Told-you-so dept.: USDOT exonerates Toyota

by Ted Frank on July 13, 2010

WSJ (h/t C.W.):

The U.S. Department of Transportation has analyzed dozens of data recorders from Toyota Motor Corp. vehicles involved in accidents blamed on sudden acceleration and found that at the time of the crashes, throttles were wide open and the brakes were not engaged, people familiar with the findings said.

In other words, driver error, except in the one-in-a-million instances when a gas pedal was trapped by a poorly-installed floor mat. Will plaintiffs’ lawyers who have been conspiracy-theorizing about a non-existent electronic defect withdraw their class actions and product-liability suits, much less apologize? How about AP and the news media? Don’t count on it. Earlier from me and from Walter.

{ 2 trackbacks }

On the new Toyota findings
07.14.10 at 5:46 am
Have Toyota Supporters Embraced NHTSA Unintended Acceleration Report Too Soon?
07.15.10 at 8:05 am


1 Walter Olson 07.13.10 at 5:01 pm

I think I’ve seen versions of “I told you so” on about four other people’s Toyota posts in the past hour or two. We all remember feeling the same beleaguerment back in the spring, when leading media outlets were just refusing to question the panic narrative.

Some on the other side are already seizing on the floor mat obstruction theory to try to keep things going. As you recall, we were the ones who readily acknowledged the freak California runaway case where that apparently happened, while the Litigation Lobby folks kept downplaying floor mat theories because they were useless in trying to explain the great majority of the cases they wanted to sue over.

2 Sara B. 07.13.10 at 10:26 pm

This will be interesting to see what plays out with a guy in the Twin Cities who claimed “sudden acceleration” in his Toyota, a model year or 2 before the recalls currently. I’m sure it was just an accident, but he got time, and now they want to reopen the case claiming the sudden acceleration again, with “proof” from all these other incidents. Like I said, I’m sure it was just an accident, but still wasn’t from accidental “sudden acceleration,” I’ll bet.

3 Jay Markowitz 07.14.10 at 12:46 am

I visit several different news sites. Not one word on this.

Not on CNN
Not on Fox
Not on ABC

You get where I’m going with this. Is there some way to sex this story up so the MSM will run it?

4 Walter Olson 07.14.10 at 6:37 am

I’ve got a post up now at Cato at Liberty on the new numbers.

5 marco73 07.14.10 at 6:42 am

I love the end, the “ageist” and “sexist” quote. My son was just in summer driver’s education class last month with a bunch of 15 and 16 year old, very inexperienced drivers. One of the boys managed to drive a small Ford over a curb and into a park bench. Very minor damage and no injuries. So it must have been the Ford that failed, not the fact that the boy panicked and got the accelerator and the brake mixed up. It would be “ageist” and “sexist” to say otherwise. As I’ve commented before on this site, if the cars are to blame, where are the new stories about the teenaged inexperienced drivers with runaway cars?

6 GregS 07.14.10 at 9:36 am

What’s more likely is that the critics will conclude either (a) there must have been another flaw in the electronics that caused the data recorders to incorrectly record the throttle being open when the brake was applied, or (b) there’s a cover up by the USDOT because they’re in cahoots with Toyota. You see, once a certain type of mind has committed itself to a conclusion, nothing can uncommitt it, and instead it deals with contradicting evidence by coming up with a rationalization to explain away the evidence. The critics “know” that Toyota is guilty, so evidence that points towards their innocence cannot be true and must be discredited, explained away, or ignored.

7 Bob Lipton 07.14.10 at 9:40 am

USA TODAY had a piece on this and they just mentioned in on CNBC.


8 VMS 07.14.10 at 11:31 am

Ted Frank’s crude statistical analysis on this matter when the story first broke was good enough for me.

What bothers me is that the NHTSA had to have had the data from the memory modules in each automobile in hand in a very short time. Why does it take them months to issue a report? [that's a semi rhetorical question] In private industry, a final report would have been forthcoming in a few weeks.

The unanswered question is whether the spacing of the gas and brake pedals in Toyotas is significantly different than in other cars to make them prone to driver mix-up. Probably not (from my experience), but I did not exhaustively check this out.

9 CarLitGuy 07.14.10 at 4:27 pm

the black boxes, if you will, in most manufacturer’s cars require very specialized equipment to download – equipment not typically present at a servicing dealership. Once obtained, the information is dense, and takes a while to decode and appropriately interpret. The skill set needed to do so is quite specialized, and uncommon within the industry. Off the top of my head, the only thing NHTSA has going for it in this investigation is that all of the vehcles involved appear to be closely related in design and model years – its likely that the event data recorders in all of the vehicles they are reviewing capture substantially the same information, from substantially similar sensors, over essentially identical periods of time.

A report on an individual vehicle within a few weeks is generally reasonable. Compiling multiple reports, from multiple vehicles, to look for anything but obvious points of comparison (i.e. Brake Depressed or Throttle Position in the seconds leading up to the event) within the entire data set…. that takes more time. In cases where there was no “event” (such as an accident resulting in an air bage deployment, or a “near deployment” event), no data record would be available at all.

Still, I share your frustration, and eagerly await the “official” NHTSA report, even though I have strong feelings as to its likely conclusions.

10 Rliyen 07.14.10 at 4:54 pm

marco73 ,

You just reminded me of when I was learning to drive over 23 years ago. I was with my mother, in her Toyota Corrolla no less, and was turning onto a side street to get to my home. A car, going a little over the speed limit, was coming down the side street I planned on turning onto and was coming down to a stop at the intersection.

I don’t know if it was the sudden appearance or the speed. I was in no danger of being hit or hitting her, but I panicked. I oversteered to the right, jumping the curb and sideswiped a stop sign. The sign marred the paint job of the passenger’s side and I think jumping the curb popped the right front tire.

I felt terrible at the accident and I knew it was my fault. Never in a million years would I have blamed the car for that error. Nevertheless, my mother forgave me and still let me use the car for driving practice.

I just hope when my son’s old enough, that he won’t have to go through the same thing. =o)

11 JoseyWales 07.19.10 at 11:40 am

I would agree they are in cahoots but I think their data is correct.

I experienced the floor mat problem, however, the problem is that the mat creeps under the brake – not over the gas pedal. The lack of braking makes you think at first that you have a stuck accelerator. The natural reaction is to step on the accelerator which only makes the problem worse.

I was able to figure out that it was the lack of braking caused by a mat creeping underneath the brake pedal, was able to put the car (a 2005 Prius) into neutral, then work the floor mat out from under the brake.

I allowed by Prius to be recalled, however, they did not solve this problem. In fact, after a call to their corporate service people I discovered they don’t even recognize it as a problem.

A complaint to the NTHSA two months ago has been left unresolved. In fact, after I complained via email to the NTHSA that it had ignored my complaint, they promptly closed my file.

Personally, I think the NTHSA is as bad if not worse than the MMS.

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