Filed under: Safety , Technology , Toyota In recent years, Toyota vehicles have been involved in a number high-profile accidents blamed on ” unintended acceleration .” And whether the root cause of these incidents boils down to driver error or faulty mechanicals, Toyota is working to address the issue. One of two new systems in development at Toyota goes by the name of Intelligent Clearance Sonar. The technology is meant to reduce parking lot collisions by detecting objects out of the driver’s sight. If an imminent collision is detected, the ICS system will automatically hit the brakes, reduce engine power and sound an alarm. Toyota’s other new safety system is Drive-Start Control. According to the automaker, if the system senses that the wrong gear has been selected from Park while the driver is pressing on the accelerator, a warning is flashed on the dashboard and engine output is reduced “to limit a sudden start or acceleration.” There are a number of scenarios where the system might kick in – for example, if a driver bumps into something while reversing, panics and shifts into a forward gear without letting up on the accelerator, DSC would take over. While such research is commendable, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has called for making such systems mandatory in coming years. And more and more automakers are investigating and/or committing to developing electronic failsafes to deal with unintended acceleration. Last month, Nissan announced a camera-based system designed to curb pedal misapplication. Toyota says the systems will be available on future vehicles soon, a development that could give it a leg up on the competition if/when new federal rules are approved.
Filed under: Government/Legal , Recalls , Safety , Technology , Toyota Toyota is facing further fallout from its recent unintended acceleration debacle, with Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) calling on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to reopen its investigation into the situation that led Toyota to recall some eight million vehicles. According to TheDetroitBureau.com, Grassley has written a letter to NHTSA director David Strickland, stating in part, “Key questions about the cause of unintended acceleration remain unanswered.” Grassley’s contention is that because neither of the two independent investigations into the issue produced a definitive cause or explanation, further digging is necessary. Most of the unintended acceleration incidents in the NASA and National Academy of Sciences reports not attributed to trapped floormats or other problems with accelerator pedals were blamed on driver error, according to the report, but both studies concluded that other unknown issues could be at play. According to Automotive News , Grassley is particularly concerned about the “tin whiskers” phenomenon, in which tiny threads of conductive crystal can grow on circuit boards. Toyota has responded to the Grassley letter, issuing a statement that reads, in part, “There is no problem with the electronic throttle control systems in Toyota vehicles – and all the scientific evidence confirms it. So-called ‘tin whiskers’ are not a new phenomenon and do not represent a mysterious or undetectable problem in a vehicle’s electronics.” Sen Grassley asks if Toyota got off easy with unintended acceleration debacle originally appeared on Autoblog on Fri, 13 Jul 2012 13:27:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds . Permalink
Filed under: Budget , Sedan , Etc. , Government/Legal , Safety , Toyota Judge James V. Selna has warned jurors in a wrongful death suit about suspicions surrounding Toyota . According to Inside Line, the warning comes tied to the automaker’s conduct during an investigation of a 2008 Camry involved in a fatal crash allegedly caused by unintended acceleration . The single-car accident in Utah claimed the lives of the driver, Pual van Alfen, as well as one other passenger. Two passengers were also injured in the event on November 5, 2010. According to the report, two weeks later, Toyota inspected the sedan without the owner’s presence or consent, including the onboard black box . Judge Selena cautioned jurors that they should treat the testimony of Toyota personnel who participated in the investigation with “greater caution than that of other witnesses.” Plaintiffs argued that without their own lawyers present during the inspection, data from the Event Data Recorder could have been changed or deleted entirely. The Judge said that while there was no evidence that Toyota did so, the fact that the automaker failed to notify the owner of the inspection casts a “cloud of suspicion” over the examination. Judge cautions jurors over Toyota conduct in sudden acceleration case originally appeared on Autoblog on Fri, 01 Jun 2012 17:59:00 EST.
Filed under: Government/Legal , Toyota Even though Toyota’s unintended acceleration debacle is as ancient as Jurassic fleas for most of us, the California Distric Court of Judge James Selna is still chainsawing through a massive docket of claims. Judge Selna had been considering whether plaintiffs in California, New York and Florida could sue Toyota for economic loss related to the claims of unintended accleraton – the plaintiffs wanted Toyota to reimburse them for the alleged decline in value of their cars. According to a report in Bloomberg , Selna issued a final ruling that the New York and Florida plaintiffs can’t sue for economic loss if they didn’t experience unintended acceleration, or if they didn’t experience “a measurable loss” when selling their cars. California plaintiffs, on the other hand, can sue even if there was no unintended acceleration event or perceived depreciation. The ruling could remove millions of owners from of plaintiffs and make an economic-loss class action lawsuit more difficult, but plaintiffs attorneys have said they’ll try to get the cases tried in New York and Florida courts. However, the ruling doesn’t affect other plaintiffs suing over the same issue in other states. This doesn’t affect the unintended accleration cases, though; three litmus-test trials are scheduled for next year. Judge dismisses most Toyota economic-loss claims from New York, Florida originally appeared on Autoblog on Mon, 07 May 2012 16:26:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds . Permalink
Filed under: Government/Legal , Toyota U.S. District Judge James Selna – who has presided over the unintended acceleration cases against Toyota since 2010 – says the automaker does not have the right to compel 20 named plaintiffs into arbitration. The plaintiffs are seeking class-action status for lawsuits covering economic losses from the alleged issue of unintended acceleration . Toyota had maintained that leasing and purchase agreements signed by the owners denies owners the right to class-action litigation. According to Bloomberg , although the ruling covers all 20, the are two kinds of plaintiffs in this instance. The judge decided that Toyota had lost its right to arbitration with fifteen of the plaintiffs only because Toyota waited so long to pursue it. Selna concluded that since the plaintiffs had come so far in the litigation process that “They would be prejudiced if their claims were required to be submitted to arbitration now.” Selna further denied Toyota’s right to arbitration with the remaining five because “the carmaker wasn’t a party to the arbitration agreements between the plaintiffs and the Toyota dealers.” The ruling finalizes the tentative decision Selna issued last month. Class-action status for the plaintiffs, however, has not yet been granted. Three trials are scheduled for next year, and they will be used to set precedents for evidence, liability and theories. It is expected that a final decision on class-action status will come after the conclusion of those three cases.
Filed under: Government/Legal , Safety , Technology , Toyota “We couldn’t find anything, but we’re still blaming the car.” That’s the gist of the statement from a National Academy of Sciences panel headed by New Jersey Institute of Technology physics professor Louis Lanzerotti. The NAS supports U.S. regulators shutting down investigation of Toyota unintended acceleration incidents without finding electronic faults that would cause the behavior. However, at the same time, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is planning to call for further oversight and more study to attempt to rule out electronic causes. About the only thing that’s concrete is that crashes happened. To be fair, electronic faults can be tricky to pin down, even with far simpler systems than the networked-computing setups that modern cars universally employ. That’s why event data recording is already part of many automotive systems, along with a high degree of redundancy and fault tolerance. Many carmakers also already program engine management to douse the throttle with brake application in certain situations. Few are more interested in catching intermittent, potentially catastrophic problems than the companies building the cars, and most have already implemented the systems these organs of the state are calling for. Even so, the NAS and NHTSA appear keen to write these tendencies into law.
Filed under: Government/Legal , Toyota It already seems as though Toyota’s unintended acceleration issues came to a head a lifetime ago, but the courts won’t be ready to hear the first case for a long while. Bloomberg reports that U.S. District Judge James V. Selna in California said on the court’s website that the first case has tentatively been set for the first quarter of 2013. The first case to come before the court will reportedly be the Van Alfen suit. Paul Van Alfen and a passenger were killed in a November 5, 2010 accident in which his 2008 Toyota Camry crashed into a wall after reportedly accelerating unexpectedly at an exit ramp in Wendover, Utah. The suit claims that the vehicle failed to stop even after Van Alfen slammed on the brakes. Van Alfen’s wife and son were injured in the accident, and the two are among the family members suing Toyota. The first case may not be until 2013, but courts will likely be buzzing with activity in the years ahead. Toyota recalled millions of vehicles in the United States for floor mats and sticking accelerator pedals in 2009 and 2010, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration records show that over 100 deaths could be attributable to the automaker’s unintended acceleration issues.