While acknowledging that hardware/electronics can be the root cause of this problem, the drivers, and society, were let off far too lightly. It may have been said, but I did not hear, even one report that asked, "Why didn't the driver simply put the transmission in neutral and/or turn off the ignition?" Instead, most media seemed to take self righteous pride in implying Toyota had negligently created a monster that was killing it's customers.
Through training and testing requirements, and with good reason, we make it fairly tough to get a private pilots license. Yet we think little about licensing poorly trained, jokingly "tested" halfwits behind the wheel of a car that can be nearly as dangerous. Not to mention significantly "looking the other way" about the problems of untrained, unlicensed, uninsured, or no longer competent drivers.
As a pilot, I feel I must chime in. I agree entirely; although there was a cause someplace for the accelerator failure, in no report was it ever mentioned that the driver failed to put the car in neutral or turn off the ignition. One driver thought enough to pick up his cell phone and call 911 (squawk 7700?) to say he was in trouble, but he didn't think to turn the car off during that whole time period. Yes. being a pilot is different and my wife constantly reminds me that pilots, the whole bunch of us, think differently, but still, why aren't failure scenarios taught to drivers? The first flight lesson for a new pilot is stalls, so the pilot will recognize a stall, not panic when it happens, and know how to recover. Lesson two is typically engine failure, so the pilot knows the best glide speed for his craft and how to safely land without power. The FAA used to require spin training, and some CFIs still require spin recovery (I was unfortunate enough to cover that topic during lesson one). Why aren't tire blow-outs, engine failures and unintended acceleration taught to new automobile drivers? Every two years a pilot must have a flight review, how about an automobile driver's review? Honestly, there are drivers slamming into other vehicles because the driver is busy painting her nails and rather than demanding driver reviews we are looking for the next Federal mandate for a distracted driver, or collision avoidance device in every motor vehicle.
Sorry, it is a bit of a rant. Yes, the vehicle failed, but what did the driver do to prevent the accident? If the FAA were examining this accident it would be considered pilot error for not controlling the aircraft and the failure of the system would only be considered a contributing cause.
I'm sorry if I sound a bit curmudgeonly but it is something I've learned over the years.
In addtion to better awareness and decision making from the driver, I also favor the idea of making it more fail-safe through the change in software programming. Automobiles (and our lifestyles) are becoming more and more complex and anything that adds more automatic fail-safe procedures in this system will be a benefit to safety. By having the software prioritize the braking function over the acceleration function, I hope to see this issue diminish.
California State University, Chico was the first school in California to offer an ABET-accredited degree program in mechatronic engineering. Now its California Mechatronics Center works with industry on machinery, robotics, and surveillance vehicles.
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