Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Toyota Owners...

I am sick and tired of waking up in the morning, and seeing on the front page at FoxNews.com, another "runaway" Toyota driver saved by a third party. This morning, it was a CHiPs officer "saving" a runaway Prius.

I would like to make a suggestion. Now, this may seem like common sense; mostly BECAUSE IT IS!!!

I want you to remember this, and repetition is the best way for your "training" to take hold, so maybe practice it while driving. Are you ready?


Yes, it really is that simple. If the engine is racing; whatever the cause*, if you turn the engine off, it won't be able to race.

Any questions?

*The one exception is a runaway diesel. A runaway diesel has an external source of fuel, and cannot be turned off by shutting off the ignition.


Nick Rowe said...

Yes, we have a society which is not properly prepared to respond to emergencies in a calm manner. A racing engine on a city street will likely result in a crash. But on the highway you're more likely to have time to avoid a crash.

Shifting into neutral is an easy way to stop this too. Wouldn't this be better since your power steering and brakes will still be operating?

Aside from the brakes and steering being tougher, would turning off the ignition lock the steering wheel or is that only while in park?

In Germany one must attend an extensive driving school before getting a license. Maybe we give licenses far too easily.

I'm interested in reading more about this runaway Prius. The cop adds credibility but something about it stinks. I called 911 once on a California road to report a reckless driver and it took a long time for the State Police to respond. How can the cop tell a racing engine from a foot on the accelerator? In this malfunction will the car accelerate to maximum or just to a certain speed?

Having worked for an insurance company, I've seen fraud many times. But I've also seen defective cars the company would not admit fault for. So I am skeptical of both sides.

Auto Tech Pundit said...

There are a lot of new vehicles that don't even lock the steering wheel, any more. Those that do require the shift lever to be in Park before they will allow the steering to lock or remove the key.

Unless there is a total failure of the engine management system, there is a rev limiter built in. The rev limit is always lower if the transmission is in Park or Neutral. Try it yourself,fire up your car, and mash the gas pedal down (manual transmission vehicles may react differently), and watch as the rev's go up to 3,000 or 4,000 and stay there.

With the exception of very high performance vehicles (Corvette, Mustang GT500, etc.), new cars have a vehicle speed limiter; directly related to the speed rating of the tires installed at the factory. My Magnum R/T is computer limited to 130 MPH, even though the vehicle is completely capable much faster. The factory tires are rated to 130.

This country definitely gives away driver licenses too easily. I've often commented that our society deems driving as more of a right (it's not, it's a privilege) than owning a firearm for self protection; which is right there in the Bill of Rights.

Nick Rowe said...

Thanks for the info. My steering wheel does lock with the key out of the ignition but not while it's still inside. A Prius doesn't have a traditional key, of course. It does have an off button.

What would happen if you shifted into Park or Reverse while driving at highway speeds?

Would the rev limiter on a Prius be in the 90 mph range though in fourth gear? Possibly, but I've seen them pass me at those speeds on the highway.

From the news I'm hearing it's becoming more likely that my skepticism about this incident is well-founded. Inspectors determined that the wear pattern on this guy's brakes is not consistent with his story of full braking at 90 mph. He also has a history of attention seeking and shady dealings and bankruptcy.This is likely another publicity stunt like the Balloon Boy. The 911 dispatcher repeatedly told him to shift into neutral and he refused.

A reporter from the Washington Post discovered that out of 24 runaway Toyota incidents, more than half the drivers were over 60. Apparently Toyota discriminates against old people.

On my previous blog post about Priuses I wrote about how the braking distance caught me by surprise the first time I stopped in traffic, and I nearly rear-ended another car. I suspect the regenerative braking is designed too well to recapture braking energy and not well enough to actually stop the car. I think the laws of physics might apply here - conservation of energy (work). Brakes can either stop the car, recharge the battery, or do either job less well in combination. It's like having your engine turn an alternator and air conditioning compressor in addition to driving the power train- it bleeds off some energy. But stopping is a bit more important than the loss of locomotive efficiency due to an AC unit.

I'm sure Toyota and car testers have checked Prius stopping distance. I'm sure it probably passed the standard. Maybe the feel of it provides some deceptive feedback to the driver.

I still think it's a brake, fraud, and stupidity problem on the Prius. I'm still leaning toward electronics on the accelerator although I accept your floormat explanation as plausible. The plausibility, though, could be part of the corporate cover up. They're not going to use an implausible excuse and I know from my old Saturn and current Nissan that the computers do have problems. I had to re-teach the Nissan to idle.

Like I said, I saw a bunch of Priuses in the body shop with front end damage when I last got my car repaired.

Auto Tech Pundit said...

Nick, one of the interesting "facts" about owners of Prius's (Priui?), is that the majority do not consider the actual implications of "going green" when making their purchase. A large majority purchase them because of the "statement" it makes about them.

I have never driven a Prius, so I can't speak to the braking system on them. I have driven all of Ford's Hybrids, and I cannot remember the brakes "feeling" any different; aside from they feel "grabby" while moving them inside the shop.

When ABS first became commercially viable, and people had to re-learn how to stop, there were many instances of accidents, where the driver said that the brakes had failed, when the had not. I remember Police Officers being in a large majority of those that crashed because the brakes didn't work properly. There was an education process that took several years to complete; to retrain American drivers how to stop when ABS was active. I'm curious if we have a new education process taking place with the hybrid's regenerative braking system...

Nick Rowe said...

Yes, I'm not sure what the plural of Prius is. Prii?

I agree with you completely about the "green statement" of ownership, but it is a very nice automobile. It has some things I don't like, but so does every car I've ever driven.

My Saturn had ABS and it was disconcerting the first few times you felt it "slipping" on loose ground. I got used to it.

I do believe that the Prius is safe vis a vis braking. The braking distance might be longer than average but still "adequate." This requires, as you say, some driver experience and education. I have no doubt the brakes will stop a Prius in an emergency.

I'll have to try the Ford hybrid and see if the regen braking is similar. One thing barely mentioned in the media is that GM had a recall on the same day as Toyota.

When the Glock pistols came out, cops were shooting themselves because they weren't used to a weapon which didn't have an external safety. Overcoming long-ingrained habits is difficult.

Thanks for the education. Please stay on top of all things auto for us.

retronomics said...

There should be no problem slowing down a car, no matter what the engine is doing. Recently Car and Driver did a test and found that braking distances were only slightly longer when the engine was running at full steam. Brakes are so much stronger than engines.

That shouldn't be a surprise, considering that you can generate 1.0g under braking, but only 0.3 under acceleration with an average car. The problem is that so many people are weenies who can't even push down the brake pedal more than halfway. I realized this a couple of years ago when I got hit sideways by an oncoming driver who had so much time to brake that she could've put in a commercial before impact.

Nick Rowe said...

That's interesting: brakes are more powerful than the engine.

Having driven my car with the parking brake on, it's obvious the hand brake isn't as strong as the brake pedal. That makes the name "emergency brake" a misnomer. Butpeople do use the parking brake for drifting.

On the other hand, we've all seen on television and movies where someone burns rubber at a dead stop meaning the brakes are indeed stronger than the engine - at least the front brakes which handle 70% of braking.

Good God, people are relying on technology to solve their stupidity. My experience with all sorts of devices is that nothing is "fool proof" because fools find ways to get around every safety measure. And these measures make most of us complacent about safety. There has to be a happy medium between safety devices and keeping operators alert and smart.

Do we look forward to the day when all cars ride along magnetic rails, move safely and efficiently at the highest possible speed, and takes us where we want to go by voice command with driving? I think the dead motorcyclist who just got creamed near my house would want that. But would he get to ride his skate in such a world? Do we want to give up control to an autopilot?