Join 3,519 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Acts of Contrition
February 6, 2010 5:28 PM   Subscribe

"Coming two weeks after his company began recalling cars by the millions, the short, formal dip, head cast down, suggested regret for causing so much trouble for his customers. But Akio Toyoda, grandson of the founder of the Japanese automaker now battling to save its global image from the stain of safety problems, did not deliver the deeper, longer bow that some expected."
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! (79 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
He should ask Obama for lessons.
posted by horsemuth at 5:38 PM on February 6, 2010 [2 favorites]


Seattle Weekly had a good cover story on out-of-control Prius accelerators last year.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:39 PM on February 6, 2010


I'm wondering if there might not be more to this than just a sticking pedal. What with Wozniak's comment about easily reproducible bugs in his Prius, I'm thinking this could actually be a software error; the pedal fix might just be damage control instead of a real fix.

The whole thing has felt very strange to me, as the recall has widened and widened. It feels like grasping at straws, rather than engineers really understanding the problem.
posted by Malor at 5:41 PM on February 6, 2010 [2 favorites]


I like the idea of a human minding the helm. I'll take Akio Toyoda the human over ADM the remorseless borg any day.
posted by vapidave at 5:46 PM on February 6, 2010


Funny that this is being played out like Toyota is the worst ever. Both Ford and GM have has WAY larger recalls.
posted by zombieApoc at 5:47 PM on February 6, 2010 [7 favorites]


I feel slightly smug that my 1997 Avalon is too old to be affected by the defect.
posted by Faint of Butt at 5:48 PM on February 6, 2010


After a Japanese drug firm admitted in 1996 that several hemophiliacs had contracted HIV from its contaminated blood products, one victim's family complained that the company's contrition didn't come from the heart. Within moments, six top company executives silently fell to their knees before the families, lowering their foreheads to the floor.

It may be faked contrition, or good business strategy, and nothing else, but that image is incredible.
posted by sallybrown at 5:51 PM on February 6, 2010 [23 favorites]


This is why I like cable-controlled throttles, gearshifts with mechanical linkages, and ignition switches that actually turn off the ignition instead of telling the computer to do so.
posted by dunkadunc at 5:52 PM on February 6, 2010 [10 favorites]


Toyota's fix for the brake pedal thing is a mechanical one, and I think it has a mechanical cause.
posted by smackfu at 5:55 PM on February 6, 2010


1) Shift into neutral
2) Press break
3) profit not die.
posted by delmoi at 6:11 PM on February 6, 2010 [3 favorites]


After a Japanese drug firm admitted in 1996 that several hemophiliacs had contracted HIV from its contaminated blood products, one victim's family complained that the company's contrition didn't come from the heart. Within moments, six top company executives silently fell to their knees before the families, lowering their foreheads to the floor.

It may be faked contrition, or good business strategy, and nothing else, but that image is incredible.


Does Japan still have a lower HighestExecSalary:LowestJobPay for the average company than the US? ie...do they view a business as an entity the makes everyone's lives better, or are they just trying to make a fast buck like in the US?
posted by hal_c_on at 6:17 PM on February 6, 2010


Entertain the possibilty this is creative marketing by some very influential people who would benefit greatly if people started buying American made cars.

Is this a worldwide recall?
posted by Bathtub Bobsled at 6:18 PM on February 6, 2010 [2 favorites]


What I'm wondering is, are these problems more of an image issue or are an actual significant risk in terms of danger to lives? I mean, consider that if 31k people died in car accidents in '08, let's imagine for a second that there's a model from another manufacturer where pedals never stick but it offers slightly lesser degree of protection in a crash. Nominally, there's nothing wrong with its design and it would not be recalled because there's nothing to recall it for. And yet it's possible to imagine that it's more dangerous than pedals sticking half a dozen times a year.

I am not saying that's the case and I'm ignorant of the whole thing; but it sounds like it could be similar to airplane crashes that are so dramatic if not to say epic that they seem to overshadow much more frequent yet "boring" car crashes. But death is like pregnancy - you can't be a little dead. Will we ever think about these risks in terms of 'I have 0.00001 chance of this a year, 0.00035 of that, ..."?
posted by rainy at 6:25 PM on February 6, 2010 [3 favorites]


Seppuku or gtfo
Just kidding

posted by Iron Rat at 9:04 PM on February 6 [+] [!]

not funny.
posted by dunkadunc at 9:10 PM on February 6

Iron Rat was just quoting Senator Grassley:

In fact, last March, U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, even suggested in a radio interview that executives at ailing financial giant American International Group /quotes/comstock/13*!aig/quotes/nls/aig (AIG 22.41, -0.18, -0.80%) "follow the Japanese example and come before the American people and take that deep bow and say, I'm sorry, and then either do one of two things: resign or go commit suicide."

posted by availablelight at 6:27 PM on February 6, 2010


Maybe Toyota got hacked.

Seriously, they have made so many truly great cars. They'll be back.
posted by fourcheesemac at 6:31 PM on February 6, 2010


Well, this is what happens when you only pay the CEO $900k/year. If he were paid $20m per year like an American CEO none of this stuff would have resulted in recall happened.
posted by delmoi at 6:31 PM on February 6, 2010 [5 favorites]


I'm not saying that there isn't something wrong with the throttle or whatever with Toyotas, but my impression is that this is a problem which has been around for a while, and which just now is coming to head. Curious timing, what with GM and Ford struggling to regain US market share, and Toyota having pretty much killed for a couple of years now. The whole thing just feels a bit, um... manipulated to me. Again, not saying there's no problem, just wondering about the timing and the scale and media blitz and such.
posted by hippybear at 6:36 PM on February 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


None of this explains why the president of Toyota spells his name Toyoda.
posted by twoleftfeet at 6:36 PM on February 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


wait hold on a second, is Toyota going bankrupt?? That would be real news.
posted by Clementines4ever at 6:39 PM on February 6, 2010


From wikipedia:

Vehicles were originally sold under the name "Toyoda" (トヨダ), from the family name of the company's founder, Kiichiro Toyoda. In September 1936, the company ran a public competition to design a new logo. Out of 27,000 entries the winning entry was the three Japanese katakana letters for "Toyoda" in a circle. But Risaburo Toyoda, who had married into the family and was not born with that name, preferred "Toyota" (トヨタ) because it took eight brush strokes (a fortuitous number) to write in Japanese, was visually simpler (leaving off two ticks at the end) and with a voiceless consonant instead of a voiced one (voiced consonants are considered to have a "murky" or "muddy" sound compared to voiceless consonants, which are "clear"). Since "Toyoda" literally means "fertile rice paddies", changing the name also helped to distance the company from associations with old-fashioned farming. The newly formed word was trademarked and the company was registered in August 1937 as the "Toyota Motor Company".[7][8][9]
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 6:41 PM on February 6, 2010 [13 favorites]


None of this explains why the president of Toyota spells his name Toyoda.

I wondered that too. From Wikipedia:

Vehicles were originally sold under the name "Toyoda" (トヨダ), from the family name of the company's founder, Kiichiro Toyoda....But Risaburo Toyoda, who had married into the family and was not born with that name, preferred "Toyota" (トヨタ) because it took eight brush strokes (a fortuitous number) to write in Japanese, was visually simpler (leaving off two ticks at the end) and with a voiceless consonant instead of a voiced one (voiced consonants are considered to have a "murky" or "muddy" sound compared to voiceless consonants, which are "clear"). Since "Toyoda" literally means "fertile rice paddies", changing the name also helped to distance the company from associations with old-fashioned farming.
posted by sallybrown at 6:43 PM on February 6, 2010


None of this explains why the president of Toyota spells his name Toyoda.

The company was founded by Kiichiro Toyoda in 1937 as a spinoff from his father's company Toyota Industries

I just thought that Toyoda should have delivered his apology in Japanese with a simultaneous translation. His English is atrocious and incoherent.
posted by KokuRyu at 6:44 PM on February 6, 2010


I will give a short, formal dip to express my remorse at being so slow to provide an explanation.
posted by sallybrown at 6:45 PM on February 6, 2010 [9 favorites]


Toyoda is the Japanese family name. My brother is married to one.
posted by Turtles all the way down at 6:53 PM on February 6, 2010


Funny that this is being played out like Toyota is the worst ever. Both Ford and GM have has WAY larger recalls.

Maybe Toyota is just better at hiding it.
posted by smackfu at 6:55 PM on February 6, 2010


I had the acceleration problem with my Toyota in 1996 when I was in graduate school. My excellent mechanic found it after days of looking for the cause, and it was the computer box, not the pedal. I am so relieved that I didn't end up like some of the other less fortunate folks who encountered the problem. My heart goes out to their families.
posted by effluvia at 7:03 PM on February 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


The really annoying thing is that this is going to poison the public against electronic control. This despite the fact that electronic control can be designed to fail safely just like mechanical control can be (and has been). A mechanical throttle can become stuck or open wider if designed incorrectly as well, but good design prevents that from occurring even in the worst case.

It's like electronic voting. Done right, electronic voting could be much more reliable and trustworthy than paper ballots. But that's likely forever out of our reach due to the terrible, terrible implementations we've seen so far.
posted by DU at 7:13 PM on February 6, 2010 [4 favorites]


This is why I like cable-controlled throttles, gearshifts with mechanical linkages, and ignition switches that actually turn off the ignition instead of telling the computer to do so.

As a software guy in training this very widespread attitude irritates me, especially because in this day and age, it's a very understandable position.

Note: When we began to develop hardware systems to do our bidding, we started from a very high level of abstraction. That is to say, the materials available to us were complex compounds of various elements like and rocks, minerals and metal ores spanning huge range of properties that were amenable to manipulation by us. We did not start from subatomic particles like quarks and leptons and then figure out how to combine them in various ways to create the basic 118 or so elements so that we could create molecular, metallic and organic compounds so that we may finally build a fucking house or something.

Software systems, did begin from their basic element: discrete electronic signals representing binary 1 and 0. From this we developed assembler and then low level compiled languages like C and FORTRAN and then go further to create modern languages like Java, etc. Of course, languages used for direct hardware control are much lower level, but my point remains the same: We created levels and levels of abstraction on top of each other so that we could derive from discrete electronic signals basic tools that are amenable to manipulation by us so that we can build a fucking flash game or whatever. With each abstraction layer, we add incredible amounts of complexity that make creating reliable, proven systems that much harder. The artificial abstraction layers we have made are simply not as seamless from one level to another as that of the physical natural world. Therefore the software applications we build with our current standards have so much more potential for failure than basically any proven, well made mechanical system.

Plently of generalizations and glossing over details there, but I think I've been clear.

I should finally mention that even with all this, its all gonna be OK. People all over are working at this and problems are getting fixed and our knowledge is improving at immense rates. It's only a matter of time before the big problems are fixed. Sit back and enjoy your ride into the singularity.

Then it's war.
posted by Throw away your common sense and get an afro! at 7:22 PM on February 6, 2010 [8 favorites]


Maybe he's saving the deeper bow for the stockholder meeting?
posted by BrotherCaine at 7:43 PM on February 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


Software systems also have a mechanical reality; my computer is made of integrated circuits, which were printed using a very complex process, and a bunch of elements you don't hear about that often; it also includes printed circuit boards (copper layed out on some sort of plastic) and aluminum discs covered in magnetic materials, spinning at thousands of revolutions per second.

All the 0s and 1s therein are built on a huge tower of physical abstractions (voltages, transistors, magnetic storage).
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 7:44 PM on February 6, 2010


smackfu: don't feed yourself (troll)
posted by Clementines4ever at 7:45 PM on February 6, 2010


software applications we build with our current standards have so much more potential for failure than basically any proven, well made mechanical system.

Once I bought a Dodge Dart V-8 from an old lady whose nephew had put on a four-barrel carb, with the result that the angle at which the throttle cable entered the engine compartment had changed. Soon after I bought the car, the throttle cable became pinched after I floored the accelerator. I threw it into neutral, but that was a scary few seconds hurtling down the street. (He had also installed a new head gasket improperly and that failed soon after that, never saw so much white smoke come out of a tailpipe before or since.)

Mechanical systems only need one eager nephew to turn deadly.
posted by longsleeves at 7:56 PM on February 6, 2010 [4 favorites]


All the 0s and 1s therein are built on a huge tower of physical abstractions (voltages, transistors, magnetic storage).

True, and often this adds to the complexity of the software intended to run on the hardware. However, I'd like to point out that the computing hardware in any embedded system has only one purpose: to run the coded software application. It is a base platform and need not be too far removed from any other type of embedded system around. It can be easily adapted from existing designs for a specific application and easily tested for functionality.

Of course, any of that could have a fault for any reason and cause all sorts of problems. What I was trying to address was the notion that software is inherently less reliable than hardware and that almost always the cause of any electronic device failing to operate properly.

Yes, it can often be the case, because of what I outlined before, but not necessarily, somewhat, i guess. ok....
posted by Throw away your common sense and get an afro! at 8:09 PM on February 6, 2010


What I was trying to address was the notion that software is inherently less reliable than hardware and that almost always the cause of any electronic device failing to operate properly.

I don't follow the field very closely: do we have a compiler that is close to be "proven" in some reasonable way yet?
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 8:16 PM on February 6, 2010


A couple of things...

1. This is why people need more training before they're allowed to operate a motor vehicle. After this started happening, I quizzed my wife on what she'd do if her car ever started accelerating on its own, and of all the things she came up with, "turn off the ignition" took her a while, and "shift into neutral" didn't even come up. She's had formal driver training beyond most people in the US, mind you; it's just not a scenario that was ever discussed.

2. This is why people would benefit from having to learn stickshift before getting a license. My gas pedal got stuck on the floormat once (non-Toyota) while I was full-throttle pulling away from a stoplight; I just pushed the clutch back in out of reflex to avoid hitting the car in front of me, reached down and freed the pedal, straightened the mat, and went about my merry way. When you drive stickshift, being in neutral is just part of the moment-to-moment operations, making these events into non-events.

3. This is why more thought has to go into the cool, gimmicky stuff that they're starting to put on cars. After the Toyota issues came to light (but pre-recall) I realized that I had no idea how to turn off a car with a push-button start and keyless ignition. This was after I drove a car like that, too, a hybrid Altima that I initially couldn't figure out how to start. I shut the car off that day, but I don't remember how.

The easier cars are to drive, and the more gimmicky they are, the more they're going to contribute to incidents like this. This won't be the end of Toyota any more than it was the end of Audi in the US after their unintended acceleration issues, but like Audi, Toyota's going to take a short term hit. None of this is particularly important, though, if we're not fixing the real problem: lack of driver training (both generally and regarding their specific cars) to allow them to deal with this sort of thing, and lots of other scenarios that can come up when you're operating a motor vehicle.
posted by davejay at 8:17 PM on February 6, 2010 [7 favorites]


Oh, and: we need to ease up on this whole trend towards epic powerplants in mainstream cars thing -- do you know that in 1982, a Lamborghini Countach V12 did 0-60 in 5.6 seconds, and a 2010 Toyota Camry XLE V6 automatic does it in 6.2? If my Nissan Versa ever unintentionally accelerates, I probably won't notice for at least a hundred yards...
posted by davejay at 8:22 PM on February 6, 2010 [3 favorites]


DU: From the point of view of someone who really likes to drive, I don't need a safety scare to leave me cold when it comes to the current generation of electronic pedal boxes.

My beef is that the current crop degrade the quality of the driving experience. So far every car I've driven with a drive-by-wire accelerator has exhibited a momentary but disconcerting lag between moving my right foot and the engine responding - quite unlike the impercebile delay inherent to a conventional cable connection as tension builds up in the cable. And although that might just be a matter of sample rates or bus speeds to the ECU, no manufacturer currently seems interested in trying to emulate the connection between engine and driver provided by a cable and spring return, and digital pedal boxes seem to have no substantive resistance to pressure, so there's a certain tactile feedback missing when you go to press the throttle (feel free to make your own vinyl vs digital comparisons).

My '07 XR4 has a drive-by-wire throttle and it's only because the suspension, the gearing, the torque curve and rest of the package makes the car so enjoyable to drive that I was prepared to tolerate and learn to adjust to the accelerator's odd feel.

Admittedly, its really just a matter of time and refinement. The power steering in my little hot hatch is whole orders of magnitude more communicative than the power steering was in my '77 CM Regal, for example. But we're a long way off yet from the point where a software throttle will be the equal of a mechanical throttle, and there's no question that if a mechanical throttle had been an extra-cost option when I ordered little Ilsa from the dealership that I'd've ticked that box of the order form in a heartbeat.
posted by MarchHare at 8:23 PM on February 6, 2010 [2 favorites]


smackfu is not trolling
posted by rfs at 8:50 PM on February 6, 2010


Oh, and: we need to ease up on this whole trend towards epic powerplants in mainstream cars thing -- do you know that in 1982, a Lamborghini Countach V12 did 0-60 in 5.6 seconds, and a 2010 Toyota Camry XLE V6 automatic does it in 6.2? If my Nissan Versa ever unintentionally accelerates, I probably won't notice for at least a hundred yards...

right!

I'm continually floored by the teevee ads that blare "and it has umpty-bajillion horsepower!" like that matters to 99.99% of drivers who a) have no day-to-day need to pull grounded ferryboats off sandbars and b) have absolutely no place to legally drive this behemoth that accelerates so fast the bumpers red-shift as they pull away from the stoplight.

my 53-hp, 1600cc vw beetle, just by way of example, was not an unreasonably underpowered car. I never had trouble getting on the interstate or passing when necessary, and I think most people would be better-served with much, much smaller engines and cars.

(although probably not that particular car, much as I did love it.)

which brings me to my current love of the great modern japanese small cars that have the really important high-tech features - fuel injection and ABS. auto transmission, not so much.

This is why I like cable-controlled throttles, gearshifts with mechanical linkages, and ignition switches that actually turn off the ignition instead of telling the computer to do so.

after a couple of near-misses with stupid-ass red-light runners, I've concluded I'll never again buy a car without ABS. Hell yeah, it pulses the brakes a bajillion times a second and the car. just. stops. no skidding, no drifting, no bullshit.

and fuel injection. it mixes the fuel and air for you, sampling, resampling and remixing constantly so YOU DON'T HAVE TO. Take that you stupid gunky crud-dumping, water-beading, fuel-pissing carburetor! I hate you!
posted by toodleydoodley at 8:55 PM on February 6, 2010 [2 favorites]


I don't follow the field very closely: do we have a compiler that is close to be "proven" in some reasonable way yet?

I'm not exactly a close follower myself, I just happen to hang out with a few profs that go on about this all the time.

To answer your question, I'm not sure which compilers for the mainstream languages are formally verified. Most of my searches led me to research papers from the past decade. Actually there is a crapload* of research going on to create better tools for program determining program correctness from the given specification algorithmically via constructive logic or other such means. (This is related to what you are asking for. This whole site explains some methods for testing mission critical applications, with much technical jargon).

*Not affiliated, but I know one of the profs working on this project
posted by Throw away your common sense and get an afro! at 9:11 PM on February 6, 2010


I'm wondering if there might not be more to this than just a sticking pedal. What with Wozniak's comment about easily reproducible bugs in his Prius, I'm thinking this could actually be a software error; the pedal fix might just be damage control instead of a real fix.

The whole thing has felt very strange to me, as the recall has widened and widened. It feels like grasping at straws, rather than engineers really understanding the problem.


Woah! Interesting call.

I always thought something smelt fishy but didn't really have the time or the need to take it any further than "wow, that seems strange."

I also found that [related?] 911 call a bit strange. The one where they all died. Not tin-foil-hat strange. Just creepy-tragic-surely-you-could-just-slam-on-the-brakes-why-the-hell-are-you-ringing-911? strange.

At least one MSM news report in Perth cited brake pedal problems. Long live mainstream journalism!

posted by uncanny hengeman at 9:16 PM on February 6, 2010


Yikes, that 911 call is horrible.

No brakes. Accelerator on full throttle. And they are blaming a freaken floor mat?! I totally missed the "no brakes" part when this story first broke.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 9:22 PM on February 6, 2010


This is why I like cable-controlled throttles, gearshifts with mechanical linkages, and ignition switches that actually turn off the ignition instead of telling the computer to do so.

Testify!

I don't like flying. Irrational, I know. I was aghast to hear that all the flaps and sundry aerilons in big jet planes went wireless in the 1980s!
posted by uncanny hengeman at 9:27 PM on February 6, 2010


1) Shift into neutral
2) Press break
3) profit not die.


I thought it was CTRL-break?
posted by uncanny hengeman at 9:37 PM on February 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


Seppuku or gtfo
Just kidding
posted by Iron Rat at 9:04 PM on February 6 [+] [!]

not funny.
posted by dunkadunc at 9:10 PM on February 6

Iron Rat was just quoting Senator Grassley:


Iron Rat's comment got deleted by a Mod?! Jesus Christ.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 9:42 PM on February 6, 2010 [7 favorites]


I don't believe it is going to prove to be a pedal problem. I think's very likely a software flaw. But that is just gut instinct, not anything I've any sort of proof for.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:42 PM on February 6, 2010


I've read Toyota's explanations, and it seems really plausible that it's a friction problem. I guess they'll eventually switch to a force-feedback pedal, with a "fail-up" feature.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 9:57 PM on February 6, 2010


I guess we'll know eventually, still If I had a toyota, I'd be curious if they hook the car up to the diagnostic computer and surreptitiously apply a software update during the pedal fix.
posted by kuatto at 10:15 PM on February 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


1. This is why people need more training before they're allowed to operate a motor vehicle. After this started happening, I quizzed my wife on what she'd do if her car ever started accelerating on its own, and of all the things she came up with, "turn off the ignition" took her a while, and "shift into neutral" didn't even come up. She's had formal driver training beyond most people in the US, mind you; it's just not a scenario that was ever discussed.


This was covered in my driver's ed class way back in 1988. It was. That and what the runaway truck ramps are for in the Colorado mountains. No, I lived in Oklahoma, not Colorado.

Does a normal driver's ed class not cover what to do when there's a stuck gas pedal? I really doubt, or else Coach Caroon (who at the time didn't know he had a brain tumor that would kill him two years later -- RIP) was the most freakin' thorough driver's ed instructor in America.

2. This is why people would benefit from having to learn stickshift before getting a license.

In the 22 years since I've received my license, I have driven a stick-shift vehicle for about five months aggregate. Save the time I borrowed the neighbor's truck, all that time wasn't in the US but in the UK. Except for sports cars and a handful of subcompacts, American cars are automatic transmission. Suggesting that people should be made to drive stick before they get a license is like saying no comp sci major should be allowed to program in anything but Pascal.

Besides, I have been in the exact scenario you've been in -- floormat causing stuck accelerator -- and I solved it the way Coach Caroon taught me -- throw it in neutral, use escape route, apply brakes, remove floormat. And I did in a pickup with automatic transmission years before I ever got behind the wheel of a stickshift.

So long as the driver doesn't panic, the stuck accelerator scenario is very survivable regardless of whether it's automatic or manual transmission.
posted by dw at 11:15 PM on February 6, 2010


Anecdotally, driver's ed in northeastern Massachusetts in 1993ish covered stuck accelerators, as well as total brake failure *and* "if it's you or the squirrel, the squirrel gets it every time" and "do not make eye contact with other drivers, it may be perceived as hostility."

Of course, I lived twenty minutes outside of Boston, too, so our driver's ed might have been... a tad more aggressively-oriented... than standard driver's ed.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 11:30 PM on February 6, 2010


So far every car I've driven with a drive-by-wire accelerator has exhibited a momentary but disconcerting lag between moving my right foot and the engine responding

This is by design, not by any kind of fault. As emissions control became tight, the fact that immediate/instant off-throttle behaviour caused a stack of nastiness became apparent. There is zero reason why this behaviour couldn't be prevented, but it's there in purpose. If you had a cable throttle (which some cars that exhibit this behaviour do) there is often a damper in the release mechanism that slows the shutting of the throttle mechanism.

My beef is that the current crop degrade the quality of the driving experience. ... digital pedal boxes seem to have no substantive resistance to pressure, so there's a certain tactile feedback missing when you go to press the throttle

Whilst I agree in principle as over-use of tech makes feel an issue, there is a certain disconnect - due to power delivery curves not being linear there really is no reason to associate the steadily increasing pedal effort of a mechanical throttle linkage in the way that people do. It really shouldn't be that hard to realign your perception - while the force gave a good feeling for 'how far throttle has moved' it doesn't correspond in any accurate way to 'amount of power requested'.

my 53-hp, 1600cc vw beetle, just by way of example, was not an unreasonably underpowered car. I never had trouble getting on the interstate or passing when necessary, and I think most people would be better-served with much, much smaller engines and cars.

Power to weight is far more important to your point than overall power. There has been an increase in power to weight but not as dramatically as power figures have risen.
posted by Brockles at 12:00 AM on February 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


Bowing has many, many aspects in Korean culture as well. I am not familiar with the subtleties of it, but would like to offer my observations about big-time apology bows and gestures.

My pop ran a business. He had re-married after a divorce, and his new brother-in-law took over the business/financial portions of the operations. Things were peachy, and everyone was happy. Money was coming in, until, well, one day my pop went to a 7-11, tried to pay for a pack of smokes, and was told that his credit card was declined.

So he went to the ATM, to try to get some cash. It wouldn't give him $20. At this point, he started to get a little irritated. He loved to smoke.

In this period of irritability, he went back to his office building, and called up his brother-in-law, and asked, "hey, brother, would you look at what's going on with my cards? They're not working." A simple, non-accusatory question. The guy replied in a way that sounded very "nervous" to my pop's astute sense of character.

So he goes upstairs and knocks on the guy's door. He hears mechanical noises. And that's when it all clicked: all those years of presumed trust in this guy. The lack of direct involvement for many financial matters. Having someone in the family and "trustworthy" deal with the practicalities of banking, etc. He thought: "Boy, I was stupid. I am angry now. I will talk to him."

But the door was locked. And the guy inside was panicking. So my pop pulled out the thing he and I fear the most in him: Korean rage. He first kicked a whole in the door down, then started pulling off sections of the door down. He knew what was going on. The brother-in-law just started spilling the beans on everything.

My father had calmed down. He understand what was going on. The truth, then being told, sounded very plausible. All he asked for was for an apology.

The guy didn't apologize. He started going bananas.



You've got to understand that there are huge cultural concepts behind the actions and traditions of bowing. It's more than simply expressing remorse, or accepting responsibility. It is a direct way of communicating, at the very least, a true heartfelt remorse, a promise not to simply never do it again, but to become a better person, saying sorry for not being the best one could be-- for failing to live up to a standard, this, in addition to the actual wrong committed. There's just so much wrapped up into what seems like such a simple series of physical motions.

This brother-in-law, my step-uncle, embezzled millions of dollars from my pop. He had opened up multiple lines of credit, drained those, then opened more. He rubber-stamped checks. He bought lots of fancy cars and paid for golf schools for his kids, when my pop was raising us very simply and drove 10-year-old Toyota 4-Runner, whose seat had a hole it it from where his bony ass would sit (he never got that patched up-- he just bought more crap to cover it up over time).

My father's response? He said look, there are two options: either apologize to me, or suffer the fate of the American law system. Seemed simple enough to me. But it wasn't a simple apology. The man was expected to come to my father's house, look my father and his family in the eye, get down on his knees and bow.

He didn't do it. He couldn't do it. He has suffered the brunt of the law, and makes regular payments as best he can. 2/3rds of his house is actually owned by my father, which he pays for.

This whole crazy thing makes me angry, too, and I have the Korean rage as well. My father's is pretty bad, but I'm the only guy he is afraid of when I get mad (rest assured, it takes a terrific amount of insult to make me upset). Even after all this, even after everything this guy put my father and my family through, being the cause of so much stress and causing physical hardship on my father, I myself would be fine with all of his transgressions if he would simply show up and bow.

It sounds so stupid, I know. And I wish I could better articulate all the little gestures and meanings as to why it is the way it is. But ultimately they all point to the same concepts many cultures understand: Apologize. And when you apologize, be earnest. Through apologizing, become a better person. And don't bullshit it. Because everyone will be able to tell. And then you're in hot shit.
posted by herrdoktor at 12:01 AM on February 7, 2010 [46 favorites]


Incidentally, as I have stated elsewhere, I am unable to comprehend that thought processes of someone who is driving a car that they can't slow down that is able to function competently for a sufficiently long to effectively operate a telephone but not enough to understand the concept of shifting into Neutral.

Surely some serious lack of awareness of how a car functions has to exist for that lack of logic to exits. I am aware that a lot of people aren't exactly mechanically adept, but understanding that the pedal makes it go only if the stick is in the right place is not beyond the basic mental acuity of most people, surely.

I'd have expected to hear more stories of destroyed gearboxes from people trying to ram it into Park in a panic (instead of just neutral) than 'the car kept going until we died'. I'm not sure extra training will fix that kind of disconnect in logical thinking.

I maintain that 'brake failure' is entirely subjective, in that situation, but I haven't seen an engineering report on the condition of the car in question. The chances of total brake failure is tiny in a modern car - it has Aviation levels of redundancy in it, as well as an additional emergency brake. I suspect that 'The brakes aren't slowing the car' = 'they are not overriding my powerful car on full throttle so in my panic I am assuming they thus do not function at all".

I may be wrong, but I've seen people freaked out entirely by hitting throttle and brake and being utterly convinced the brakes had failed and then just 'gone alright again' afterwards. The car not slowing when you expect/need it to is such a terrifying jolt to people that normal logic fails, I suspect.
posted by Brockles at 12:08 AM on February 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


herrdoktor, it sounds a lot like the complex subtleties and nuances of "izzat" - media only sees guys running around killing their female relatives for loitering wth other men but the concept of 'honour' and 'respect' are deeper and more complicated than that.
posted by infini at 12:18 AM on February 7, 2010


So, I'm wondering if I was taught wrong. I was taught to first reach underneath the pedal with my foot and try to pull it loose. If that didn't work, shift into neutral, pull over to the side of the road, stop and pull the pedal loose with my hand. Other things to do are to shift in to reverse (better lose a transmission than a life) and/or shut the car off.

Also, I had a pedal stick on me once. It was a Pontiac. Luckily I was able to use my foot to free it.

I now need to call my ex-girlfriend and see if she has taken her Yaris in. I'm not happy with her being an ex and all, but still, I don't want her to become an ex ex. I mean ex ex as in dead and not ex ex as in we got back together because that would maybe sort of someday be cool and I could live with that kind of ex ex.
posted by robtf3 at 12:32 AM on February 7, 2010


I was taught to first reach underneath the pedal with my foot and try to pull it loose.

If you are calm enough, have plenty of time and a nice long straight road for it. Otherwise, just go straight for neutral and let the thing rev away.

If that didn't work, shift into neutral, pull over to the side of the road, stop and pull the pedal loose with my hand.

This is by far, BY FAR the best option to the point that everyone should consider it the ONLY correct response.

Other things to do are to shift in to reverse (better lose a transmission than a life)

Oh, hell no. You either won't get it to go in (in a modern auto it won't let you and will sit in neutral, so back to point 'b') or it WILL go in and the car will swap ends on you and you will have massive crash. This is, in case it isn't obvious, the worst possible reaction other than 'wait and see if it fixes itself at the next sharp corner'. The e-brake is not a great option at all for much the same option. It may not be as bad as hitting reverse, but it is an emergency brake (ie sub optimum in normal use) so only try this if your brakes don't work after hitting neutral.

and/or shut the car off.

This is also bad - you lose power steering, lights (for indicating your intentions), and possibly lose braking feel/effectiveness as the engine powers a brake assist function (either electrically or by vacuum). In addition, you run the risk of triggering the steering lock (if you pull the key out or it falls out).

Again, the only correct response is neutral and slow down to a stop as calmly as you can possibly manage. I've seen some hideously bad 'advice from experts' on this and some of it was misleading, some incomplete and some downright dangerous.
posted by Brockles at 12:39 AM on February 7, 2010 [4 favorites]


Well, if you ask my father, this whole thing has been a hatchet job orchestrated on Toyota by the "Obama Motors" administration in retaliation against the new Japanese government over its stance on US military bases on Okinawa, with the side bonus of denigrating the image of Japanese cars in general and boosting the USA big 3.

There are real mechanical problems with the cars, he argues, but the scope and magnitude has been far exaggerated by the administration and is being used as a club to beat Japan, specifically by outlets such as NPR, who, for the past week, have dutifully reported at the top of each hour just how Toyota was plotting to kill you and your family in a fire.

This is one of his sounder theories, actually.
posted by BeerFilter at 5:02 AM on February 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


robtf3 - you can sleep soundly that the Yaris is not part of the recall. But maybe your ex will be touched by your thoughtfulness anyways.
posted by saucysault at 6:42 AM on February 7, 2010


toodleydoodley: "
I'm continually floored by the teevee ads that blare "and it has umpty-bajillion horsepower!" like that matters to 99.99% of drivers who a) have no day-to-day need to pull grounded ferryboats off sandbars and b) have absolutely no place to legally drive this behemoth that accelerates so fast the bumpers red-shift as they pull away from the stoplight.
"
Buddy of mine insists on always getting "the best" of anything, regardless of the added features are actually useful to him. So he has a Mazdaspeed 3. Turbo, more power than my V8 impala, etc. Then he gets to griping about always having to put premium in it. And now, any time there's even a hint of snow on the ground, he absolutely cannot drive the car. It will go sideways, immediately.

But he still insists on buying "the best".
posted by notsnot at 8:10 AM on February 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


Beerfilter: That's yet another reason why bailouts are such a bad idea. Now that the government is such a large shareholder in General Motors, it automatically brings into question anything it has to say about car safety. Even if what they're claiming is completely accurate, and I suspect it probably is, its credibility has been compromised.

What your father is saying most likely isn't true, but it's not laughably insane like it would have been, say, ten years ago.
posted by Malor at 8:26 AM on February 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'd have expected to hear more stories of destroyed gearboxes from people trying to ram it into Park in a panic (instead of just neutral) than 'the car kept going until we died'. I'm not sure extra training will fix that kind of disconnect in logical thinking.

True. I expect a lot more people than you would want have no idea what Neutral is, and only know Park (what you put it in to get the key out) and Drive (what you put it in to drive). That's really the only ones you need to know to actually drive an automatic.
posted by smackfu at 9:06 AM on February 7, 2010


On a normal car, wouldn't a wide open throttle cause a loss of power brakes? I suspect the reduced vacuum at WOT might not be enough to operate the assist servo. There's probably a vacuum reservoir, so you get a couple good pumps, but after that you'll have to press really hard. But this probably doesn't apply to the Prius since it's designed to be driven with the engine off.
posted by ryanrs at 9:19 AM on February 7, 2010


I just wanted to comment on some of the conspiracy stuff floating around: Foreign manufacturer screws up and it's America's fault? Really?
posted by elwoodwiles at 11:32 AM on February 7, 2010 [3 favorites]


The main reason I still think a software problem is a possibility is the huge range of models and markets affected. I have a much easier time believing they all share a common bug in the throttle-control code than it is to believe the iQ, the Tundra, and a dozen other models of all shapes and sizes in between, from city cars to full size sedans to SUVs, manufactured on both sides of the Atlantic, share the exact same accelerator pedal assembly with the exact same mechanical flaw that can be fixed in the exact same way.

So long as the driver doesn't panic, the stuck accelerator scenario is very survivable regardless of whether it's automatic or manual transmission.

...assuming the shift-by-wire system allows you to downshift to neutral at speed with the throttle wide open.
posted by Lazlo at 11:50 AM on February 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


I just wanted to comment on some of the conspiracy stuff floating around: Foreign manufacturer screws up and it's America's fault? Really?

As a further counterpoint, it is perhaps noteworthy that the accelerator issues were present in Toyota automobiles — at least around or before September 2007 — well before the American auto industry collapse and general economic meltdown of late-2008 through 2009.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:53 AM on February 7, 2010


I expect a lot more people than you would want have no idea what Neutral is

I also expect many people don't understand what it means to "push the brakes as hard as you can". I'm a 230 lbs guy and "as hard as I can" is pretty damn hard. But that's barely adequate for larger vehicles like minivans and SUVs. I can't produce anything close to the braking force of a power-assisted panic stop.

Low braking effect plus the lack of feedback from the dead pedal probably leads many people to give up too soon. They think the brakes have completely failed and stop pushing. But they actually need to push harder.

Note: if the brake pedal offers little resistance and just flops to the end of its travel, then the brakes really are gone. In that case, forget the brakes and proceed with Plan B.
posted by ryanrs at 12:10 PM on February 7, 2010


New info on the Prius situation, which affects both US and Japan (this one has been pushed heavily by the Japanese government, so it's not just the US government that's concerned).
posted by wildcrdj at 12:24 PM on February 7, 2010


From above article: "The complaints received via our dealers center around when drivers are on a bumpy road or frozen surface," Nolasco said. "The driver steps on the brake and they do not get as full of a braking feel as expected."

Smells like a problem with the antilock sensors or controller. Definitely could be software.
posted by ryanrs at 1:08 PM on February 7, 2010


"The complaints received via our dealers center around when drivers are on a bumpy road or frozen surface," Nolasco said. "The driver steps on the brake and they do not get as full of a braking feel as expected."

That sounds to me almost like there isn't actually a problem, in fact. Maybe the 'issue' is the brakes are working perfectly fine, they just don't feel like they are working perfectly fine.

Early ABS systems used to freak people out - the pedal would suddenly vibrate, or sink towards the floor and the car wouldn't stop as quickly as they expected. Later systems tried to maintain pedal pressure more reliably and, perhaps, people got used to it.

I'd be interested to know how many of the people complaining had never driven an ABS equipped car before. That'd be a really interesting statistic, as bumpy and icy roads are the time that braking would be into prime full ABS mode and the car wouldn't be able to give as much of a braking feel as normal. I wonder if they'd have complained if they'd just skidded?
posted by Brockles at 4:52 PM on February 7, 2010


On the "Shifting into Reverse" front: I once accidentally shifted my sister's Cutlass Ciera into reverse while trying to get into overdrive going 45 or so. It didn't destroy the transmission (surprisingly) but I've never seen a car stop that fast.
posted by dunkadunc at 5:45 PM on February 7, 2010


Conversely, I know a guy that did it and it, shall we say, ejected the transmission out the bottom of the car. Broke nearly all the mounts and cracked the bellhousing and was hanging off and dragging along.

Spectacularly amusing, but hideous thing to do to a rental car just to prove a point...
posted by Brockles at 6:29 PM on February 7, 2010


I think the Ciera might have had some sort of protection mechanism of some sort that puts on the brakes. Still, I can't imagine what it did to the torque converter.
posted by dunkadunc at 6:32 PM on February 7, 2010


Does a normal driver's ed class not cover what to do when there's a stuck gas pedal?

Driving classes [were/are]n't required to get your license in Arkansas. Pass the written test and drive around the block six months later is all I had to do.

I can transfer my license to any state in the Union.

(lucky for me, all of my fellow mechanical engineering classmates are big car and truck buffs, and topics like these come up constantly. Still wouldn't've had a clue about shifting into neutral, though.)
posted by rubah at 8:08 PM on February 7, 2010


Suggesting that people should be made to drive stick before they get a license is like saying no comp sci major should be allowed to program in anything but Pascal.

Well, no; suggesting that people should be made to drive stick before they get a license is like saying no comp sci major should be allowed to graduate without understanding how to program in at least one low-level language. I don't think that's unreasonable, actually.
posted by davejay at 11:45 PM on February 7, 2010


Pass the written test and drive around the block six months later is all I had to do.

Yep. In Chicago, "Driver's Ed" was navigating cars around a small track with our feet off the brakes but NOT on the gas (instant fail if you touched the gas) so that we had put in the requisite number of hours of road time, then one quick real-world two-mile route and done.
posted by davejay at 11:47 PM on February 7, 2010


Suggesting that people should be made to drive stick before they get a license is like saying no comp sci major should be allowed to program in anything but Pascal.

Heh. I'm not really sure how useless a simplifying analogy is when it requires CS knowledge to understand.
posted by smackfu at 5:55 AM on February 8, 2010


Pass the written test and drive around the block six months later is all I had to do.

yep, that's your problem right there. spoke with local sheriff's deputy/school resource officer recently and he confirmed that in Florida, no person over age 18 has to take Driver Ed to get a license - you just have to pass the laws test to get the permit to drive with a licensed adult, and then pass the "road" test, which in Florida is given in a parking lot.

since there is no public transportation here, everybody has to drive. since you must be licensed to drive, and everybody has to drive in order to get to work, school and the grocery store, requirements to getting a driving license cannot be any more onerous than the ability to fog a mirror, and I'm not sure that wouldn't be subject to challenge in some counties.
posted by toodleydoodley at 8:15 AM on February 8, 2010


I've run into people in Europe who thought you didn't have to get a driver's license at all in America.
posted by dunkadunc at 11:08 AM on February 8, 2010


I think a computer analogy is perfect for a car thread.
posted by leviathan3k at 11:30 AM on February 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


« Older In Toulon, France, there stands a memorial for 1,2...  |  B is bacteria and that's good ... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments