Toyota Gets Accelerator Recall Right
When news first surfaced that Toyota was planning to shrink the accelerator pedals in many 2007-2010 Toyotas, we cried foul. While making the gas pedals smaller would likely help avoid a scenario where the accelerator would get stuck under the driver’s floormat, the fact is cutting down the pedal is only a half-measure – the only way to cure the problem is to reprogram the computer so that it includes a brake-to-idle failsafe.
For those who don’t know, “brake-to-idle failsafe” is a computer control that cancels accelerator inputs while the brakes are being depressed. Therefore, with brake-to-idle failsafe it’s impossible for a stuck accelerator to cause an accident, because one touch of the brakes tells the engine computer to ignore the gas pedal. It’s a simple and idiot-proof countermeasure the will overcome any stuck accelerator, and all it requires is a programming updated to a vehicles ECU (engine control unit).
When Toyota officially announced their plans to re-size accelerator pedals on many newer Toyota’s today, they also announced that they would be re-programing the Camry, Avalon, ES350, IS250, and IS350 to include the brake-idle failsafe system.
This is great news for Toyota owners and a great example of Toyota doing the right thing. Good work, Toyota!
Some of you may be wondering about the vehicles that won’t receive the brake-to-idle failsafe programming, but the fact is the Tundra, Tacoma, and Prius simply aren’t that likely to suffer from a stuck accelerator because of a jammed floormat.
The Tacoma and the Tundra have a lot of clearance between the gas pedal and the mats, and the new accelerator pedals that Toyota will install are going to enhance that clearance. It’s still possible to get jammed up, but much less likely. The Prius also has a fair amount of clearance, and unlike all the other vehicles mentioned, the Prius really is not powerful enough to overpower it’s own braking system.
All in all, this is a smart response by Toyota. Reshaping the gas pedal is a prudent idea that will likely eliminate most problems, and adding the brake-to-idle failsafe system to the Camry, ES350, IS250 and IS350, and Avalon will cover a LOT of people. Adding brake-to-idle failsafe to all the vehicles would have been the best move, but it was probably very expensive and mostly unnecessary. It also would have made it much harder for Tundra owners to do wicked smokey burnouts (video).
So, let’s recap this issue from beginning to end:
1. A group of 4 die in a Lexus that was speeding out of control in August, 2009. Investigations show that the Lexus crashed as a result of an accelerator that was stuck under a floormat that didn’t belong in the vehicle.
2. The Lexus crash highlights a large volume of unintended acceleration complaints directed at Toyota.
3. Toyota, in an effort to diffuse the situation, announces a floor mat recall. They say that they will be coming up with a more permanent solution later.
4. The vast majority of Americans hear about the floor mat recall and ask “Why didn’t the people in the Lexus shut off the engine or put the car in neutral?”
5. Toyota really starts to hear it from un-informed media, amplifying consumer fears and hurting Toyota’s image.
6. Toyota leaks plans to shrink and re-shape gas pedals as their final solution. We suggest Toyota fixes the problem by adding brake-to-idle failsafe systems to the effected vehicles.
7. A week after leaking their recall plans, Toyota makes the recall official. Unlike the leaked plans, the official plans include adding a brake-to-idle failsafe system in many of the vehicles that are effected.
It’s not a text-book example of handling bad publicity, but in the end Toyota got it just about right.