I do not think that the media would be reluctant to report on a runaway Ford Focus or Chevy Malibu. A trooper successfully intervening to stop a runaway car while going 94 mph an a freeway is newsworthy regardless of the model. It's the stuff of Hollywood movies.

    And the media has never been averse to report stories of exploding Ford Pintos or Firestone tires blowing out on Ford Explorers. So, I do not think that the media would give a pass to Chevy or Ford because they are American automakers.

    Given that it seems clear that floor mats were not an issue this time, it will be interesting to see what is learned from the investigation of this incident.

    Posted by: portsmouthjoe | March 9, 2010 12:52 PM | Report abuse

    Given the American auto industry's lobbying power and perpetual success at delaying or eliminating safety concerns (think of Lee Iaccoca stalling investigation of exploding Pintos and decrying the implementation of airbags while throwing money around Washington), this is obviously a blood-in-the-water move to regain market share that they could not gain with competent management or the production of a quality product.

    The inability of most drivers to consider shifting into neutral also highlights the perfunctory nature of drivers' education in the United States. Drivers' licenses are routinely gotten through fraudulent means and even a legitimate examination is the barest pretext of a test of knowledge since any kind of real training or examination would reduce car sales.

    As always, we blithely accept an appalling death rate (30,000 - 40,000 per year) and hundreds of thousands of injuries each year as an acceptable bargain for swift and easy transportation rather than design our fleets capably and train our drivers to a minimal state of competence.

    Would you board an airplane built and flown under these conditions? I think not, yet we do it every day in automobiles.

    Posted by: Thinkerer | March 9, 2010 1:00 PM | Report abuse

    Ahrens' argument fails on a number of levels. First, his example regarding anecdotal evidence is horrible. If I saw three of my friends eaten by a sabre-toothed tiger, I would (correctly, I think) believe that such animals were dangerous and to be avoided. The same can be said about reading accounts of vehicles that go out of control after a mechanical malfunction. It's easy to sit at one's desk and say that a person should react calmly and logically in a given situation. It's much more difficult to actually act in such a fashion when you are in a vehicle going 90+ miles per hour. The story here is anecdotal--but it is one many pieces of evidence and should not be brushed away so easily.

    Second, Ahrens asserts that had this been a Ford or General Motors product, the media would have ignored the story. I do not know what news channels he watches, but CNN, Fox, MSNBC, and the local news desks love to air stories such as this, regardless of the manufacturer. It sounds as if the writer is being more than a little defensive on behalf of a company he likes.

    For the record--I have always liked Toyota's cars and am still considering buying one.

    David McGee
    Virginia

    Posted by: dhmcgee | March 9, 2010 1:24 PM | Report abuse

    Well then lets use the brain a little big. Regarding the Prius show let's get smart on couple points. 1. it is false that a lack of power steering will cripple a car at high way speeds. Power steering is of minor effect at high speeds--it is designed for low speed manuerving. Additionally, the steering-lock mechanism, per industry standard, engages when the key is REMOVED, not when simply when the car is off. Anyway, if your car is steaming full ahead of its own accord, obviously it is better to have heavy steering than to let it continue.
    2. It is false that cutting the power will kill the brakes. The brakes will have several applications-worth of vacuum assist without the engine running. As any person with a sloped driveway could tell you, it would be ridiculous for a car to be unable to apply major braking force without the motor on, and it is in fact not so. Further, it only takes one sustained application to bring a car to a stop, even with the engine running at full bore. This has been well-documented in practice, and a pencil and a piece paper will show you the same thing with some SAT math.

    I recommend that you revise these points. They are poor instructions and would exacerbate a life-threatening situation, albeit one that appears to occur with less frequency than rabies deaths.

    Posted by: wharwood | March 9, 2010 1:32 PM | Report abuse

    What wharwood states is absolutely true. The text of this post really needs to be revised.

    Posted by: sdjones241 | March 9, 2010 2:01 PM | Report abuse

    In my opinion, this incident was a stunt. Review the video of the driver explaining what happened; it's a total fabrication. Watch his facial expressions and body language. It's so obvious.

    Posted by: SamuelHamilton | March 9, 2010 2:05 PM | Report abuse

    "Why didn't Sikes put his car in neutral when the runaway incident began? If this happens to you, the VERY FIRST THING you should do is put your car in neutral."

    That may not have worked in this case. The shifting in a Prius is electronic, not mechanical. The car's computer may not have allowed him to put it into neutral. I have experienced a similar situation in my Prius, where it does not allow me to shift from neutral into drive while stopped. In those cases, I had to completely shut the car off and start it again before I could get into drive.

    Posted by: jwasf | March 9, 2010 2:31 PM | Report abuse

    @jwasf -- yes you can put the Prius in neutral while it is running. Try it.

    Posted by: opinionated4 | March 9, 2010 2:51 PM | Report abuse

    I suspect fraud here. He's jumping on the gravy train. I would bet this guy was pressing the gas pedal as he "burned through the brakes" but I'm not fooled at the slick con. I hope the company spends '2X' to thwart an 'X' dollar claim if so - and jails him.

    BTW, the article disputed powering off the vehicle (though correctly pointing out to use NEUTRAL. HELLO, PEOPLE!). I disagree. I'd like to hear if there is an automobile in existence that does not have an "off" position before reaching the "locked" position (and on my Toyotas, you have to push a button to get the key to that point). This just *must* be a safety requirement anyway, right? And power steering is needed at 2 miles per hour, and not at all at 90. And power brakes are not a serious loss (if at all - because of stored pressure). Certainly, certainly not worth keeping power on for that.

    Good article still.

    Posted by: Texan7 | March 9, 2010 3:02 PM | Report abuse

    @opinionated4 - Yes, I know that. I'm also supposed to be able to shift from neutral to drive when I am stopped. However, in a couple of cases my car would not do it. That's enough evidence for me to believe it may not have worked for the driver in this case.

    All of this points to what many have been saying (e.g. Steve Wozniak)...that this and other similar issues could be a software problem. I can't believe that Toyota is still denying that possibility.

    Posted by: jwasf | March 9, 2010 3:10 PM | Report abuse

    The number one problem that this case reinforces is that Toyota has no designed approach that is guaranteed to control the car enough to get it stopped in the case of an unexpected failure of the car's control system. Some unexpected problems are to be expected. Toyota has not been able to present any kind of a case that they have designed in any kind of override that reliably backs up their control system in the case that it unexpectedly fails because the accelerator sticks or for some other reason.

    Posted by: dnjake | March 9, 2010 3:41 PM | Report abuse

    You spend days reading a decades worth Flaming Ford stories at Consumer affairs. com. So why is it Toyota takes the hit. Oh ya the trooper and his family story. I forgot. The rest of us must be making things up. Never the less, vitcums never see a penny. You have to sue with money and proof you don't have.

    Posted by: steveherb | March 9, 2010 3:45 PM | Report abuse

    The Prius's "neutral" is just a position on a switch, to send a specific electronic signal to the computer, and if the computer is malfunctioning, it won't necessarily stop power from getting to the wheels. There is no clutch (the engine and wheels are always engaged to various parts of its "transmission" (which Toyota calls a "Power-Splitting Device"), and unlike an old-fashioned stick shift, or most slushboxes, there is no direct mechanical linkage by which the driver can disengage the engine from the wheels.

    Posted by: realitychecker1 | March 9, 2010 4:12 PM | Report abuse

    Major kudos for the "Anecdotal evidence is not scientific evidence" section. Issues that connect with people on a deep emotional level (like feeling unsafe in your car) are the ones we're most likely to over-react to.

    Posted by: monkeyonkeyboard | March 9, 2010 4:18 PM | Report abuse

    A man chose a place on the wall for a tiger hide before he had the hide. I have four Japanese prints on my wall and two were done by an art teacher. They are priceless. The difference between luck and skill is the time involved and timing is always involved. The world keeps revolving and problems get resolved. I was pulled over by a PA State Trooper. He gave me back my bullets. I put them back where they belonged.

    Posted by: tossnokia | March 9, 2010 4:50 PM | Report abuse

    Ahrens, you're blaming the media for overreacting? No if anything the media has missed the story for most of the last 10 years it's been happening. This is often because Toyota blamed the victims and/or settled out of court. In truth the media is partly responsible for the 56 runaway-Toyota fatalities (and the near-miss today), because people bought the cars without knowing the whole story. Any and all media coverage of Toyota problems now is warranted, to help make up for lost time, and lives.

    Posted by: hairguy01 | March 9, 2010 5:06 PM | Report abuse

    Here's the best article I've read on Toyota's alleged problems. This hysteria reminds me of the Jack-In-The_Box beef scare... two people die, allegedly from eating tainted beef, and the whole country freaks out. Media, gotta love em!

    http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/commentary/la-oe-fumento9-2010mar09,0,3126393.story

    Posted by: vailmcc | March 9, 2010 5:15 PM | Report abuse

    When they pull me over for driving too fast in my Toyota I have a ready made and documented get out of jail free card.

    Posted by: vwallen@bellatlantic.net | March 9, 2010 5:19 PM | Report abuse

    In the multiple TV interviews I have seen this guy do, not one of the well-coiffed mike stands that interviewed him asked about putting the car in neutral. How convenient that a Toyota races out of control on a freeway with hundreds of witnesses, the guy doesn't have the presence of mind to shift the car into neutral but he does manage to get on his cell phone and thus preserve the evidence of his horrific ordeal, and he rolls for 30 miles to give the TV news choppers plenty of time to catch up with him and shoot the dramatic video. So VERY convenient for the lawyers who will rush to wipe away his tears.

    Posted by: sheehanjc | March 9, 2010 5:19 PM | Report abuse

    To Texan7: The Prius does not have a key in the sense you mean. It has an electronic dongle, like the ones people have for their car alarms. You either stick the key in a slot in the dashboard or you keep the key in your pocket. So there is no turning of the key.


    I have a 2008 Prius, so I was very unhappy to hear about this latest incident. While it is clear that not every Prius is actively experiencing problems every day, there is the potential that mine will have these problems every time I drive it. The fact that the problems exist at all make it more stressful to drive my car.

    BTW ... I have also reported a intermittent braking problem on my Prius to my Toyota service department (last fall) and their response was to rotate the tires (even though we have been doing that every 3000 miles all along).

    It is my belief that these cars have an electronics problem. That was the first thing I said back in September following the crash with the highway patrol officer and nothing so far has made me change my mind.


    I'm not sure turning the car off at high speeds is a good idea. Neutral might help, but I would tend to think that you can steer the car better with some power going to the wheels. In addition to drive, reverse, and neutral, the Prius has a setting "B" that is mean to keep the brakes from overheating on steep downgrades (like mountain roads) by adding in more friction. I think I might try this setting to help slow down the car if the brake and emergency brake weren't working.

    Posted by: Huds | March 9, 2010 5:34 PM | Report abuse

    Huds: I wouldn't worry. It's all media hype. You have a better chance of winning the Powerball lottery than you do of having any problems with your Toyota, statistically.
    Here's a great article... http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/commentary/la-oe-fumento9-2010mar09,0,3126393.story

    Posted by: vailmcc | March 9, 2010 6:03 PM | Report abuse

    Frank: consider the number of people who call Toyota to complain and Toyota takes all of this information and locks it in its internal systems - which is not available to others. Then the customer service reps who are highly trained to counsel the complainer that this is an isolated issue, or likely their fault (i.e. floor mat height). The person lodging the complaint is pushed away and the internal system case is closed. Now, the media draws attention to a problem - this allows those individual people who complained to be heard at a different level - now the data locked in the internal systems is more visible because the media is telling the story of these incidents. Remember that Toyota is a corporate company - it makes the car - it doesn't have any obligations to the sale, operation and maintenance through dealers - they are separate companies. Now all the safety marketing comes unraveled when the customer needs help. That was my experience on a Toyota issue the past two days. Toyota intentionally hides safety information in its internal systems - remember the executive who recently said that was why a recall in Japan was not executed in the US - good logic there. Want an interesting story on how safety caring Toyota is when a customer calls to complain - shoot me an email.

    Posted by: link390 | March 9, 2010 6:03 PM | Report abuse

    HairGuy1: Please show us where we can find the evidence that shows that it was Toyota's fault that 56 people died. Those accidents were 'attributed' to accelerator and/or brake failure. I may be wrong, (probably not) but I don't believe any were actually blamed on a faulty accelerator or brake malfunction.
    We need to be aware of what's factual and what's media hype.

    Posted by: vailmcc | March 9, 2010 6:12 PM | Report abuse

    Day after day, my money is still on the software.

    Posted by: rusty3 | March 9, 2010 6:21 PM | Report abuse

    This guy is full of it just trying to jump on the bandwagon. Toyota is definitely guilty but this is getting ridiculous. A few months from now we will be reading stories about leaked memos telling politicians to go after Toyota. Complete witch hunt let them fix the problem and pay for their sins and move on. Toyota has been building quality cars in the USA using American workers for years now. I rather have a Toyota than a GM built in Silao Mexico. Check your VIN number you will be surprised where your car was built. The first digit represents the country. 1&4 USA, 2 Japan, 3 Mexico, K Korea, W Germany.

    Posted by: osheehan1 | March 9, 2010 6:30 PM | Report abuse

    About 6 weeks ago, a few days before all of this hit the press, my beloved Toyota 4Runner took off on me. It took all of my 230 lbs. standing on the brake to get the accelerator to disengage before I would have plowed into the cars stopped in front of me at a light. Until you've been in that situation, it might be a good idea not to make too many judgements of other drivers. The very impressive woman who testified before Congress regarding her experience put her Lexus in neutral and then reverse, to no avail. After a 6 mile horror ride the accelerator disengaged. After she stopped and was out of the car someone reached in and removed the key, and the car tried to restart itself! With a malfunction of the magnitude of uncontrolled acceleration, don't assume that everything else is functioning normally.

    Toyota still hasn't mentioned the 4Runner in any recalls although many 4Runner acceleration issues have been reported to NHSTA. I got rid of mine and now own a GMC. According to NHSTA complaints my airbags may not work if I roll the GMC, but at least I'll be going at a speed of my choosing. Have you read the NHSTA complaints about your vehicle?

    Posted by: johnnyboy4 | March 9, 2010 6:32 PM | Report abuse

    Frank,

    Your article is interesting but your advice to drivers misses on several points:

    1. The power steering in a Prius is electric boost -- not tied to the engine as in other cars. Turning off the engine need not disable the power steering, but in the Prius, inexplicably, it does (a Toyota design decision -- in software). Obviously, the power steering operates at other times when the engine is off -- this is a normal occurrence in a hybrid.

    2. Putting the car in neutral is more complicated than it need be. When the vehicle is in motion, a software imposed time delay is introduced. It requires that the driver hold the shift lever in the neutral position for 2 seconds (the lever itself is spring-loaded). When the car is at rest, this delay is not necessary. Of course, no driver would be familiar with the 2 second requirement because there is no non-emergency situation in which a driver would try to shift to neutral while the car is in motion.

    3. Turning off the vehicle using the STOP/START button while the vehicle is in motion is also non-intuitive. When the Prius is at rest, the button press has instant effect. However, when the Prius is in motion, a 3 second continuous press is required to turn off the engine (which also kills the power steering). Again, no driver would ever know this because there is no non-emergency situation that would have the driver pressing that button while the vehicle is in motion.

    Bottom line: Toyota safety engineers are boneheads. Their software engineers are running the company -- into the ground.

    Poor Mr. Sikes very nearly became the next victim of a product design flaw. The fact that he survived should raise alarm bells everywhere. NO MATTER WHY THIS CAR ACCELERATED, THE CRITICAL QUESTION IS WHY IT IS SO DIFFICULT FOR THE DRIVER TO STOP IT!

    In other words, please focus beyond the acceleration.

    Posted by: jimr550 | March 9, 2010 6:54 PM | Report abuse

    This whole story (not WP coverage) smells like 3 day old halibut.

    Watching the coverage on local news I could not help buy think this is a setup. Someone in the media needs to investigate any connection between the driver and law enforcement in San Diego.

    First, let me ask you what is the first thing you would do as a driver if your car began accelerating. Yes, push on the brake as hard as possible. But this driver decided the best thing to do was take out his cell phone and call 911. And surely he had more than enough time to try turning off the ignition.

    Second, I drive the freeways of SoCal pretty regularly and you can drive for 50-75 miles and not see a CHiP car. But in this case one shows up so fast they can 'guide' the car to a stop by shouting directions to the driver.

    As many know, a police officer and his family died recently in SD after their Lexus went out of control. A tragic loss to be sure and I hope there is no connection.

    Posted by: RichardinPasadena | March 9, 2010 7:21 PM | Report abuse

    This guy acted like a hysterical woman. And what the heck was he doing reaching down to grab the accelerator pedal or call on his cell phone? The company, the media and everyone else were telling Toyota owners that if their car began to accelerate the first thing you do is shift it into neutral. Does this guy even listen to the news or make any inquiries into how to handle a runaway situation? It’s amazing that some folks live as long as they do. What’s a bit sad, too, is that the media reporting this latest incident didn’t reinforce the message about getting the car out of drive and into neutral. Perhaps we do need a nanny state.

    Posted by: sero1 | March 9, 2010 7:24 PM | Report abuse

    I disagree with the writers opinion that you should not cut the power in a runaway car. Yes you will lose power assisted steering and brakes but you WILL still be able to control the car. It will just take a little more effort. People drove much heavier cars for about 60 years without these assists. Plus going in a straight line would require very little steering pressure.

    An override switch to cut the power is one of the remedies being considered in these 'drive by wire' cars.

    Posted by: RichardinPasadena | March 9, 2010 7:27 PM | Report abuse

    vailmcc, here you are- "Toyotas, deaths and sudden acceleration- At least 56 people have died in U.S. traffic accidents in which sudden unintended acceleration of Toyota Motor Corp. vehicles has been alleged...", http://articles.latimes.com/2010/feb/28/business/la-fiw-toyota-deaths-list28-2010feb28
    I suppose you will now say 'Yeah but it isn't proven the car was at fault', etc, etc. What, you expect Toyota to admit liability? As for the victims, they're dead so we can't exactly get their side of the story. Toyota refuses to give out the codes for the cars' black boxes though perhaps some of those will come out in the no-doubt upcoming court cases. Up to now you were probably saying, "It's not really 56." Now your line is "Prove it's Toyota's fault." What's next, "Prove it was intentional." ?

    Posted by: hairguy01 | March 9, 2010 7:49 PM | Report abuse

    So in the days before power steering and/or power brakes, it was impossible to steer the car, and/or to apply the brakes and expect the car to stop?

    Since I have driven such vehicles (including a 1930s-something truck that had a manual transmission that you had to double-clutch in order to change gears and with NO power steering and NO power brakes; an early 1960s pickup with a manual transmission and no PS nor PB; a mid-1970s sports car with a manual transmission and no PS nor PB),

    I DON'T THINK SO.

    Posted by: critter69 | March 9, 2010 7:55 PM | Report abuse

    hairguy01: No, I'm saying exactly what you just said; these deaths are 'allegedly' caused by system failures. Just as Audi's unintended acceleration was found to be groundless back in the eighties, I believe that's the case here as well. If Toyota is found to be at fault, I'll be the first one to say I was wrong and that they should be crucified. But, given the benefit of the doubt, I'd sooner believe Toyota than I would a bunch of reporters hyping something into a frenzy.

    Posted by: vailmcc | March 9, 2010 8:21 PM | Report abuse

    hairguy01: Another question for you. Why are you so quick to dismiss Toyota's version of things, and so quick to jump on the anti-Toyota bandwagon?
    Why in the world would you consider CNN, or Fox, or this blog for that matter, a better source of factual information than Toyota?
    We can't believe our own government on this matter, so who do we rely on for factual data? And I mean Factual. Not contrived, not alleged, not from an anonymous source. I mean factual data that these system failures caused one death, let alone fifty six. Where do we find it, and whom do we trust?

    Posted by: vailmcc | March 9, 2010 8:30 PM | Report abuse

    This continues to sound to me like a subtle software bug under which the control computer loses track of engine speed or some other critical parameter. If the bug is due to mishandling of simultaneous interrupt signals, they can inspect the car forever and not find it. A bug like that killed people being treated on a kidney dialysis machine until a colleague of mine found the problem.

    Posted by: StanKlein | March 9, 2010 8:35 PM | Report abuse

    vailmcc, are you joking? Why would your first instinct be to believe Toyota, who has a vested interest in saying they are not to blame? Why would you not believe an impartial third party? Are you saying that Mr. Ahrens, multiple reporters unaffiliated with him at the LA Times, Wall Street Journal, NY Times and other papers are all somehow conspiring together to mislead you? And what by the way will it take to 'prove' to you that Toyota is 'at fault'? This professor of automotive engineering duplicated the acceleration problem in less than four hours of trying-
    http://thesouthern.com/news/local/article_8ea919aa-229c-11df-8c57-001cc4c03286.html
    Do you have a PhD like him and the ability to confirm or refute his finding? If so, you should contact the NHTSA immediately, and probably Toyota as well.

    Posted by: hairguy01 | March 9, 2010 9:17 PM | Report abuse

    hairguy01: You apparently didn't read the fine print... this is exactly what I'm talking about. Everyone has an agenda, and here is Dr. Gilberts:

    U.S. Rep. Steve Buyer, R-Ind., took issue with that at the hearing and fiercely questioned Gilbert and Sean Kane, advocate for SRS, about taking money from trial lawyers with lawsuits against Toyota.
    Enough said.

    Posted by: vailmcc | March 9, 2010 9:45 PM | Report abuse

    HairGuy01: What I'm saying is that we must question every source of data. Doc Gilbert accepted money from trial lawyers, Al Gore is making bundles of money from his book sales regarding the global warming hoax.
    Scientists and professors must publish to remain employed and to secure tenure. From what organizations do these people get their research monies?
    And no, I don't have my doctorate. Just an MBA.

    Posted by: vailmcc | March 9, 2010 9:53 PM | Report abuse

    vailmcc- obviously no amount of evidence is enough to convince you until you see or experience it for yourself. My recommendation then is that you buy yourself a new Toyota. As an MBA you'll appreciate that they're being discounted more every day! I would venture that you enjoy some excitement in your life so why don't you scan the aforementioned list of 56 fatalities, tally up the most-frequently-noted vehicle type and go with that. Then drive to your heart's content. You'll have the additional satisfaction of being able to refute first-hand all the lying, dishonest reporters, professors, software experts and others and expose them for the hypocrites they surely must be. Just promise me two things- 1) you're not allowed to buy life insurance or make a will- you don't think there's a problem, remember? - and 2) when your shiny new car accelerates out of control, ignore it. It can't be happening- you only believe Toyota and they swear, cross their heart!, it's impossible. So assure yourself it was just one drink too many, kick back, turn up the volume and enjoy your final ride. PS- Why not make it a Lexus? After all, they haven't been recalled yet! The CHP officer (and three family members) that died in this one-
    http://a.abcnews.go.com/images/US/abc_crash_car_mat_090916_main.jpg
    only have themselves to blame, right? Have a nice day.

    Posted by: hairguy01 | March 9, 2010 11:18 PM | Report abuse

    hairguy01: I already drive a Lexus but, Thanks for the kind words.

    Posted by: vailmcc | March 10, 2010 12:11 AM | Report abuse

    Regardless of any 'caveman' mentality the author alludes to (was this appropriate to even brought up at all?) this is a very serious situation that should NOT be downplayed or belittled. Lives are at stake here, and not only that, thousands of lives have likely already been ruined from freak vehicle accidents where these malfunction issues may very well have been the cause. Recent news is one poor guy driving a Toyota and wrongfully convicted is already having his case reopened. Shame on this author for his callous shortsightedness, and shame on the Post for employing him.

    Posted by: JoeCouchPotato | March 10, 2010 1:24 AM | Report abuse

    I dunno, Frankie. Sikes is alive. Sounds like he handled it ok.

    Life is easy sitting at a desk Monday-morning quarterbacking, say.

    Posted by: T-Prop | March 10, 2010 3:06 AM | Report abuse

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