How To Deal With Unintended Acceleration in Toyota Vehicles

Toyota Car

Sudden and unexpected acceleration in a car can be scary and life threatening. Unintended acceleration in Toyota vehicles has resulted in at least 89 deaths to date. In 2014, Toyota Motor North America settled a lawsuit for over $1 billion related to charges of unintended acceleration in its vehicles. Around 19 million car owners were impacted, involving cars from 1998 to 2010 in the U.S, across the Toyota, Lexus, and Scion lineup.

In the initial 2010 class action suit, the acceleration problem was blamed on the electronic throttle control system. Others noted that loose floor mats, thick floor mats, or a stuck gas pedal caused the acceleration. Third party investigators, including ones from NASA, were unable to blame the electronic throttle control system on the unintended acceleration. Investigators blamed driver error or floor mat entrapment. Still, the Bookout/Schwarz Trial in 2013 blamed software bugs in the electronic throttle for a fatal 2007 crash involving a Toyota Camry.

Financial compensation was provided by Toyota to owners of affected vehicles. Also, brake override systems were installed on vehicles as a solution for the acceleration issue.

You may wonder why Toyota settled even if its cars were not mechanically at fault. Toyota’s attorney explained that Toyota wanted to maintain good will and a positive atmosphere with its employees, administrators, and customers.

Preventing Unintended Acceleration in Your Toyota

Carnegie-Mellon produced a case study on the Toyota unintended acceleration lawsuit. Drivers can note multiple details to ensure safer driving:

  • Using proper floor mats is important. When the pedal becomes entrapped from using the wrong floor mats, using the brake does not necessarily prevent the car from exceeding 100 mph with the entrapped pedal.
  • Driver error is another factor. Pumping the gas pedal in lieu of the brake can cause an unavoidable crash. This is believed to be the case when the panicked driver applied the wrong pedal.

The Carnegie-Mellon study goes on to debate the possibility of inadequate component testing by Toyota and possible issues with the technical design, technical coding, and the application of the electronic throttle system in its vehicles. The possibility of undiscovered bugs, less than 100% reliability of component operation, and coding errors could have contributed to the unintended acceleration incidents of the Toyota vehicles.

Additional Studies

The US Department of Transportation investigation concluded that “pedal misapplication” was the main cause of the accidents. This means, using the accelerator by mistake, instead of the brake.

In the DOT investigation, there was no connection made that using the brake could cause acceleration to increase. Also, in low speed incidents, the brake could still bring the car to a stop even if the car was trying to accelerate quickly. The DOT did make an important note that the best way to stop a car at high speed was to use strong, continuous braking. Any other method, such as pumping the brakes or partially applying the brakes, would be less effective. The DOT noted that terminating acceleration was possible by shifting the transmission to neutral, park, or reverse. This is because on Toyotas, all three modes put a moving car into neutral.

On pedal placement, the DOT did not note that the placement of the accelerator and brake pedals promoted misapplication by drivers.

The DOT’s analysis includes opinions from NASA. As previously noted, NASA did not find any connection between the electronic throttle control system and unintended acceleration. The system could not disable braking, nor could it cause sudden acceleration. NASA even subjected cars to electromagnetic interference. Even then, sudden acceleration was not a result of their tests on Toyota vehicles.

Toyota Unintended Acceleration Fix

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* Toyota Car image credit goes to: Daria Kulkova.