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Embedded Expert: No Pedal Misapplication in Toyota Case

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OLD_CURMUDGEON
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Platinum
Re: MY two cents....
OLD_CURMUDGEON   11/11/2013 2:49:36 PM
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Ratsky:  I totally agree that the present situation in my TOYOTA dealership seems to reflect your experiences.  I've dealt w/ the same service writer for well over 10 years, and he has always been "fair & balanced" (where have I heard that expression before?).  However, he's been on medical hiatus since late last winter, and the other service writers seem to want to suggest that I need to change a lot more items, including the air in the trunk compartment on a far more frequent basis.  Ironically to this post, I will be bringing my CAMRY to the dealer tomorrow or Wednesday for its periodic (90K mile) service.  I can just imagine the litany of items that I MUST attend to immediately!!!!  I have seen my dealership change its M.O. (modus Operandi) considerably since I traded our Windstar over a decade ago on the first CAMRY.  Time will tell.  I hate to say it but we were seriously considering a VENZA, but may now consider the HYUNDAI alternative......  Woe is me!

Ratsky
User Rank
Platinum
Re: MY two cents....
Ratsky   11/11/2013 2:33:00 PM
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As one who has worked as an engineer for a Japanese company in the auto industry segment (NOT Toyota), and as a (mostly) satified owner of 2 Camries (1992 and 2003): I can readily believe this.  One word can explain the stonewalling; FACE.  This has come to dominate Toyota relatively recently.  They have become extremely defensive, to the point of damaging their formerly sterling reputation for customer service.  Example: my 1992 Camry had a sudden transmission failure after the expiration of the (then) 36K drivetrain warranty.  The dealer replaced the tranny at no cost.  Also, all regular maintenance items were priced well below the competition: example, replacing the timing belt at the recommended 60K interval cost about $180; on a comparable Mitsubishi, it ran $650! On the 2003, the dealers go out of their way to oversell and overservice their cars well beyond factory recommendations (at 3-4x the cost).  I'm still driving that 2003 (~150K miles) but the dealer hasn't seen that car in years because I have an indepoendent garage that is both honest and reasonable.  I had several issues that should have been fixed under warranty but Toyota and the dealer refused to even admit the problems were real.

Regarding parts commonality, Toyota AFAIK to this day has completely independent design teams for each vehicle platform.  They have never bought into the concept of a common HW platform for an ECU type with adaption to the specific vehicle (e.g. different engines, etc.) by parameterized SW.  Much of that is due to the extremely hierarchical nature of Japanese company management; the "old school" folks at the top won't sign off on anything they didn't already know how to do.

Parris Boyd
User Rank
Iron
Re: What has been proven?
Parris Boyd   11/11/2013 2:06:08 PM
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A jury decided that quite a bit has been proven, declaring not only a guilty verdict, but also stating that Toyota acted in "reckless disregard of the rights" of Plaintiffs. Toyota's efforts to cover up pertinent information have come to light, and the attorneys who won the case have not been bashful in exposing Toyota's tactics. Here are a few excerpts from an article:

"...in reporting to NHTSA, Toyota removed the search term "surge" and only used the term "mat," which resulted in only 124 claims being reported to the government agency. This was a deliberate move on Toyota's part and was designed to hide a known defect."

"Internal emails showed that Toyota employees worked extremely hard to 'coach' NHTSA to use Toyota's language when completing unintended acceleration investigations."

"...Toyota withheld certain important software source code from NASA and misrepresented the existence of vital memory protection characteristics of the Camry throttle control system."

Regarding the trial itself, "Toyota could never explain why THE BOOKOUT VEHICLE LEFT A 150-FOOT SKID MARK FROM A LOCKED REAR TIRE PRIOR TO IMPACT (emphasis mine). Mrs. Bookout had first applied the service brakes and then pulled the parking brake, but she couldn't stop the car. Toyota's own litigation testing proved the vehicle should have stopped before its impact with a dirt bank if everything was functioning properly." Furthermore, way back in 2010, Toyota President James Lentz admitted to Congress that floor mats and sticky pedals were not related to 70% of the unintended acceleration claims.

Here's a link to the complete article: http://www.beasleyallen.com/news/toyota-sudden-unintended-acceleration-lawsuit-ends-in-landmark-verdict-2/

Right on for Michael Barr's expert analysis. I applaud Charles Murray and Design News for highlighting the technical aspects of this case.  

 

 

 

Rob Spiegel
User Rank
Blogger
Re: A software glitch after all
Rob Spiegel   11/11/2013 1:32:06 PM
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It's my understanding that Toyota and other car makers have a brake override written into their software so an accelerator malfunction would be broken by brakes.

TR3driver
User Rank
Bronze
Re: A software glitch after all
TR3driver   11/11/2013 1:22:23 PM
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"Does any of this conjecture respond to the notion than the application of full throttle cannot be overcome by the cars ordinary brake system?"

That is a given, under some set of circumstances.  No car has brakes that can dissipate full engine power forever, without becoming overheated and fading to uselessness.  Starting out from stopped, with the brakes cold, most cars will hold, certainly.  But starting out at speed is a lot different.

There is likely a certain element of operator error as well.  For example, when the CHP officer had his throttle stick, he apparently tried to drive the car off the freeway that way, holding the speed down with the brake pedal.  Once the brakes were overheated, it was hopeless.

Rob Spiegel
User Rank
Blogger
Re: A software glitch after all
Rob Spiegel   11/11/2013 1:05:58 PM
While I can understand a company's desire to keep problems with their products private, it puts its customers at risk. The company's well being is put at a higher priority than the safety of the customer.

tekochip
User Rank
Platinum
Re: A software glitch after all
tekochip   11/11/2013 11:36:04 AM
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That probably wouldn't work once the vehicle is moving, since the brakes would have to combat the engine and the vehicle kinetic energy.  After several seconds the brakes would heat up as well, and the braking capability would be seriously diminished.

Critic
User Rank
Platinum
What has been proven?
Critic   11/11/2013 11:09:59 AM
NO RATINGS
So what has really been proven?  Toyota losing a civil suit doesn't prove there was anything wrong with the car.  An "expert" saying that the software wasn't perfect doesn't prove it was a cause of the unintended acceleration. 

How does the "embedded expert" know that there was no pedal misapplication?  Did he say this because there was a possibility that the unintended acceleration was caused by a software issue?

The driver did something wrong.  She didn't stop the car!  She should have been on the brakes as soon as she noticed the car was accelerating.  In fact, since she was on the off ramp, she should have been on the brakes, anyway!!!

Brakes, ignition, neutral.  Practice this.  Be able to do it quickly.


No, we don't want more complicated cars.  Keep them simple.

dhyoung
User Rank
Iron
Re: A software glitch after all
dhyoung   11/11/2013 11:05:02 AM
NO RATINGS
Does any of this conjecture respond to the notion than the application of full throttle cannot be overcome by the cars ordinary brake system? My cars engine is significantly more powerful than any Toyota. If I apply full throttle and full brake to my car, it won't budge.

Jim_E
User Rank
Platinum
Totoya Software
Jim_E   11/11/2013 10:29:42 AM
NO RATINGS
Reading one of the earlier articles in Embedded System Design, I was struck by the fact that Toyota supposedly couldn't product the exact code use to create the release version of the ECM software.  Were they just covering up bad code, or is/was their version control that poor?  From what I read there, the NASA guys weren't even given the correct code used in the vehicle.

As a software guy, I too thought that it might come down to the software being the reason behind this unintended acceleration.  Barr's analysis on the failure of the failsafes make me wonder about the reasons behind this.  Was the product rushed to market?  Were hardware engineers writing the software and not grasping some of the software system aspects?  Just sloppy coding by inexperienced programmers?

I sure hope that newer Toyota's have better code, especially since we own a 2013 Sienna....

I was sure to tell my wife that if this situation ever happens, immediately knock the shifter into neutral, and if that doesn't work, turn the ignition key back one click.

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