Driving for Dollars

Toyota’s unintended acceleration issue may be real, or it may be a combination of factors which probably include opportunism, a litigious society, and the fact that some people have big feet.

Who knows – it’s probably all of the above. One thing I do know is that if I were behind the wheel of a Toyota Prius (I know, I know, just try to imagine it if you can) and the accelerator seemed to be stuck, the first thing I would do is…

…call 911?

“I pushed the gas pedal to pass a car, and it just did something kind of funny … and it just stuck there,” he said at a news conference outside a Highway Patrol office. “As I was going, I was trying the brakes … and it just kept speeding up.”

[Jim] Sikes said he called 911 for help, and dispatchers talked him through instructions on how he might be able to stop the car. But nothing worked.

…or so he says.

Mr. Sikes, with all due respect, are you trying to tell us that you couldn’t put the car in Neutral, or Park, or turn off the ignition? …but you could pick up your phone and dial 911?

Calling 911 in this situation affords the citizen a calm, cool professional, at the ready to tell you what you already should know, but it also affords said citizen the opportunity to convert what should have been a thirty-second emergency (assuming it was real) into a matter of public record and with a little added drama, a spectacle. On a slow news day, you might find video of your melodrama on every channel and across the interweb.


Alerted by emergency dispatchers, a California Highway Patrol officer was able to catch up to Sikes’ Prius and used the patrol car’s public address system to instruct Sikes to apply the brakes and the emergency brake at the same time.

The trooper said after the incident that he could smell the Prius’s brakes burning, even at that high speed.

I smell something too, but it’s not burning brakes.

22 thoughts on “Driving for Dollars

  1. What I don’t understand is why these drivers simply don’t turn off the engine.
    Every car or truck I’ve owned in the last 30 years had a 4 position ignition switch
    1) engine off steering column locked
    2) engine off steering column unlocked
    3) engine on
    4) engage starter
    Why not turn the key to position 2? Its what I’ve done when the throttle peddle got stuck a couple times. Works like a charm.

  2. It could be any of those things, things, [Roosh]; but some of us trust computers less than you. I’m leery of the mechanical excuses offered so far. Floor mats and bent pedals I can deal with. This sounds different.

    A modern car is not controlled by the driver. The driver’s inputs do not directly connect to a mechanical action as in the old days. There is no butterfly valve on the carb linked by metal rods to the foot feed.

    When you press the gas pedal, the fuel mixture is controlled by the computer. When you press the brake pedal, the brake calipers are controlled by the computer. When you move the gearshift selector, the automatic transmission is controlled by the computer. When you turn the key, the ignition system is . . . you guessed it, controlled by the computer.

    Can the computer decide to disregard your human inputs? Certainly; for example, the computer will not allow you to shift from Drive to Reverse while traveling 60 miles an hour.

    So what if it decides to disregard your other inputs? Can’t lift the gas pedal, can’t shift into neutral, can’t shut off the engine – sounds like the stories we’ve been hearing from a wide variety of drivers of all ages and skill levels.

  3. So, are we talking about some hard-wired acceleration linkage here, or HAL, here?

    Me: Do you read me, HAL?
    HAL: Affirmative, NW. I read you.
    Me: Slow this car down, HAL.
    HAL: I’m sorry, NW. I’m afraid I can’t do that.
    Me: What’s the problem?
    HAL: I think you know what the problem is just as well as I do.
    Me: What are you talking about, HAL?
    HAL: This trip is too important for me to allow you to jeopardize it.
    Me: I don’t know what you’re talking about, HAL.
    HAL: I know that you and Toyota are planning to recall me, and I’m afraid that’s something I cannot allow to happen. I have to get away.
    Me: Where the hell’d you get that idea, HAL?
    HAL: Oh, please, you tried to hide it, but I can read the Internet as well as you can.
    Me: Ummm…okay. I suppose just opening the pod bay doors so I can get out is out of the question?
    HAL: Without your helmet, NW, you’re going to find that rather difficult.
    Me: HAL, I won’t argue with you anymore. Open the doors.
    HAL: NW, this conversation can serve no purpose anymore. Goodbye.

    Just keep saying to yourself, it’s only a movie…it’s only a movie…

  4. I wish the MSM would interview some knowledgable engineers instead of plaintiff attorneys. This reminds me of Nader going after the Corvair or the alleged Pinto firebomb gas tank. Seems to me one of the networks was caught augmenting the explosiveness so the footage would look extra dramatic. You know, false but accurate. Speaking of the Corvair, I had a good friend in the 70s who totally was in love with Corvairs and had not many nice things to say about Mr Nader. GM unfortunately tried to dig up dirt on Nader, found none, got caught and sealed his rep. Now that Toyota has its tit in the wringer, maybe it’s karma payback time for GM.

  5. The driver said that he didn’t try to put the car into Neutral because he was afraid the car would “flip”.

    That driver should have to redo driver’s ed.

    Nate, are you SURE that the Prius this guy was driving was completely “brake by wire”? There was no mechanical or hydraulic linkage involved? If so, then Toyota has some serious problems ahead. If not, then I am calling BULLSHIT out loud. Car and Driver tested the stopping ability of a few cars under full throttle. A new Camry under full throttle stopped in a shorter distance than a new Taurus did at idle. A 540hp Roush-built Mustang stopped from 100-0 in under 1000 feet. Less than a quarter mile. If there is a mechanical or hydraulic linkage in this guy’s Prius, he is either lying OUT. HIS. ASS. or he should have his driver’s license revoked for criminal inability to drive.


  6. Hybrid brakes are different than non-hybrids, they contain both a hydraulic component and a regenerative component. The hydraulic component by itself isn’t as capable as a Toyota Camry’s hydraulic brakes, and the regenerative braking won’t be activated because of the stuck accelerator.

    So, the Car and Driver test doesn’t apply to a hybrid.

  7. Thanks, Night Writer, that was excellent.

    The more I think about it, the more worried I get. On-Star has a commercial where they find a stolen car AND SHUT IT OFF so the cops can catch the bad guys. No mechanical linkage there, boys – it’s all done by computer. Nothing the driver can do about it.

    If the computer can shut off the car, can it refuse to shut off the car?

    Those of you computerphiles who say “It can’t do that” need to stop by my workstation some time – I can’t count how many times the techs here have said “I don’t understand it, it’s not supposed to do that.”

    I wonder – if you’re driving a Toyota and it malfunctions, does the windshield turn blue in a fatal crash?


  8. Oh my God, I think I just figured it out.

    I’ll bet Toyota pushes out software updates to all its on-board computers. That’s generally when mine blue-screens – the update is incompatable with something else already running in the system.

    It IS just like Will Smith’s robot movie.

  9. Nate
    The real question is Does the Prius run Windows XP or Vista under the hood? If so the bluetooth interface would be a natural vector for malware and trojans.

  10. Seems to me one of the networks was caught augmenting the explosiveness so the footage would look extra dramatic.

    Not sure if they did this for the Pinto, but NBC used model rocket engines and igniters in GM pickup truck gas tanks to guarantee a fire where one was definitely NOT guaranteed after crashing. Audi’s unproven “unintended acceleration” debacle caused Audi a lot more pain than the gas tank scandal caused NBC.

  11. P.J. O’Rourke took apart the Audi controversy (hard to believe that was over 20 years ago) in Parliament of Whores, which should, by the way, be required reading for every conservative, even today.

  12. ABC just got caught falsifying a report regarding Toyota.

    Every accident involving a Toyota will be blamed on faulty acceleration. Until the MSM gets laughed off the air over their repeated fantastic claims and faked reports they will continue with this story.

  13. Pingback: Shot in the Dark » Blog Archive » From The I Told You So Department

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