Consumer Freedom

You Might Die in Your Toyota. It Happens.

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this one wasn't recalled

A great post from Robert Wright at the New York Times about why the disproportionate attention paid to Toyota recalls is worrisome and innumerate:

if you drive one of the Toyotas recalled for acceleration problems and don't bother to comply with the recall, your chances of being involved in a fatal accident over the next two years because of the unfixed problem are a bit worse than one in a million—2.8 in a million, to be more exact. Meanwhile, your chances of being killed in a car accident during the next two years just by virtue of being an American are one in 5,244.

So driving one of these suspect Toyotas raises your chances of dying in a car crash over the next two years from .01907 percent (that's 19 one-thousandths of 1 percent, when rounded off) to .01935 percent (also 19 one-thousandths of one percent). I can live with those odds….

But it worries me that this Toyota thing worries us so much. We live in a world where responding irrationally to risk (say, the risk of a terrorist attack) can lead us to make mistakes (say, invading Iraq). So the Toyota story is a kind of test of our terrorism-fighting capacity—our ability to keep our wits about us when things seem spooky.

Passing the test depends on lots of things. It depends on politicians resisting the temptation to score cheap points via the exploitation of irrational fear. It depends on journalists doing the same. And it depends on Americans in general keeping cool, notwithstanding the likely failure of many politicians and journalists to do their part.

If you're curious about how he did the math, go here and scroll down. If you want to see a bunch of commenters miss the point, keep scrolling on that same page.

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  1. It’s all about pumping up GM and Crystler market share. And nothing else.

    1. And here’s a market share none of the US makers might want to capture.

      Try THIS in a Prius!

      1. Easily done, with an electric.

        1. Excellent point, and might I add +1!

          .. I was imagining shaving cream all over the place… not to mention the space availability in a Thunderbird vs Prius.

      2. WHAT. THE. FUCK.

        Wait wait wait she was driving with her EX-husband on the way to her boyfriend’s place. And she asks her ex-husband top take the wheel so she can get ready for sex with her boyfriend. WHUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU

  2. Past performance does not guarantee future results.

    But it’s a damned good indicator of the likelihood of future results…

    Toyota’s stellar reputation is taking a bit of a beating now. This, too, shall pass.

  3. I am confused about something. There was some guy whose Pius went berserk and took him on a 90 mph ride down an LA freeway. He called 9-11 and the cops came out to stop his car. I am missing something or couldn’t have this idiot just thrown his car into neutral or shut the damned thing off? Are people really this stupid?

    1. Me, too. Someone was telling me that the Prius has some kind of electric gearshift that makes this a more complicated problem. I don’t know if this is true, I’ll have to look it up.

    2. Yes, you’re missing something.

      At least some of the affected vehicles are ‘drive by wire’. The ignition, transmission, and accelerator in a Prius, AFAIK, have no actual direct connection to anything. So you could hit the big power button, take your foot off the gas, or throw it in neutral and the computer is free to say ‘Sorry Dave, I can’t let you do that’.

      This was obvious with one of the first cases in San Diego where a cop and his family(IIRC) were killed when he couldn’t stop his Toyota. A cop of all people would, or should, have had the smarts to try the obvious.

      I thought the same thing you did until a former Toyota salesman corrected me.

      1. That is fucked up. How do you not have an emergency kill switch? I get the “fly by wire” concept. But every machine has to have a manual override to shut the thing off in an emergency. If the Pius’s didn’t have that, Toyota deserves to get its ass sued off.

        1. Exactly. One of the things I’ve heard discussed is mandating that the brakes be powerful enough to override the engine. Well DUH! They should also consider a physical fuel line cutoff, although with a hybrid vehicle is that even enough?

        2. Every large dangerous machine that is not on wheels needs a kill switch which physically disengages something key to it’s motion (like power to the motor, fuel, ignition). Seems like cars that are drive by wire should have something similar (though I guess you need to make sure it does not affect braking too much, though braking with no booster is probably better than braking against the engine going full throttle).

      2. A cop of all people would, or should, have had the smarts to try the obvious.

        Teh funny, dude.

        1. you beat me to it, has to be the first (and hopefully last) time that line has been uttered on H&R

      3. Umm, you’re wrong. This video shows a 2008 Prius in highway conditions at high speeds when the brake and acceleration are applied at the same time, and also when it is put into neutral. Works just like you would expect.

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hMwXvoGhH0k

    3. They should do it like computers…press and hold the power button for 5 seconds and it shuts everything off.

      1. Thats how the Prius works, have to hold the button in for 3 seconds. If it lets you.

        The reporting on the incident has been awful, with reporters leaving out key things, like the fact that apparently he tried shifting into neutral and it wouldnt let him, until he got down to about 50 and then it did.

        Is that accurate or was he freaking out and screwed it up? I dont know, but switching into neutral ought to be freakin easy.

        1. There’s evidence that people are successfully shifting into neutral, but the car engine revs to redline, causing the driver to panic and think that things just got worse, so they’ll pop it back into gear again.

          I don’t know of any evidence that has found that the fly-by-wire system has had any catastrophic failures.

          1. I do know at least one person managed to switch to neutral/drive/neutral/drive all the way to the dealership and left the car sitting in neutral redlining so the dealership could see it wasnt misapplication of the gas pedal. Or floormats.

            If you let off the gas the accelerator should fucking stop. PERIOD. if you shift to neutral, the car should stop fucking redlining if you arent touching the breaks. EXTRA PERIOD. Drivers should not be expected to figure out the magic combo to fix it on the fly.

        2. I used to drive a Prius that a company I used to work for kept around for miscellaneous pick-up and delivery.

          Great car. I tried shutting it off one time while driving to see what would happen and guess what? It shut off. I don’t know if this was supposed to happen but it worked for me. Also, there is a brake button that can be used to slow you down without tapping on the brakes. Handy near speed traps.

          1. Oh, and I think the guy just panicked. Not many people prepare for any kind of emergency. 911, Katrina, Haiti, Indonesia. So many disasters and people don’t bother to even keep a bug out bag or water. Why would they think to prepare for something like this?

    4. I always think “why don’t they just push in the clutch pedal and brake like you always do when you want to stop”. Then I remember that, for some reason that escapes me, most people drive cars with automatic transmissions.

      1. In this guy’s defense, he does live in LA. Driving a manual in constant traffic is no fun.

    5. According to the story I saw, both the 911 operator and the cop who eventually helped him stop advised him to put it in neutral, but he refused because he thought it would flip the car over, which is a silly fear of course. Putting it in park or reverse could do that, but not neutral.

      1. Putting it in park or reverse could do that, but not neutral.

        I almost responded to this. I reset my sarcasm detector and can now go back to my regularly scheduled drinking.

  4. It depends on politicians resisting the temptation to score cheap points via the exploitation of irrational fear.

    Well, in that case, we’ll be fine.

  5. Shouldn’t that read “In your Toyota you might die. Happens it does.”

  6. Or you could die in Ess Eff:

    If Muslims Gay-Bash In San Francisco, Do They Make a Sound?

    A week ago, news began to break in San Francisco about a targeted gay-bashing crime that allegedly occurred on February 26.

    Three cousins from Hayward have been charged in San Francisco with a hate crime and assault for allegedly firing a BB rifle at the face of a man they believed was gay, an attack the men videotaped, authorities said Wednesday.

    Investigators believe the assailants chose the victim because he appeared to be gay. When the men were pulled over, police found a video camera that was used to film the shooting, investigators said.

    Clearly, of course, this had to be a Christian right-wing, tea party, anti-government, bigoted homophobe from the South. Right?

    Wrong.

    The three men, Shafiq Hashemi, 21, Sayed Bassam, 21, and Mohammad Habibzada, 24, the driver, were arrested.

    According to [police spokesman Officer Samson] Chan, they allegedly admitted to the crime.

    “The suspects did make a confession, basically stating that they came to San Francisco to target gay people,” he said.

    But what is strange about the media reports is that the identity group, nor the motives, of these three “urban youths” is never mentioned in any news accounts. San Francisco Chronicle get it right? No dice. How about the local TV stations? Get real. The Associated Press?

    Ha!

    Imagine, if you will, that the BB gun attackers had been white. Or from Utah. Or from Texas. Or Laramie, Wyoming. What kind of wild adjectives would have been applied? We can only surmise. Editorializing against mainstream Americans who are now out-of-favor by the media (whites, Catholics, evangelicals, Mormons, conservatives) happens everyday on America’s front pages and network news programs. But when it comes to Arab/Muslim attackers ? all silence is golden for the American media.

    http://bigjournalism.com/bcarr…..more-33958

    1. Yes, we know that not only Christians can be stupid homophobes.

      1. The story is about media coverage, not that some Muslims are homophobes too.

  7. Only tangentially related – Some news about the Terri Schiavo of the auto industry

    Toyota will take a hit on this all out of proportion to the screwup that this tempest in a teapot is.

    OTOH, since Toyota Quality? has been overrated for at least a decade, they shouldn’t be surprised nor should they complain.

    1. (DOWNTEMPO) I love what you do for me…

      Toyota

    2. the Terri Schiavo of the auto industry

      Oh, that’s brutal. I LOVE it.

  8. “your chances of being involved in a fatal accident over the next two years because of the unfixed problem are a bit worse than one in a million?2.8 in a million, to be more exact.”

    Unless you WANT to die in a Toyota, that should read, “your chances of being involved in a fatal accident over the next two years because of the unfixed problem are a bit BETTER than one in a million?2.8 in a million, to be more exact.”

    1. No, it’s worse. If it were 1 in 10, that would be worse, no?

    2. “Your odds of dying are 1 in 5.”
      “I want better odds.”
      “Okay, 1 in 3.”
      “That’s not better!”
      “RL thinks so.”

  9. I still am not clear on the actual “event” we’re dealing with. Does the thing just not decelerate as expected when the driver lifts his foot off the throttle? Or is the little man in the box (a blood relative of the little man who lives in your refrigerator, and turns the lights on and off) moving the throttle to WFO while maniacally cackling?

    Can’t we send Bugs Bunny to deal with these gremlins?

    1. Whatever you do, never, ever smell your own Prius farts after midnight.

      This is like the opposite of that shitty M. Night Shamaylan movie where nature fought back. It’s like Mother Earth is punishing those who will not feed her the yummy carbon.

  10. Normally your chances of dying in an auto accident are at least partially tied to your decisions as the driver. If you get drunk or fall asleep and become a statistic, well, that’s your own damn fault. Sure, a lot of folks die at the hands of other drivers, but at least you still had the opportunity to exercise some control through awareness and heightened reflexes, and possibly save your life.

    The folks dying in at least some of these cases appeared to have no way out. The vehicle stopped responding to their wishes, and that, to me, makes all the difference in the world.

    That Robert Wright didn’t understand this distinction speaks poorly on his reasoning skills.

    1. Do an experiment to enlighten yourself on automobile realities.

      Pick a safe straight road at 3 AM. With your right foot, floor the gas pedal telling your car to go as fast as it can. Simultaneously with your left foot, press as hard as you can on the brake pedal, telling your car to stop.

      Assuming that your brakes are operable, your car be it a Prius, Camry, ’71 Ford Mustang Shelby Cobra GT, whatever will, hold on to your hats boys and girls, decelerate and stop. Not as fast as if there was no accelration command, but operating brakes have more stopping power than the engine has go power.

      We went throught this whole thing with, IIRC, Audis a couple of decades ago.

      1. Well thanks for that scientific analysis. Unfortunately I’m going to go with the news reports that said:

        Sikes said he could smell the brakes burning as he applied pressure with both feet to try and slow down the car. Standing on the pedal with both feet, did not even help.

        Reference here.

        1. I gotta call BS on that one. Or the brakes on his Prius were shot already due to poor maintenance. In normal operating condition, brakes are gonna stop the car, even at full acceleration.

          1. someone should make a law to ensure this!

        2. You might prefer Car and Driver’s tests on the subject (Surprisingly, the BMW did not win…): Results

          A few things to add: while a modern car’s brakes are sufficient to decelerate it to a stop, even with WOT, I’m not sure the brakes have enough power to do it twice or three times. E.g: car goes into WOT, driver panics, stomps on brakes, slows car, thinks the crisis is over and lets off the brakes, car races again, will the brakes be faded or can the car stop?

          Second, with computer controlled ignition and on-board data logging, couldn’t Toyota had pinned down whether any actual faults were occurring before now?

      2. Yes, we did. And the idiocy then was an strong as now.
        That being said, I do wonder about the drive-by-wire system in the Prius. Surely they’re not dumb enough to make a brake system that won’t react when the computer goes screwy. If they actually did that, then the engineers deserve a thousand dope slaps.
        After ten seconds of googling, it appears that the Prius brakes do have a conventional system in addition to the regenerative one.
        So, again, we’re back to people who can’t tell one pedal from another.

      3. Or not. The guy who was driving the Prius in LA this week said on camera that he tried pulling the gas pedal UP with his right foot as he braked with his left, and that he braked continuously, actually wearing through his brakes until he heard the screech of metal grinding against metal. And he still wasn’t stopping.

        Have to disagree with the NYT here. A free-market-friendly solution to this is that affected parties sue the cute green ass off Toy Yoda, provided they can prove (and as I understand it, they can) that there was a critical point–a smoking-gun memo–showing that the company decided they could save a few bucks on the acceleration and live with the possibility that a few of their products might randomly turn into lethal, shimmery, climate-controlled torpedoes.

        Then Toy Yoda expensive lesson learn will, that cheaping out on accelerator design good is not. Unfortunately, the regulatory, non-free-market friendly solution attempt our government will.

        1. I don’t think you have any knowledge of, or experience with, building and desiging things. There are always tradeoffs between cost, performance, and safety in any design, and you have to balance them.

          You could propose building a car where every passenger has a zero-zero ejection seat from a fighter plane, connected to the airbag sensors. There would then be a memo saying that based on their statistical analysis, this would save 9 lives over 10 years, at a cost of $2m per vehicle. When the manufacturer decides that is not worth it (not enough people would buy such a car), then years later someone dies who could have been saved with ejection seats, people will scream TOYOTA KNEW ABOUT THIS DANGER AND DID NOTHING JUST TO SAVE MONEY! There would be congressional hearings, interviews with weeping relatives, and demands for justice.

          Practically, car companies look at every part, make analyses as to likely failure points, and try to address those points taking into account potential risks versus the cost in money and performance. The same is done when a bridge is built, or a toaster is manufactured.

          Someone did a statistical analysis that more people will likely die driving to their Toyota dealer to get this recall fix implemented than would have died leaving their cars as is.

  11. From a public health standpoint, this is not good:

    “About 16 percent of Americans between the ages of 14 and 49 are infected with genital herpes,” Reuters reports:

    Black women had the highest rate of infection at 48 percent and women were nearly twice likely as men to be infected, according to an analysis by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

    http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSN0923528620100309

  12. Driving tests should be given in a 77 Dodge Van with a 3 on the tree, manual steering/brakes and a 2 barrel Holley that has been hit with a hammer a couple too many times- should solve most of these problems.

  13. What if everyone flushed at once?

    http://www.patspapers.com/blog…..ckey_game/

  14. Sikes said he could smell the brakes burning as he applied pressure with both feet to try and slow down the car. Standing on the pedal with both feet, did not even help.

    What I smell is fish; is this Sikes guy a personal injury lawyer?

    1. Standing on the pedal with both feet, did not even help.

      Because pressing it even harder against the floormat will totally make something happen.

      1. In a mechanical system, it should.

  15. If you want to see a bunch of commenters miss the point, keep scrolling on that same page.

    Nah. I get all I need of that right here, thanks.

  16. It’s pretty much impossible to anticipate all the bugs in a complex computer program.

    I gotta call BS on that one.

  17. Good story as far as it goes, but can’t more of you people get killed or at least maimed? Old guy finally manages to stop his runaway Prius. Big deal. We want decapitations, people! Dead babies. Explosions!

    1. That’s what the airbags are for.

  18. I call for background checks on every accelerator complainer. This shit has UAW written all over it.

    1. As Bradley Smith aptly notes in the City Journal, I could probably get this information thanks to full disclosure laws.

  19. Consider this:

    A Prius is a front-wheel drive vehicle, no? So now power whatsoever is being applied to the rear wheels in this situation. Driver stands on the brakes and the rear wheels begin to chatter as the ABS cycles the fluid pressure. Well, after a few seconds there’s no fluid left! (This assumes the driver keeps pressure on the brakes. If he lifts his foot momentarily the line will refill.)

    This seems a plausible situation why full-on brakes might not be 100% effective.

    … Hobbit

    1. … crap, “no power” ..

      … preview, repeat

      … BH

      1. Nah, that’s not it. Somewhere at Toyota there is an evil programmer who believes that any idiot who would own a Prius, needs to be driven into a wall at a high rate of speed.

  20. How was I supposed to know that that Britney Spears video I downloaded had a virus?

  21. ohhhhhhhhhhhh….. TOY YODA!!

    i get it HAHAHAHAHAHAAAAA

  22. Wanna talk about spinning out of control Toyota is Dropping the ball in a huge way.
    Another very public runaway car related to the pedal recall http://www.carpedalrecall.com check if your car is affected
    but then recalling all Tundra trucks from 2000 – 2003 so many they don’t even release a number of affected vehicles .
    I Can’t see it getting any better for them any time soon , just worse …

  23. Wanna talk about spinning out of control Toyota is Dropping the ball in a huge way.
    Another very public runaway car related to the pedal recall carpedalrecall.com check if your car is affected
    but then recalling all Tundra trucks from 2000 – 2003 so many they don’t even release a number of affected vehicles .
    I Can’t see it getting any better for them any time soon , just worse …

  24. This thread is probably dead but Jalopnik raises questions about our Prius driver:

    http://jalopnik.com/5491101/di…..celeration

  25. Rich coming from the same paper that scared thousands of geriatrics into having risky surgery to replace defibrillators with a 1 in 10 million failure rate.

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