It's hard to say if Toyota's engineers skimped over a key piece of the development process with this particular example and I'm certain there's no way an engineering team can be expected to anticipate every possible failure given the practicalities and constraints of development cycles. That said, this example points up the very key requirement to do some level of design for misuse as part of the iterative process. It's one of those areas like design for assembly and disassembly that likely gets short shrift in a lot of companies and across myriad industries--not just automotive.
Just once, I'd like to see a judicial ruling tell the plaintive "YOU'RE AN IDIOT". As in, "You're an idiot for stacking 8 pieces of carpet remnant in the floor of your car. Your claim is rejected; case dismissed."
There is never going to be a hard line defining misuse. Putting another piece of carpet or a second mat on top of the first can probably be foreseen. But is adding a second and third foreseeable? Eight is not foreseeable. Where is the dividing line? It's going to be blurry for each and every design decision.
When will law require the user to take responsibility for his or her own actions? Can the engineer be expected to plan for an idiot stacking eight mats? Or even one that is too large for the footwell? Or one that is sized perfectly, but does not have friction nits on the bottom?
If this is the route society expects engineers to take to make a design "safe", then maybe engineers should require a 100-page consent document which describes the conditions for use of the product we design? Lawsuits can only proceed if you signed the document.
Since safety is such a big concern, then maybe the customer should be required to ask the manufacturer about any 'modifications'. Rather than the current, "well the manufacturer should have though of that" system we have now.
TJ, I agree with your opinion and feel your frustration. Before reading this article I would never have anticipated that drivers would use even two floor mats on top of each other. As a teenage driver (about 30 years ago) I was instructed in the danger of dropping items on the floor in front of the driver's seat precisely because it might block the brake pedal, so the idea of stacking floor mats would be unthinkable to me.
While I patently distrust dealership repair garages, and like the freedom to buy aftermarket parts, perhaps Toyota's engineers should include an ignition kill switch logic tied to their floor mats that will prevent starting the vehicle unless a compatible mat is present and in the correct location. And then put photo/IR sensors looking up so that if another mat was placed on top that would also prevent engine start.
But even that would probably not be enough. You know, "Make it idiot-proof, and they'll find a better idiot."
Would have been nice to have been provided a picture of the accellerator and distance off the floor in the article as manufactured by Toyota. Most accelerators are no longer hinged and have space allowed for the floor mat to sit below the accelorator or even slide under it.
In my 1990 Toyota Echo, immediately in front of the driver's seat, there is a hooking device on the floor board that passes through the carpeting and I believe is intended to retain the a floor mat. So I don't believe in the arguement put forth that the Toyota designers do not anticipate these kinds of problems.
I have to agree that "idiot-proofing" has to be high on the list of aggravating-but-necessary engineering responsibilities. The simultaneous-throttle/brake-press interlock, disabling the throttle, seems like a good approximation of a reply to the issue -- except I can visualize a situation where a wad of floormat holding down the accelerator over HERE could be blocking the brake pedal from being pushed over THERE. In reality, I suspect the only solution is going to involve some kind of circuit to detect a "Foot" is actually present. Which is possible, just a colossal pain.
I've seen a few graphs presenting the rate of complaints on Toyota "unintended acceleration before and after it hit the media.
Their rates appear to have been typical of the industry overall beofre the media circus. After...well of course a lot of people who just made a mistake saw a way for someone else to take the blame. And frankly in a panic situation very few people can accurately remember and assess what happened-it probably would not be tough to convince yourself it wasn't you.
IIRC the big splash case in the media, 4 dead in a Lexus ES, there were 3 floor mats stacked.
I think Bunter says it best. I'm skeptical too. It is impossible for designers and engineers to anticipate every way consumers will use or modify a product. This story, from the beginning, sounds more like user error. Not to add to the conspiracy theories here but there's more going on than we all know.
Bunter-Can you share a link with the graphs you mentioned. It sounds a lot like the research I've seen on alien encounters before and after the first Sci Fi movies. Interesting how there were no little green men until after Hollywood put a face on them.
Thanks for your kind words. Been a while since I saw those graphs, they were on some auto websites at the height of the hysteria.
I do remember that Toy had very similar incidents per xxx number of cars with Ford and GM. I also recall a long period graph of their UA complaints, little up a little down over many years, couple of humps and then it hit the news and it went up several orders of magnitude.
I recall my grandfather telling us, after he had ended up in the ditch on an icy road, how his car had accelerated after he hit the brakes. I remember even as a kid thinking that sounded wrong. Having since experienced loss of control on icy roads (Minnesota, duh) many times I realize that the sensation during the skid feels like things are happening very fast (Ooooooooooh noooooooo!).
Sensation is not physics. Nor can we replay the tape of the event and see that we really hit the gas pedal and ran into the hedge. So we believe that what we intended to do is what we did.
While I applaud Toyota for taking the step to announce this recall before an accident occurs, I can't help but wonder how necessary it actually is. If the floor mats in the cars are being made and installed correctly, why should they be responsible for the car owner's stupidity?
This is akin to the warning on the bottle of lemon dishwashing liquid - do not drink! Well, duh.
Yeah, you're right, Jenn, especially after the company's acceleration problems. Plus, it's an NHTSA issue. It just seems like overkill to run the expense of a recall in order to accommodate an improper floormat.
I think the problem begins at the dlivery room. I think doctors should be required to certify babies to have common sense.
That did not happen to me and I can't really help it now - this late in life.
For my unintended acceleration episode, I had a watermellon that would not fit in the seat next to me so I placed it on the floor. I think the problem with watermellons is their roundness. Farmers should be required to scrap all their round watermellons and only sell ones with really flat sides.
My watermellon rolled over to my side as I rounded a sharp corner, slamming the gas pedal to the floor. I'm certain this would have not happened if I were driving a Ferrari. I would have never put a watermellon on the floor of that car. Ferarri must have really good enginerrs as they anticipated no watermellon transportation.
Do any of you think I should file a complaint with the NHTSA, with Toyota, with the FDA, with the AMA or with whoever invented roundness? Someone should pay for cleaning my pants as the incident scared the #### out of me.
Just think, I could have runover a older lady in a white and pink dress carrying a bag of turnips or a child pushing a lawnmower to their neighbors to mow their grass or even a mother squirrel just out looking for an acorn for their babies. It make me shutter to think of what could have been.
While on my motorcycle one day in a parking lot (fortunately) my untied shoe lace got fouled up with the (foot) shift lever. As I stopped in the parking space I couldn't put my foot on the ground due to the tangle and the bike fell over. Very embarassing.
Question: should I sue Honda who obviously should have forseen this problem and designed the hardware around the shift lever so it could tangle with the laces or Nike for producing the shoes with laces that had a tendency to come untied and were long enough to become entangled with a motorcycle part?
This could have been big bucks if I found the right lawyer. I don't know what I was thinking at the time.
I suppose the best answer to your question, Rob, is that engineers can only anticipate this sort of thing if it lies somewhere in their past experience, or in the past experience of the auto industry. A lot of commenters on this site have relayed their own stories of floor mat problems, including one commenter who received the "incompatible" mat from the dealership that sold him the car. I suppose this boils down to whether the mis-use is reasonable, or whether it would be incomprehensible for any engineer during the design process.
Think about what you just said. When you can't find a good reason for a decision someone or a company made it is usually due to a lie being covered up.
Just think what the consequences would have been if investigators found that the problem was electrical. By Toyota comming forth/agreeing and making the claim that the problem was/is floor mats they dodge a huge bullet.
Toyota diverted attention away from the real problem which is this rediculous drive-by-wire system that is controlled soley ny the computer/pcm/ecm. This is not isolated to just Toyota. My 2007 Charger had the same problem and they replaced the PCM to fix the problem. My friends Jeep did the same thing and they replaced the foot pedal assembly.
The real problem at hand is that here is no one doing these investigations that really understand how the system works. My car is an SRT8 and it has a digital read out of all the input and output sensors. I was able to record the throttle position sensor versus the foot pedal position sensor to show the dealership that there was nothing stuck on the foot pedal (foot pedal output sensor was reading ZERO).
The system is too complicated and there is too much that can go wrong.
"It's impossible to test for everything, but if you make your design more robust for the 50 things you can think of, then it's likely to be robust for the 20 things you didn't think of" is not necessarily an accurate maxim, since the things you didn't think of may be totally unrelated to those you did...I think it comes down to accepting responsibility - something that our society used to advocate when we were kids, but no longer. If I buy a cup of coffee, I am going to expect it to be hot and therefore have the potential to burn me. I expect the cup to be manufactured in such a way as to be able to contain the coffee. That is the responsibility of the paper cup engineer. But if I try to drink it while driving and brake suddenly, resulting in spilling the coffe because I had lifted the flap so I could drink out of it and I burn myself - is my poor choice of timing the paper cup engineer's fault? Or the retail outlet that I purchased it from?
Tragedies sometimes happen not because of a poorly engineered product, but due to people making poor choices and no amount of engineering can stop people from making them. The best we can do is place reasonable safe guards, but where does "reasonable" end - who defines it? Is it reasonable to assume that the consumer understands coffee is hot and has the potential to burn if spilled?
I have had a floor mat flip over onto my accelerator (I'll never forget it - I was driving my used 1970s vintage Plymouth Fury in 1980) and I didn't know what was going on at first when I continued to accelerate when I braked. Yes, it was scary and I was blessed not to get into an accident. I can't remember where the floor mats came from but did it ever enter my mind that it was the car manufacturer's fault? No. I didn't regard it as anyone's fault, it was an unexpected occurrence - I just went and got different floor mats. If an aftermarket mat says it is designed for a specific car and it happened, I could see a case against the floor mat manufacturer, not the car manufacturer.
Nancy Golden; I don't know if this was from the 'Wacky theory of the month club', but someone I work with believes the hot coffee lawsuit was valid because the coffee was too hot. Supposedly coffee should not be hotter than 140F, but McDonalds' coffee was 180F. Has anyone else heard this theory ?
That theory is new on me, GlennA. I didn't know there was something such as coffee that is too hot. That theory would have it that at 140 degrees, the coffee would not have done any damage to the woman. Is that right?
Rob Spiegel; An internet search shows several links, some ridiculous. But one does mention 3rd drgree burns happen much quicker with 180F liquids. And that a more 'common' coffee temperature is 140F. And that there had been many previous complaints of burns.
State laws for hot tubs generally top out around 106 degrees, and it is said that a 110-degree hot tub can burn your skin if you sit in it for any length of time. I know that sitting in a hot tub must be a lot different (thermodynamically speaking) than pouring coffee on yourself, but I would hate to imagine what 180 degrees feels like.
Yes, Chuck, even 140 degrees would hurt. I do find it interesting that coffe at 140 degrees would be acceptable, while coffee at 180 degrees would be considered a public hazzard. But I guess it depends on the difference in how 180 affects skin versus 140.
My roomate drinks tea. He fills the tea pot up with hot water, dumps that, and then adds the tea and hot water. I on the other hand put the tea bag in the cup and add hot water. If the cup is ceramic, the tea pretty quickly cools off as the cup warms up. Hopefully, the tea was warm enough originally that by the time I finish drinking the tea it will still be warm enough to be enjoyable. If I were to take a guess, I'd guess that the range of temperatures that generally would do what I wanted would top out at about 140. Anything higher might be considered extra heat that does nothing of value, but on the other hand makes the tea unusable until it cools down. So although 140 degree tea can scald you, there is a functional reason to have tea at 140 degrees. On the other hand 180 degree tea can scald but there is no functional reason to have it that hot, rather 180 degrees coulf be disfuntional because 180 could requirr someone to not drink the tea but instead wait. In the case of someone with an automobile, this heat could be the difference between drinking the tea in the store or carrying the tea in the car until it cools down.
If someone buys coffee every morning in the insulated paper cup, they get to the point where they know how long to wait until they can blow on it to take a sip and how long they have to wait for it to be the right temperature to gulp down. Constantcy is one of the biggest selling points around.
Perhaps there is a fundamental design flaw with their accelerator pedals. In the old days, accelerator pedals hinged at the floor of the car. (The top of the pedal moved, the bottom was stationary) I don't know, but I am assuming that the Toyota pedal hangs down from the firewall, and wedges if the carpet is too thick, moved out of place, or has 8 carpet samples on the floor. With the older design (hinge the pedal at the floor), this really wasn't a problem. There was no way the pedal could get caught on the carpet, because it was hinged at the bottom. (There is no gap. The pedal is hinged to the floor.)
This seems easy to fix. First admit that there is a fundamental design issue, then hinge the pedal at the bottom so the carpet can't get under it.
Unfortunately, I can't help but think that the responses to this would be different if it were GM or Ford, and not Toyota.
ttemple, you make a point at the end of your comment that the reaction would be different if it were GM or Ford. I believe you are correct. This is as a result of the market positioning of Toyota. Their identity is based on being high quality and having superior engineering and attention to detail. The issues raised by their recent problems call all of that into question.
It's funny that you don't hear anything about Ford or GM. Back in 2009 I bought a new Ford pickup. This was at the height of the Toyota situation and this was my first "drive by wire" vehicle so I was skeptical. Sure enough, one day as I was backing out of my driveway I stepped on the brakes and the truck accelerated! Luckily I was able to shift into neutral before hitting a utility pole. Brought it back to Ford and they assured me that this couldn't happen, must be driver error. Several weeks later it happened again as I was braking going down a hill. Since there was no immediate danger I again put it in neutral, the truck stopped and I froze my feet in position because I wanted to see what was going on. As the engine sped up to 2500 rpm I looked at my feet to see that I was catching the accelerator pedal with the right edge of my shoe as I stepped on the brake pedal. I began to wonder how, after 40 years of driving I was doing this. The answer was that the brake pedal in this new truck was allowed to travel BELOW the level of the accelerator pedal. To test my theory I looked at my older (1998) Ford van and sure enough, as hard as you depress the brake pedal, it never goes lower than the accelerator pedal.
So to call this driver error isn't really putting the blame where it belongs.
I think hbiss hits on a very salient point....that some current vehicle designs do not follow a long-ago established design point that the brake pedal, fully depressed, should never reach a plane that is equal to or below the plane of the accelerator pedal. This rarely seems to be a consideration when these cases of unintended acceleration happen.
I had the same problem with my 2007 Dodge Charger SRT8. If you floored it to accelerate and merge into 70mph traffic the car would keep accelerating LONG after you let off the gas. I even video taped the event. The dealership was even able to duplicate the event when they test drove it.
This was at the height of the Toyota accelerating problem. Therefore, I was not taken seriously until I recorded the entire event! My dash has a digital readout that shows things like Foot Pedal position. This readout is directly below the SPEEDOMETER. Therefore, it was very easy to record my car accelerating while the foot pedal was at ZERO percent. They thought I had some trick video editing software. The swore that this was not possible! The engineers at Chrysler assured them of this.
They ended up replacing the pcm/ecm. Later the tcm was also replace (unrelated) and finally they replaced the front side control mudule (also unrelated).
No, not only was the truck brand new it was checked by the dealer after the first episode. I began to wonder if I was the only one so I posted the story on a Ford truck owners forum. There were several replys from others who had experienced the same problem. I haven't had any problems since because I'm aware of it and consciously make an effort to place my foot squarely on the brake pedal. Unfortunately that may not always be reliable in a panic situation.
Having been the driver of many old cars, I've been "victim" of uncontrolled accelleration (where the throttle cable frayed) and the uncontrolled lack of de-accelleration (where I lost brake fluid in my master cylinder due to a design flaw). I've never had a floor mat cause either problem, and I cannot fathom how it would unless the floor mat itself was on top of the accellerator pedal. I still own an '88 Jeep Cherokee that was subject to unintended accelleration back then (although it has never happened to me or anyone I know that owns similar Jeeps).
Blaming the customer is not the answer. Some questions that need to be answered from this: What's wrong with the accellerator pedal design that it's subject to this condition? What's wrong with toyota's floors that incite owners to stack carpet on the floor? Is the floor board on these cars too small to have safe pedal spacing and size?
Toyota's initial response was to blame the customer and (from what I read at the time) to deny independent access to the car's black boxes, which is why this issue wont go away. What needs to happen to put this issue to bed is for the government to define safe standards for the operation, size, and spacing of the main controls of all motor vehicles (brake, clutch, accellerator, steering wheel). This is especially necessary now where the available horsepower makes these vehicles lethal in the wrong hands.
3drob, cars have had enough horsepower to be lethal in the wrong hands almost since the first horseless carriages. Certainly they have had that much horsepower for the full amount of our own lifetimes.
As for standards on pedal spacing and related features, it would probably not be necessary for the government to make the rules, but only to require that the rules be made and all manufacturer's live by them. However, no such rules, as useful for any number of reasons as they might be, would in themselves prevent drivers from stacking mats, or cheap mats from curling, or restraints from breaking or being unused.
Drivers must take responsibility.
In Japan, when I lived there 20 years ago, in order to drive you had to purchase JCI (Japanese Compulsory Insurance). It attached to the car, not the driver, so became a selling point between us GIs when it was time to go to another assignment. But the license to drive in Japan implies the driver is a professional. If my car was rear-ended by another, in Japan both drivers are at fault, because we both made a choice to be on that road.
Toyota vehicles are as much made in America as any of the big three now, at least in some lines. But Toyota's roots are in Japan and I would not be surprised if there is a cultural expectation within the company that the driver is responsible to not be stupid.
I own a 2005 Prius and I see nothing wrong with the acellerator pedal/floor mat design. It is hinged from the top as you said, but a design hinged at the bottom would be even more prone to being pushed by a loose floor mat. The current design has plenty of room under the pedal for a rougue floor mat to simply pass under if it were loose. However, beyond the normal textured bottome to prevent slippage there are additional hooked clips installed in the floor that pass up through the floor mat grommets that prevent the floor mat from moving forward at all. I am completely perplexed as to how there could be any issue with this, given what I see as over engineering, compared to other cars I have seen. When I received the recall notice I just looked the car over and then ignored the recall because there is simply no way that mat is going anywhere.
You are absolutely correct, ttemple. The Toyota pedals are hinged from the top. And, yes, those that are hinged from the top tend to be more problematic (unlike the accelerator pedals in German-made cars, which often are hinged from the bottom). While reporting the article, we discussed this with David Champion of Consumer Reports, who said: "With the top hinge throttle pedal, the chances of getting something stuck underneath are greater, because that's where the clearance is."
In thinking on this issue and many of the lawsuits mentioned by other commenters, I'm reminded of the 1960 Cyril Kornbluth story "The Marching Morons". Perhaps it's time to build some "rockets to Venus".
I'm also reminded of the song "Flakes" off of the Frank Zappa "Sheik Yerbouti" album.
The next logical step in this process is separate floor mats will no longer be included with vehicles. That way if there's a wreck and there's a floor mat in the car, the manufacturer can claim it was an owner modification and insulate themselves somewhat from liability. You can bet there's an engineering team at Toyota right now designing molded-in floor mats for future models. And great big warning stickers on aftermarket mats about how this floor mat can cause serious injury or death.
Although the floor mats can be used in imaginative and unusual ways to jam the accelerator, the culprit that is not being properly addressed is the fact tht the car could not be turned off.
In all industrial machinery applications, there is a big red mushroom button that is required by law to shut down the machine immediately. I suggest that we had a similar mechanism in autos with the physical key, but have lost this feature with keyless entry.
Before we create another complicated system to watch for accelerator and brake activity at the same time (and there are legitimate reasons to do this as well as sensor failure modes), how about we just make an e-stop botton for the dash. No computer interface needed.
Make things as simple as possible, but not simpler.
The fact is that people are going to complain and regulators need to listen. The problem here is that the user must be identified as the source of the problem and that there is very little that the engineer can do and so the user must be educated. However, as the book "The Bell Curve" states, the vast majority of people are too smart by half.
I've dealt with complaints about medical devices in which the complaint had nothing to do with the device, yet it had to be dealt with. This is the nature of fact finding though, which indicates that the process needs far better filters and when the user (the complainer) is at fault, perhaps a means to hold them accountable for addressing their deficiency(ies) needs to be incorporated. After all manufacturers need to comply with safety regs so why not customers?
If you want to see an absurd lawsuit about design flaws check out Osorio vs One World Technologies et al. One very dangerous lawsuit about requiring all tablesaws to implement new proprietary technology. The court is now able to determine the best mouse trap, and require all other manufacturers to build it.
Personally, and I can only speak for me, I think that requiring that proprietary safety device is a good idea. What you complain about, mandates for safety, is the ONLY reason that cars have safety belts. While courts are inadequate as they are not scientists, engineers, technicians, doctors, dentists, etc, they do provide a civilized means for problem resolution.
Helping people help themselves to not lose fingers is far better than libertarianism. You always defeat any safety device you know, just to satisfy that libertarian urge.
Just for grins, check out "Table Saw Accident Stories and Statistics". Although I haven't verified the numbers, yet, I think that preventing over 93,000 injuries is a good thing, especially when those injuries are costly both in debilitating effect and money.
I realize this has been covered before but as the owner of a Toyota Prius I would like to point out the assumptions this article has made. First, the entire idea that the floor mat is the root of the stuck accelerator problem and, second, that it is floor mats from other companies causing the problem. We, my wife and I since it is actually her car, took her car back to our Toyota dealer after the stuck accelerator problem was announced and recalls began. They looked at our floor mats and told us that the floor mats we were using could cause a problem. They were not the original floor mats but thicker, nicer floor mats purchased from that very dealership and they even had 'Prius' printed on them and came in a bag marked Toyota! The floor mats made for that car, the original and the later purchased mats, were made to be fastened down in the back so they could not slide around or bunch up under the accelerator pedal. The only car I have ever owned with that feature. I disconnected them and tried every way I could to bunch the mats up under the accelerator pedal but there was far too much room even with my thicker floor mats. Far more room than my Oldsmobile has yet Aleros have never been mentioned with stuck accelerator problems. I have sever doubts that the floor mats are anything more than an easy excuse for an unsolved problem and how convenient to be able to blame it on other companies after market products. We still use and love our Prius but if someday our accelerator sticks I doubt the floor mat will have anything to do with the problem. I really hope people other than just Toyota employees are still looking into this problem.
To Loco1: Thanks for commenting. We had heard about some Toyota dealerships possibly giving out the wrong floor mats with their cars. Could you please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org? Are there any other readers out there who were given the wrong floor mats by their dealerships?
- I think the word to describe the little nodules sticking out from the bottom of the mat are called "NIBS," not "nits."
- I think that Toyota, somewhere along the line, likely ignored their own FMEA regarding the mat problem potential. It's very easy under the "mitigation" column to pass off this item as non-sequitor, therefore no problem. Some of this is due, I'm sure, to the quote from another reader about the neatess of Japanese presence.
I bring the Medical prodcut extension subject up for simply this reason - a car is no different than a medical product in terms of it affecting our lives - literally. I design medical electronic equipment, and our engineering dept must scour our FMEAs for just such items - even something as simple as a foot pedal (much like a gas pedal) that controls our equipment. You'd be surprised at the scenarios we come up with. Most situations are ruled out quickly, but a few have to be dealt with.
As we have all learned as engineers - you can make an item as foolproof as practically possible. But you can't make it idiot proof. 8 layers of mats comes to mind.
In this particular situation, I personally believe that the Japanese engineers blew off the mat problem, likely through their lack of knowledge of our American non-neatness problem. If that's the case, after all these years, well - I'm just sayin'.....
As I've mentioned before in my responses to engineering issues, these are not new problems. Engineers can not predict the aftermarket or what people will do to make their vehicles theirs. In the 90's, Ford had the same problem with the floor mats in the Ford Thunderbird and Mercury Cougar (The Lincoln Mark VIII was not lumped into this for some reason, although it was the same chassis). The floor mats would slide up under the pedal, bunching up and causing it to stick. A car buddy who had modified his Thunderbird (added a supercharger, had somewhere in the neighborhood of 450hp at the rear wheels) learned about this after a misshap on a freeway on-ramp after taking his car out of storage one spring. Although the floor mats were original (and the reason for the problem), could Ford have predicted the built up engine with supercharger under the hood? No, but they did have a fix for the floor mats when he looked into it.
What it comes down to is that you can't predict the aftermarket. If someone wants to personalize something and it doesn't interact with the OE equipment as the engineer originally intended there isn't much you can do about it. This happens in the construction industry all the time, people modify a building without consulting and engineer and it fails, who's to blame?
I'm not saying all the cars with the floor mat issues had aftermarket floor mats, but I'd guess they may have been removed for cleaning and not properly/fully re-installed as the engineer intended.
No one in their right mind would make lawsuits about balled up carpets of stupidity. But some lawyers will. Some lawyer are not human - they will do anything for money. Next I blame the judges - oh yes, they used to be lawyer.
By rights, the car owners who do these things should be sued for negligence and public endangerment.
An Engineer goes to the pearly gates of heaven and he is turned down. so he turns around and takes the sad journey to hell. When he gets there he realizes that this is not an enjoyable place so he puts his mind to good use and designs all the necessities. AC included.
Then one day God calls satan and asks "So how its going down there?" And satan responds "Great, we got an engineer and now we have all kinds of goodies, AC included."
God Screams with a loud booming voice" WHAT YOU GOT AN ENGINEER. SEND HIM UP HERE NOW"
satan laughs and says "Nop i like having an engineer in my crew"
Got says "Send him up here or i will sue,"
satan starts laughing endlessly!!! after a few minutes of laughter he finally stops and asks God "And where will you find a lawyer?"
ChasChas, I was thinking something along the same lines. It's easy to blame "the courts", and there may be a mechanism even at the lowest levels for judges to refuse to hear a case because "it's too stupid". (There probably shouldn't be at the lowest level, or lazy/bought judges will refuse to hear too much, but that's another subject.)
Anyway, the courts listen to brought suits, and that usually involves lawyers. But in order to be paid, they need a target with deep pockets.
Hmmm...perhaps money is the root of all kinds of evil after all. Sometimes it's the reason for design changes (to save it) and nearly always it's the target of a lawsuit later. No, even that is blaming something else, rather than taking responsibility. Without personal, individual responsibility for actions, the whole legal system becomes very knotty, subject to whoever can swing the jury most effectively.
Yes I have been afraid that if my mat caught one of the pedals it could spell disaster that's why my Toyota has factory made mats. They are generally twice the cost of aftermarket however they last long and function flawlessly.
My main question is how far do we have to go to make our products idiot proof? Let's face it the more idiot proof a product is the more costly it is.
Perfect example Fluke multimeters vs. cheap multimeters. Cheap meters have same accuracy as flukes. Have you ever measured resistance while the circuit was powered with 40VDC? Yes a fluke does not break (its idiot proof) no the cheap multimeter did not survive. However I bought the cheap one for 20usd and the fluke for 200usd.
Is this what automotive will become we will have to buy the fluke because government assumes we are all idiots?
Can we have something similar to this for equipment operation too? "Ignorantia juris non excusat"
"Ignorance in operating of automobiles does not excuse"
Quote me on this and pass it on. Most states require you to know how to turn on your head lights they should require you to have the common sense of what mat you place in your car.
ervin, while I fundamentally agree that the effort to make things idiot proof is futility, I don't put this completely in the category of "idiot proofing". If I designed something, and later observed the same failure mode over and over, I would react to that situation with a design that attempts to eliminate that failure mode. If I didn't, it would be difficult to tell who the real idiot was.
I understand the procedure. I follow along the same lines when it comes to design. I dont see the pattern. I know a very large group of drivers. And yes we have talked about this the last few years. And no non of us new some one that had this failure. The only reason this ever got public was due to paranoia and news. Chevy is not doing so well so lets make public all the recalls that toyota has. Simple politics.
However at some point you have to make a distinction of what options you wish to include and what options not to include in the name of cost cutting.
And your customer should have the option of selecting which they can or cant use.
"Chevy is not doing so well so lets make public all the recalls that toyota has. Simple politics."
This sentiment is resonated elsewhere. Normally Chinese hate Japanese because of the invasion and atrocities inflicted during WWII. However I received many email from engineers of Chinese descent to show support for Toyota, with stories or theories about political motivation leading to the last recall, and information of serious engineering analysis demonstrating how the problem could not have happened.
Also, safety in product design stops at where it is 'cost effective'. This is not limited to automotive or medical products. Common sense and simple economics.
What i disliked the most was the publicity that toyotas recalls got when at the same time chevi recalls got no publicity. I have two impalas and a carolla. The impallas had a total of 5 recalls last 2 years the carola had 1 recall. Impallas had problems with the seats comming lose, the seatbelt chocking u in an accident and several others. The carolas computer was having delamination of the pcb trace. This was blamed for excessive acceleration.
Actually, IF I was going to quote you, I WOULD say, "IGNORANCE of the Law is no excuse", since that is an exact translation of the Latin phrase to which you refer. In the days of the Roman Empire, "automobiles" were in their primitive stage of development. The Romans called them "chariots", propelled mostly by animal horsepower.......
To an earlier blogger: to those who use the argument that "when we were young, we did it this way.....", I would suggest that these very people who were once young, later grew to adulthood, and having achieved such status, became responsible for policy put into effect in one way or another, whether social, legal, or technical. So, in essence, when you now see something that you deem to be deficient for whatever reason, you have no one else to blame, except yourself, since you no dounbtedly helped whether actively or passively in creating the situation as it presently exists.
Engineers - design and manufacturing - are supposed to use a generally accepted tool to anticipate and prevent consumer problems such as the floor mat issue. That tool is the FMEA - Failure Mode and Effects Analysis. It's been around for almost 30 years.
Unfortunately from my experience it's not used properly.
It's supposed to be created by a committee of all affected engineers, however in practice it's assigned to each engineer who creates it for their component or system only.
It's supposed to be written from the user's/consumer's viewpoint, however it rarely is, as it's viewed from the engineer's narrow focus.
It's supposed to encompass the entire vehicle as a synergistic machine, however it never is - rarely including mating systems or assemblies.
There is no oversight or management of this document. In addition, with cost cutting, getting rid of senior level experienced engineers and contracting engineers who have no ownership of the product, we are seeing more and more recalls and failures for issues that were resolved many years ago - we're seeing 'reinventing the wheel' of all these problems.
Toyota had an engineering discipline of recording a checklist for each design engineer that management oversaw during the design phase. Apparently that is no longer being followed.
Years ago , my GM vehicle with aftermarket floor mat jumped a curb after the mat slid underneath the gas pedal. Damage to my car exceeded $1000. Of course, I accepted full blame for this incident.
Unfortunately for manufacturers and consumers, today, some lawyers are all too happy to sue any deep-pockets corporation for not anticipating ANY and every modification by the aftermarket or owners of the vehicles. What this can mean is that the best/most cost effective/efficient designs must be scrapped for all-encompassing, overly expensive compromises.
Toyota was unfairly singled out when the most recent "unintended acceleration" frenzy went viral and that's a real shame as their designs are no more prone to safety-related failures than any other manufacturers.
Can designers anticipate how consumers will "hack" their product and then make sure the design is made to operate safely under those "hacked" conditions? Absolutely not!
It's ridiculous that Toyota should be held in any way liable for the consequenses of individual consumers actions to modify/retrofit/upgrade their OEM product.
I agree that a simple letter to customers, warning of this aftermarket risk, would be a sufficient response from Toyota (but not necessary).
What if I hacked my Camry headlights to include an aftermarket HID kit. Since the optical system was not designed to accommodate this particular filament size/shape/location/intensity, the headlamps now exceed legal limits for glare and as a result I cause or contribute to an accident leading to fatality. Toyota should get hit with a wrongful death and design negligence suit, right? Pure bollocks!
I had this problem happen to me about 50 years ago with a 1953 Ford. The floor mat slipped down and got balled up under the brake pedal and over the accelerator. Not only did the accelerator pedal get pushed in what seemed to be an uncontrolled manner but when I pushed on the brake the engine spead up.
Fortunatly I had 10s of seconds to realize what was going on and was able to yank the floor mat from under the brake pedal.
Now I pay more attention to floor mats! With any luck I might think of this scenerio faster were it to happen again. Upfortunatly telling someone about this probably goes in one ear and out the other. There is nothing like experiencing the terror first hand.
This is one of those silly simple things that can really get you. Education may be a better answer here. It's hard to see how this could be completely avoided unless we just outlawed floor mats entirely.
By the way, floor mats sliding up over bottom hinged accelerator pedals was a common occurrance and was the reason so many brands switched to a suspended pedal.
That's a funny story DCA. And I think the automaker of the car you were driving should have recalled that model. The design engineers should have been identified and admonished for failing to anticipate this problem. Obviously the NHTSA was asleep at the wheel in your case.
While using 8 floor mats is obviously a problem of the consumer stupidity, wanting to use something other than the factory supplied floor mat seems well within the bounds of reasonable and predictable customer behavior. Consumers can buy a non-factory radio, which is a much more complex task than replacing floor mats. There is no requirement to buy factory windshield wipers, tires, bumper stickers, air filters, or bike racks – so why should having a safe car require buying the factory supplied floor mats?
These are not major components that change the nature of the vehicle like engines. You can't compare someone adding a supercharger to someone buying a floor mat. On the other hand, the consequences are not trivial; a cheap meter dies while a Fluke does not but in the case of the automobile if there is a floor mat problem potentially a person dies.
The attitude of "the driver caused their own problems" is not sufficient in the case where the problem is obviously caused by the driver. An out of control speeding auto is dangerous to more than just the person who caused the problem. That's a pretty compelling reason to "idiot proof" a car for problems with an item as common as a floor mat. Unlike watermellons, floor mats are generally designed to be on the floor of a car.
My Aspen hybrid has the familiar old-school ignition key style start. My wife's Prius has the Start push button. While I am sure that I would think to turn off the ignition key of the Aspen in the case of a runaway scenario, I don't know if I would be just as quick to think to disable the ignition with the push button of the Prius.
I am glad someone brought up the homicidal "push to start" button, which is gradually replacing the tried-and-true twist on/off ignition switch. It takes 3 seconds, i.e., a football field at freeway speeds, to shut down a Toyota with push-to-start. Every piece of equipment on a machine shop floor has a more prominent push to stop button next to its start button -- why should a car have a personal computer style hold-to-stop button? Couple this with the thick floormat, the lack of brake pedal override (which all German drive-by-wire cars have had for a decade), and a manual +/- shift gate next to the PRND label, so that putting the lever as near as possible to N puts it in upshift instead, and you have the multiple points of failure recipe for the Saylor tragedy.
Idiots and over simplification of complex technical reports...........
What is a "reasonable" clearance around accel pedal? 3 inches? 5 inches? 8 inches?
If we make something idiot proof... we will then make better idiots!
Clearly this isn't an issue that can be resolved by engineers. May as well blame engineers for a bad color choices or restricting the car to be only sold to people with IQs above a certain level or shoe size range (will it work for Andre the giant?)
It is not a "design flaw" and making slight "improvements" doesn't change this.
It is the result of unrealistic expectations being placed on products. Some how technology is supposed to be address everything? Products are suppose to be without ANY compromises (last forever, do all / be all for everyone)?
Out of 10s of millions of Toyota's cars in the time frame in question.. there are less than 200 "sudden accel flaws" reported that warrant $100s of millions in legal, legislative , tech effort?
People need to step back and apply a bit of (apparently "not so") common sense to this topic. I am for constant improvement, but this is ridiculous way to get it.
As to the "clean bill bill of heath" given to the electronics given by the NASA report.... If you read the entire 175 pages , you would realize there were problems with the electronics on the tested cars. Found: were tin whiskers, none of their examples effected the acceleration issue, but my experience indicates the tin whisker (shorts) are random in location and duration (very , very thin, 0.0001" - easily broken during inspection)... so there is no way to prove/dis-prove it's possible affect on these cars.
To simplify the "likely" explanation for sudden acceleration to the general public - the risk of tin whisker shorts were dismissed. They just couldn't definitively pin the acceleration problem on tin whiskers in these (few) samples.
Some think the problems of tin whisker formation have been resolved... Apparently no one at Toyota / NASA got the message.
One item I have never seen mentioned or posted but had a personal experience 3 times on 3 different brand/make vehicles, is the initial installation of the mat !
NO vehicle made anywhere in the World, with few exceptions of cars in Russia and India, come with Mat from the Assembly line !
They are installed by the Dealer as part of the PRE-DELIVERY.
In Effort to cut cost that is usually a minimum wage teen or ex-con on partial day release, not a $45 hr skilled technician.
Case #1 Floor mat missing on Driver Side 2012 MY Hyundai Elantra Touring
Case #2 2000 HONDA Civic, mounting snaps damaged during installation and the mat was preventing the accelerator to be fully depressed, but did not "jam" it.
Case #3 FORD Transit Connect, the mat "holders" kind of turn "T" knob get unsecured and the mat gets loose about every 3 weeks, 3 times at FORD the mats replaced 2 times, but no one ever thinks of replacing the T hardware that is secured to the vehicle floor, but so far no stuck throttle incident just plain anoying - well as side benefit of the FORD ESP, the dealer each time the vehicle is in for the mat issue feels obligated to replace better part of the vehicle under Warranty, so we got NEW transmission, NEW Door locks, New bulb here ant there, and so on - they always inspect the entire vehicle and do this and that - at no charge, but I feel sorry for FORD, so far the poorly engineered T hardware costed them probaly $6,000 in dealer claims - ya the car shifted better after the transaxle was replaced, but it did not bother me, but the Service Writer Assistant that had to test drive the car "after the mat replacement" apparently did not like the shift points - not sure how many Transits he drowe (I have driven only mine) but to him the transaxle was "deffective" and I did not argure with him when for FREE they replaced it at 36K miles. (That was $200 less than changing the ATF !!!)
But my point is that any comeback under recall or warranty is a gold mine for any Dealer to sell more "service" repairs or just do MORE Warranty work that is really NOT necessary.
Funny thing was that the HYUNDAI dealer also found "AFT seapage" and had to work on the AT. The "fluid" was definitely changed as it was different color when I got the car back - another FREE AFT change, just due to missing mat in a NEW car that the dealer had to wait 3 months to get - amazing !
Are Mats and AT somehow misteriously connected ???
It is real. It happened to me (not my car, though). I was driving my brother-in-law's Chrysler Town & Country mini-van. Floored it to pass a slow moving truck on the interstate. When I let up on the gas, the van kept accelerating. Fortunately, this was in very light traffic. This was in the time frame of the Toyota problems, so I was very aware of unintended acceleration. Full braking only kept the van from speeding up more. Yes, I verified that I was pressing on the brakes, and not the accelerator. I reached down and pulled the accelerator pedal up with one hand, and the car slowed down.
I immediately pulled over to the shoulder and began an investigation. The car had an aftermarket floor mat with a big lip around all the edges to retain melting snow. The mat was intended to keep the carpet clean and dry during the winter months. The bottom edge of the accelerator pedal, when floored, became trapped in the full-throttle position by the tread of this floor mat. The entrapment was repeatable every time the accelerator was floored.
Needless to say, I immediately removed this floor mat, and advised my brother-in-law to get rid of it as soon as we returned home.
Could Chrysler have anticipated this interaction? Maybe. But the particular floor mat had a tread design that obviously would entrap the accelerator pedal under certain conditions. By brother-in-law said he bought it at a "big box" store, where it was sold as a "custom" fit for the Town & Country.
I drive a 1985 Toyota truck, mainly to the commuter van pickup point; the pedals are probably much closer to each other than larger trucks.
A few years ago, I was wearing sneakers while driving my truck. I was driving on the interstate instead of the usual around-town trips in our small town. When I exited the interstate and headed down the ramp, I lifted my foot off the accelerator to apply it to the brake; meanwhile my left foot was probably automatically headed for the clutch because I like to downshift when slowing down. I had tied my sneakers with large loops on the strings.
The loop on the left side of my right foot snagged on the underside of the brake pedal, preventing me from applying the brake with my right foot; i.e., the loop prevented me from placing my right foot on top of the brake pedal.
You can only imagine the ensuing period of panic as I tried to push the brake pedal. My left foot, which normally only works the clutch, tried to help as best it could. After all the chaotic pumping and flailing with both feet, my right foot was finally freed up; I then applied the brake with my right foot and the clutch with my left foot, as usual.
For a while after that incident, I double-knotted my sneakers to reduce the size of the loops. I haven't done that in a while but I should.
This discussion reminds me of a comment my father-in-law made concerning bridge design. He was pondering whether a particular bridge was (1) designed by a Civil Engineer who studied constantly, didn't party, made good grades, then registered as a PE, and spent sleepless nights wondering if he had considered all possible stressors and failure scenarios for the design of his bridge or (2) one who partied in college, got by in his grades, sucked on the boss at his new job, was very articulate and made great presentations to management, delegated all the details to others, got all the promotions and eventually rose to the top of the corporate ladder. He concluded that he hoped each bridge he drove across was designed by engineer #1, not engineer #2.
I can relate to the scare, but I am not sure I would phrase it this way. A hazard concerning untidy shoe strings, perhaps?
We've been warned sternly to NOT wear loose clothing near any rotating machinery (let alone operating one). If you drive, double-knotting extra long sneaker strings is definitely not judicious enough. Do something about them before you start driving; tape them down or tuck'em away.
Here is the famous example. In 1927 modern dance creator Isadora Dundan died from strangulation by a scarf she was wearing when it got entangled by the open-spoke rear wheel. Some account attributed the death to the force with which she was hurled to the stone pavement. Didn't matter. The end result was a tragic death.
Yes, Toyota Engineers should have anticipated floor mat issues. No, Toyota is in no way reponsible for any damages caused by floor mat use.
Floor mats are popular after-market products and it can be assumed that the end user will purchase a mat, just as a computer company can assume that their monitor will be used with a different video card. I mention the monitor because older monitors would self-destruct if they were attached to a video card that scanned at a higher frequency than the monitor could handle. The computer company was in no way responsible for the damage caused by the customer using an after-market video card, but the company should suffer from the ill effects of bad publicity because their poor design did not anticipate a popular upgrade to their product
I have a 2009 RAV4, and have been involved with "accidental acceleration" at least four times now. It has happened to my wife twice, and my sister-in-law, who has the same car. We have all been driving for fifty years each, and this problem has NEVER occurred with any other vehicle. Our original-equipment floor mats have always been properly anchored.
The gas pedal and brake are EXTREMELY close together and at almost the same height. The seating position tends to right-bias the foot. When we swing our foot over to touch the brake, we remain on the accelerator, and the car lurches forward.
Newer Toyotas have firmware which reduces power to the engine when both pedals are depressed.
Would it be so hard to implement this fix on existing autos?
Yes, yes, yes. Toyota engineer's had an FMEA. Let's have a copy so we can see what FMEM action they had for this severity = 10 failure mode.
The obviously one is that the powertrain control module should look at both the pedal position AND the brake switch (or brake position sensor). If the brake position sensor is on, then ensure that the vehicle speed is decelerating. If not, reduce engine power until it does.
I own a Camery, Prius, and Venza. Of the three, the floormat on the Venza has been the only one to interfear with the gas pedal. I've had all 3 floormats fixed to prevent future problems.
Toyota seems to have only addressed the movable floormat problem, which is a simple rework. The root of the problem is that the gas pedal mechanism is in a place that it can easily jam with anything on the floor (loose papers, rags, empty beer cans, etc.). Many other cars place the mechanism above the pedal, so nothing on the floor can get stuck in it.
I haven't looked at any new Toyotas, but I hope they redesigned the pedal mechanisms and moved it from near the floor to above to prevent this type of problem in the future.
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