Toyota Gets Accelerator Recall Right

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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.

Toyota's official recall includes new gas pedals for all and brake-to-idle failsafe upgrade for some.

Toyota's official recall includes new gas pedals for all and brake-to-idle failsafe upgrade for some.

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.

Filed Under: Auto NewsTundra NewsTundra Recalls

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  1. mk says:

    no thanks on either with my tundra. A smaller gas pedal means less feel to the pedal with heavier boots or even with shoes and a big no to the failsafe programming mod since I like to have the ‘wicked smokey burnouts’ just in case I need the power to whip on someone who thinks they can whip me.

    I think this whole floor mats/gas pedal/failsafe mod is a joke and the public made one instance the dealer was at fault with that lexus having wrong floor mats in the car that helped cause the accident.

  2. Mickey says:

    Like MK stated about the dealer I agree. The pedal if it’s what shown above is okay by me. I know where I have to hit that pedal to make it go when needed. If this is to pacify the few who don’t know what to do then so be it. I’m on Toyota’s side to at least clear this so called wanna be issue. Let’s be pro-active vice re-active and put that computer adjustment in all Toyota vehicles. Leave no stone unturned. Then nothing can comeback to bite Toyota in the rear.

  3. […] is what Toyota's doing about it. Some will get computer modifications. Toyota Gets Accelerator Recall Right | Tundra Headquarters __________________ MIDNIGHT RIDER CREWMAX LIMITED AVS Bug Shield AFE CAI Stage II Borla Pro XS […]

  4. BOBBY says:

    I agree, I love doing wicked burnouts in my dad’s truck. It would suck if I couldn’t! Especially against my buds moms Honda. I’m with you guys, have you guys tried the new Call of Duty, its sick!

  5. Anonymous says:

    What if the accelerator input is not from the gas pedal but from the throttle as is suspected in the article below?? If it is the throttle, and not the accelerator that is the issue, then the ECU reprogramming won’t matter since it only effects accelerator input.

    Experts point to throttles, not floor mats, in Toyota incidents.

  6. Anonymous – I changed your comment so that it linked to article instead of quoting it. That’s my preference so that the comments stay short. The article raises some interesting questions, yet no one has ever proven that Toyota’s electronic system is to blame. Could there be an electronic problem? Perhaps. Whatever it is, the L.A. Times points out correctly that 1) this “problem” involves a tiny percentage of Toyota’s vehicles and 2) most of the unintended acceleration claims are false. I think that the article is less about Toyota’s electronics, and more about our society’s distrust for all things electronic. However, good point and good comment.

  7. Justin says:

    People can try to disregard this issue, but that’s just being short sighted. A 5 times increase in the number of reported sudden acceleration complaints for the Lexus ES and Camry’s since 2002, is an issue. A 20 times increase in the number of reported sudden acceleration complaints for the 2005+ Tacoma, is an issue. I agree, some of the accidents were driver error, we have way too many idiots on the road these days that barely know how to turn on their car. But it’s not all the driver.
    Compare this Toyota issue to the Ford CC recall, which problems started arising in 1999. 13 people have died from a Ford CC switch fire. They’ve had eight recalls over a 10-year period, for a total of 16 million Ford vehicles with defective cruise control switches. Now 19 have deaths have been attributed to this sudden acceleration issue since 2002, from many less models and many less vehicles sold ina much shorter 7 year period. Sure there has been much greater property damage with the CC switch, but to me, life is much more important than property. Now don’t get me wrong, these are both very bad issues that need resolved. But simply had to put the loss of life into perspective compared to another recall that many people always want to talk bad about.

  8. Mickey says:

    I can see your point Justin….. My problem is where’s neutral when I need it. Alot is panic mode.

  9. Justin says:

    Mickey: Oh, I agree! I’d be throwing it in neutral, applying the brake and E-brake, trying to turn the ignition off. Not simply panic and let the vehicle take me down the road. The DMV needs to modify their tests to include emergency and avoidance tests. Like “what do you do if your car speeds out of control?” Simple things that could make a huge difference.

  10. Mickey says:

    I’m far from being the best driver Justin but being able to have control under pressure is another. I take point in example when I hit the 6 pt buck on I-77 and went from 70 down to 35 upon impact coming from around a curve, and staying in my lane even though I was the only one on the road I didn’t try to go around with a good possibility losing control and over the cliff to grandma’s house we fly. I seen where to many try and swerve around either died or severely damaging the vehicle along with themselves avoiding the deer. I thought I was clear but the buck turned around and came back. My wife of course was hysterical and 911 wouldn’t believe me when I told her everyone is okay. The tow truck driver that responded had to reply also. I just got out and looked at my front end and was disgusted from the hit and the radiator busted and leaking. You have to plan ahead for the worst or at least keep the thought in mind for anything to happen.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Three cheers for Mickey! Ready hip hip, who cares! Did you pedal stick? No. So where is the resemblance?

  12. Mickey says:

    Anonymous again you show you dragged butt. The resemblence is doing the right thing under pressure Jack! Something you apparently know nothing about. Losing control. Ready hip, hip, who cares. As far as the pedal sticking I never had the issue in both vehicles. Now add that to your count. Now go back and read it again and maybe some intelligence might just show up. Doubt it when you’re as bright as a 40 watt bulb.

  13. Justin – Very good point. I think that *something* is going on. Unlike the L.A. Times, I’m not ready to declare Toyota’s system faulty. While the reported incidence of unintended acceleration is higher than normal, MIT engineers tested the system and had a hard time finding how it was failing. Again, I’m not saying there isn’t an issue, but I’m wondering if there aren’t some other factors at play here. Toyota has the oldest average customer, for instance. NHTSA could have changed their reporting procedure. Publicity surrounding this issue could have encouraged Toyota owners to report problems while owners of other manufacturer’s vehicles did nothing. Etc.
    Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to brush this off. It’s just hard to point the finger at the system when there’s no evidence of a problem aside from a higher number of claims. It’s a tricky situation. If I could have anything, I would like to see an independent lab test a handful of these vehicles to see if they could replicate the error. Once that’s been done and a problem has been found, I’ll be the first one to call for a fix. Until then, I have a hard time saying the system is flawed. Frankly, it’s tough to believe that this issue isn’t 95% driver error.
    As for the Ford cruise control fires, I think Ford definitely could have handled it better. The initial evidence was circumstantial, much like Toyota’s potential throttle issue. However, NHTSA found the problem quickly enough during one of their first investigations back in 1992. Ford continued to use the parts after the 1992 recall, and I’m not sure why. I’m sure it’s a fine example of what can go wrong when there’s poor communication in a big corporation and penny-pinching in the engineering department.

  14. Jeff P says:

    Trying to get people to change their oil is hard enough so do you really think that they will get the recall done. They are too busy to do the simple stuff that could be catastrophic. Ford’s recalled the same list of vehicles in the late 90’s – 2000. I bet its those people complaining about their vehicles that did not get it fixed the first time. The same thing will happen with Toyota. The owners will say it works fine so why mess with it. So why point the finger at another company? Yes there is a problem, will the people get it fixed? Could be as simple as water shorting out a computer but they will probably not be able to tell after the accident due to the rescuers. Mickey the point you hit a deer I’m sorry but I do not see the resemblance. I have hit 4 so I must be a pro right. I have yet to hit a deer and need a tow truck. Its called damage mitigation. Don’t square up on it and no sudden sharp steering wheel movement. Think of it as if it was a 1000lb + moose, hitting it squared will more than likely put it in the vehicle with you. If you have to hit it try to clip it and spin it. There’s my fathering speak of the day. I would almost bet it is a water intrusion issue with a connector or the computer is causing this throttle issue. Having MIT engineers investigate it isn’t the answer. They designed it with this flaw and didn’t see it the first time so why would they see it the second or third. Have you ever worked with a engineer? Talk about trying your patience, give it to a couple top notch mechanics and they will find it. I’m going to go and pressure wash my engine now. Good day.

  15. Mickey says:

    Must be a slow day for some. The point is not to swerve away from the deer and end up going over the side. The buck was traveling from the median to the outside lane. All 3 deers were in the outside lane when the buck decided to turn to the inside lane and leaped where I hit him when he was coming down to his feet. I stayed in my lane period. The thing I did wrong was hit the brakes thus putting the front end down where the deer missed the bumper but found the radiator. Knowing to stay in the lane vice swerving keeping control of the situation vice not knowing to put a vehicle in neutral when it takes off. Called keeping your senses under pressure. So what you’re saying is Toyota shouldn’t use the resident expert (engineers) and use just a general doctor sort of speak (Top Mechanics). Basically a handyman to fix the job instead of a plumber. Now we know why you are a pro at hitting deer.

  16. Jeff P – That’s just it – no mechanic, no Toyota engineer, or anyone working for NHTSA has ever managed to replicate the issue. It’s NEVER happened during any of the 6 investigations. The best MIT could do was get it to malfunction when it was exposed to a strong magnetic field, but that’s a condition that can’t be replicated in the real world. It’s a strange situation.

  17. Kat says:

    This happened to us. We were passing a car and the thing just gassed it.
    My husband tried the brakes, nothing!!.. we were coming up on a turn going 65 mph …he put it in netural…and tired to turn the turn..we skidded off into a ditch….thank God it stopped. The first thing my husband said was: “I think the rug rode up onto the peddle”
    We knew nothing about the recalls.
    At that time we had just bought a new 2007 Tundra.

    We have never gotten a recall slip…I’m scared to death to drive it now.

  18. Kat – Glad everyone is OK. I think the new floormats, reshaped pedals, and (depending on the model) the brake-idle failsafe “smart throttle” enhancement will all help to prevent this type of thing from happening. In the meantime, you can pull out your driver’s floor mat or zip-tie it into place to prevent this from happening.

  19. chris says:

    I love all the collective denial posted above, I love my Tundra too and it’s apparently a no brainer to shift to neutral and turn the car off in case of a problem except I also know a 92 year old woman who just had a smash-up in her corolla because the electronic throttle control floored the car and she didn’t have time to do anything but hit the car in front of her and a pedestrian……

    Feb. 12 (Bloomberg) — Former regulators hired by Toyota Motor Corp. helped end at least four U.S. investigations of unintended acceleration by company vehicles in the last decade, warding off possible recalls, court and government records show.

  20. Jason says:

    Chris – You’re saying a 92 year old woman couldn’t respond in time, and therefore the car is at fault? Any chance that the woman had no business driving a car in the first place? (That’s my vote.)

  21. Larry says:

    I have a 2006 Toyota Tacoma pickup with the larger cab. I have noticed premature rusting on the frame, something I have never experience with any of my vehicles new or used. You would think, with the technology that exists out there, the Toyota organization would use it to and prevent this from happening.

    Are their any Toyota secret warranties out there to deal with this problem? I would think the easy and most cost effective way, would be to spray a rust preventing compound on the affected areas, as oppose to replacing an entire frame. And the cost of spraying, the areas picked up by Toyota


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