Space Engineers Vindicate Toyota

Toyota is on the way back after suffering a near collaspe, not unlike the U.S. economy.  And
it should be forever grateful to the team of NASA scientists who found no problems whatever with the car maker’s electronics, or as the Brits like to call them “electrics”, or at least Mike Brewer from the TV show Wheeler Dealers.  It should be said that the engineers could not replicate the sudden acceleration problems many Toyota drivers have encountered, problems that led to lawsuits and a massive recall.  And if you recall, Toyota came under heavy fire for moving slowly to recall the models believed to be dangerous.Sales declined spelling the near ruin of the company and the desperate recall of their retired spokesman, a caffeinated version of the late Bob Baker.

Pedal misapplication, a term used frequently by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), seems to have been the most likely cause of sudden acceleration in Toyota vehicles.  Victims of runaway vehicles would obviously beg to differ.  It makes sense though, pedal misapplication that is.  If you mistake the gas pedal for the brake, you will not slow down or stop as expected.  Hit the gas hard enough and the vehicle will surge and accelerate.  And with the lead-footed driver, the pedal might just stick – could even get tangled up with the floor mat, which in fact did happen – happened with some Honda’s too.  

Have you seen all those folks crashing into banks and convenience stores?  I would predict in most of the cases, the driver simply got the pedals confused and hit the gas instead of the brakes.  This sudden acceleration phenomenon has happened to a disproportinate number of elderly drivers who in some cases should not be behind the wheel.

Sudden acceleration problems could be caused by cruise control misapplication too. Think about it.  Newer cars have some fancy control sticks branching out from the steering column and sleek buttons embedded into the steering wheel. Some of these buttons are hard to see and touch sensitive. And the sticks, like the old column stick shifts back in the day have to be twisted and shifted to activate a number of commands from wiper movements and windshield fluids to turn signals.  And then there are those pesky paddle shifters few know how to use that seem better suited for a boater or a beaver.  What are those things anyway and what do they do? The point is, a driver who is not technology savvy could easily activate the cruise control, freak when the car suddenly accelerates and then misapply the pedal to inadvertantly command the car to go even faster.  By this time, the panicked driver might truly believe the car is runaway mode. 

I’m not a big Toyota fan.  I never much cared for the looks of their cars – boring lines, bland and conservative.  The only Toyota I really liked was the Celica of the late 80’s which was futuristic looking, straight out of the Jetsons; it might have come with a joystick option to let the driver hover and zoom about like a helicopter.  No need for pedals at all.

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