Unintended Acceleration… Again

There had been something nagging me for the past few weeks.  I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, but something was turning me into a grumpy old man every time I read or saw something on TV about Toyota’s problems with unintended acceleration in its vehicles.  If I had a cane I would wave it every time a Toyota recall story came on the air.

It started with the floor mats.  Floor mats were implicated in crashes and one could see how that would happen.  A loose floor mat slides over the gas pedal, and a hapless driver is left to try to kick it off the pedal while the car is accelerating.  A tragedy yes, but a design flaw?  Maybe, but it seems like an obvious problem; easily correctable.

Then it was the gas pedal.  Toyota came up with a specific mechanical fix described this way; “a precision-cut steel reinforcement bar will be installed into the accelerator pedal assembly, thereby eliminating the excess friction that has caused pedals to stick in rare instances.”  I don’t know how rare it could be since Transportation Secretary Roy LaHood initially told Toyota owners to park their cars and not drive them until they could be repaired.  OK, well finally, a mechanical solution found to the problem right?

Not so fast – unless you are driving a Toyota, then you may not be able to help yourself!

Now it’s the electronic throttle control.  OK, at this point I’m thinking to myself, “Come on, really?”  Three totally unrelated problems in a few months causing unintended acceleration in a several different Toyota models?  You have to really drink at the sippy cup of the main stream media to not see this as odd.  Did Toyota start hiring laid off GM quality control techs?

This seemed to finally waken Toyota from it’s stupor as well.  After months of bowing and scraping in front of the press and Congressional committees, it started disputing some of the accusations.  Toyota issued a statement rebutting the latest accusations from Professor David Gilbert of Southern Illinois University that he had discovered a design flaw in the vehicle electronic systems that prevents unintended acceleration.  That’s a strategy that usually goes against the public relations grain, so Toyota must either think it’s in dire enough straits to think outside the box or they really think Professor Gilbert is full of shit.  And there is a lot of reason to think Gilbert is full of shit, since as Toyota responds, electronics don’t rewire themselves.

I’m thinking the latter, since Toyota still doesn’t seem to have even a good phony story that there is light at the end of the tunnel, otherwise they would never have admitted this:

“The president of Toyota’s U.S. operations acknowledged to skeptical lawmakers on Tuesday that the company’s recalls of millions of its cars may “not totally” solve the problem of sudden and dangerous acceleration.

“We are vigilant and we continue to look for potential causes,” Toyota’s James Lentz told a congressional panel.”

So in other words, they’re clueless.

That strains credulity.

That almost lends one to think there is some conspiracy afoot.  After this long, could Toyota really not know what is causing unintended acceleration after several recalls?

And then, finally, last week there was this:

Stupid Old People

That did it.

An 80 year old woman, who just had her vehicle repaired under the recall, had a sudden hiccup of “unintended acceleration.”  And then the memories finally flooded back.

It was the 1980’s, the age of Reagan.  Izod shirts were worn with their collars up and everyone was told to “go for it.”

OK actually it was the early 1990’s and the memories that returned were of a book I read, not polo shirts with upturned collars.  The book?  Parliament of Whores, by P.J. O’Rourke.

O’Rourke recounts in his chapter Protectors of a Blameless Citizen: The Bureaucracy, how the National Highways Traffic Safety Administration had been investigating unintended accelerations throughout the 1970’s and 1980’s.

By 1987 six thousand SAI’s [Sudden-Acceleration Incidents] had been reported, and the cars leaving without permission had supposedly caused three thousand accidents, two thousand injuries, and fifty-six deaths.

So surely the NHTSA finally got to the bottom if right?  Yes it did.  The results?

WASHINGTON, March 7 /PRNewswire/ — The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) today announced that an exhaustive, independent study of the “sudden acceleration” phenomenon in cars concluded that pedal misapplications that may be aggravated by vehicle design are the most probable explanation for most reports of sudden acceleration.

That’s right.  “Pedal misapplications.”  A nice euphemism for stupid drivers.

Like now, there was media hysteria during the 1980’s sudden acceleration craze.  60 Minutes even fraudulently rigged the gas pedal of an Audi 5000 to press down, seemingly of its on accord.  In fact, the producers of that venerable news organization set up a device to give the appearance of a gas pedal magically accelerating on its own.

Think the news is above that now?  Ask ABC News.  They rigged a news report on unintended acceleration to show a Toyota Avalon wildly accelerating, even though the doors were open and parking brake was on.

1980’s Knight Rider had better production values.

My conclusion from all this?  Simple.  “Unintended Acceleration” is bullshit.

Usually when I write about my opinions; its opinion supported by facts.  In this case, I freely admit that I don’t have facts to prove that there is no mechanical or electronic reason for unintended acceleration incidents.  I’m basing my opinion, that it is primarily the fault of stupid drivers, not failed automobiles, on both a hunch, and the experience that comes from seeing almost exactly the same thing happen before.  Hysterical news reports and fraudulent reporting, hard to diagnosis mechanics, crying victims in front of Congressional committees, and of course, old people who swear it wasn’t their fault.

And this time we have the added bonus of a government that actually owns a competing auto company.  They get to regulate their competition.  Neat.  If I see Honda start having a batch of mysterious acceleration cases that will really seal the deal.

So I can’t swear that we are being swindled by mass hysteria once again, and if some factual mechanical or electronic reason does show up, I will be happy to change my opinion, but right now, I’m calling shenanigans on unintended acceleration.

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14 thoughts on “Unintended Acceleration… Again

  1. Here ya go again, Mike!

    Like when you innocently post “news” on the Muche in the wrong section when the intent is purely political, you’ve done it here too. On your own blog!

    Why didn’t you just ignore the foreplay and jump right into the climactic:

    “And this time we have the added bonus of a government that actually owns a competing auto company. They get to regulate their competition.”

    Yup! It’s all the government’s fault! Another conspiracy! Trash the foreign competitor to increase home-grown-owned-by-Uncle Sam-automakers market share!

    There’s a few flaws to your latest Obama Conspiracy Theory…

    One: As you cited in your own link, Toyota knew of this problem waaaayyy back in 2007 and failed to notify the NHTSA. Here’s more on the Toyota cover-up:

    http://blogs.findlaw.com/injured/2010/03/toyota-hid-evidence-secret-books-of-knowledge.html

    So I guess if the Obama administration is behind this sordid mess; what role did the Bush administration have in covering it up?**

    Two: Most of these vehicles were built in the U.S. By employed American citizens, paying American taxes, spending American wages to buy American products…thus supporting the American economy.

    Three: Notwithstanding the greed of Americans to jump on the class-action lawsuit train (hah! Isn’t that the Republican equivalent of welfare?) this is a simple design flaw that is real. Much like the one affecting the Chevy Cobalt which is also under investigation by the NHTSA:

    http://www.automotiveworld.com/news/oems-and-markets/80699-us-nhtsa-investigates-chevy-cobalt-for-faulty-steering

    Wait. Doesn’t the government OWN GM??

    **Answer: None. Neither the Obama administration, nor the Bush administration are intrinsically involved in orchestrating the downfall of any car company.

  2. I gotta say.. I never expected Mike to be a conspiracy theorist.. but with this and his last idea that Obama wasn’t supporting Britain because Obama’s dad was Kenyan, so he hated the Brits… He’d make “The Lone Gunmen” proud with his theories

    atleast he isn’t an oather… those freaks scare me..

  3. the blog was great up until

    “My conclusion from all this? Simple. “Unintended Acceleration” is bullshit.”

    that’s when it went nutty.. It was pretty damn awesome up til that point tho..I really thought he had something..

  4. I’m not saying Mike’s wrong about unintended acceleration. I mentioned the “all of a sudden everyone’s Prius is crashing” to jb yesterday. It is obviously a mechanical/electrical/operator issue…but whichever it is doesn’t negate the seriousness of the problem.

    But to accuse the President of involvement in it is crazy enough to make even the conspiracy kooks think they’ve imbibed a little too much of the kool-aid!

    I’m beginning to think Mike and his fellow conspiracy freaks are convinced it’s not MIB who’s “EVIL INCARNATE”, it’s Barack Obama 🙂

  5. OK Listen up you Nutters!

    The idea that you are trying to stir up, that I think the government is involved in a conspiracy to “get” Toyota is:

    a. Not what I said.
    b. Ridiculous on it’s own right.

    So sorry, this really doesn’t have anything to do with either GM or Obama. I would have been remiss if I had not put in that the government is the owner of a competing car company. They certainly have much to gain by Toyota’s troubles, but I would have thought by now that from my years of writing that you would know I don’t believe the government capable of pulling off these sort of conspiracies. The government is no more capable of ginning up phony quality issues with Toyota than it is hiding alien spacecraft, committing the Kennedy assassination, orchestrate 9/11 or run our health care system. That’s mostly a delusion of the left.

    But other than that, it seems Howey is leaning towards my premise: There isn’t a mechanical/electronic issue; it’s an operator issue.

    As I said, nothing that I can prove, but we went through a similar unintended acceleration hysteria 20 years ago that is eerily similar to this one and then? There was no mechanical cause. It was the operators.

  6. Hey! Nutter’s not here! (Although I wish he would comment…funniest guy evah!)

    Mike: I thought I made it clear my opinion of this matter is that it’s a combination of the three variables: mechanical/electrical/human error. In varying degrees. If human error is the major factor, I still don’t think the problem should be negated.

    As far as your Obama reference…try leaving his name out now and then! He truly is not MIB, nor Evil Incarnate (and shame on you for not “getting” that.

    Your absence from the LOST forum would have helped, ya know…:)

  7. wow…..

    you can’t even be honest on your own blog..

    The idea that you are trying to stir up, that I think the government is involved in a conspiracy to “get” Toyota is:

    a. Not what I said.
    b. Ridiculous on it’s own right.

    either that or you don’t know what you said in your blog..

    And this time we have the added bonus of a government that actually owns a competing auto company. They get to regulate their competition. Neat.

    Obama’s car company is out to get Toyota..and the MSM is out to get you..

    paranoia will destroy ya..

  8. Howey, I didn’t bring up Obama, you did. Unlike you guys, he’s not my Alpha and Omega.

    As I said, there may be some sort of actual mechanical issue to this. I sure didn’t doubt it two months ago. But now, with three different diagnosises, It’s looking fishy. This happened before, and when it comes to mass hysteria, we always think those rubes in the past were victims of it, but we are just to sophisticated to fall for it….

    But we are basically the same people and are just as open to mass hysteria as the people during the Salem witch trials. Remember the silicon breast hysteria? Women were cutting out their boob jobs with kitchen knives. The eventual scientific verdict? Perfectly safe…

  9. Mike…Mike…Mike…Now I know why ekg’s so frustrated with you! You have, in every sense of the word, Gone Gordo on us! Can you get any more passive-aggressive??

    In one little statement – “Howey, I didn’t bring up Obama” – You’ve managed to hammer in the simple fact that you jumped feet-first into that crazy pond of bullshit!

    Goddamn! I think even Iceman would be able to understand the *right there in front of our eyes* meaning of the following statement:

    “And this time we have the added bonus of a government that actually owns a competing auto company. They get to regulate their competition. Neat. If I see Honda start having a batch of mysterious acceleration cases that will really seal the deal.”

    If you’re not talking about Obama then who the fuck are you talking about??

    Bush???

    See? This is (and if I’m wrong Kelly can correct me) what has happened to you in the past couple of months that has her head shaking in wonder…in the four years I’ve known you and in the 10+ years Kelly’s known you, never before have you been so intrinsically insipid and dishonest in your commentary!

  10. Howey, I didn’t bring up Obama, you did

    fair enough.. but then who did you mean?

    And this time we have the added bonus of a government that actually owns a competing auto company. They get to regulate their competition. Neat. If I see Honda start having a batch of mysterious acceleration cases that will really seal the deal

    since you’ve mentioned numerous times before about Obama’s car company.. it was pretty much a given that we all, even you, knew who you were talking about..

  11. mass hysteria?

    “tea parties” “Glen Beckers” “truthers” “Oathers” the entire GOP congressional body.. Palin..

    yeah, no… I don’t know what this ‘mass hysteria’ is that you speak of..

  12. OK, Mike. Let me see if I understand. You state:

    I would have been remiss if I had not put in that the government is the owner of a competing car company.

    Would you have also been remiss if you didn’t bring up Republican support for Toyota? Wherein (R) Rep. Joe Barton and (R) Rep. Michael Burgess call the investigation of Toyota a “witch hunt”?

    Why didn’t you bring up the Toyota Senators? Those guys from South Carolina, Kentucky, Georgia, Tennesse, Mississippi, and Texas who fought so hard against the government rescuing GM and Chrysler? Because of the massive donations Toyota made to their campaigns to ensure receiving massive incentives to build plants in their states?

    And are now defending Toyota against the so-called “witch hunt”?

    Once again. Just why did you bring up Obama?

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