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A lot of talk about Toyota and stuck wide open throttles. That is a very scary thing to think about. Peopled killed here. I don't know whats going on. Floor mats were blamed by Toyota but the news says that's not always the case. The throttle by wire computer controlled throttle worries me a bit. Soft ware being what it is, a mechanical connection is less prone to pull wide open imho.

So I took my Highlander for a drive and turned the key off to see what would happen. Just bliped it so the steering wheel wouldn't lock up. Hmm, motor didn't restart and lost power steering and brakes. Not a good idea. Next test I shifted into neutral. Easy to do on the Highlander as its a simple inline shift. I maintained control, just like backing off the accelerator pedal. So I'm set to go if the throttle goes nutso. Think I will do it a couple of times more so it becomes reflexive. Hit the brakes and shift.

The LS460 is more complex. I assume if you hold the start button down the motor dies and won't restart. This car is to big and heavy and I'm not going there. The designers instead of using a inline shift pattern use a Zig-Zag pattern. Cute but I hate it. I haven't tried shifting to neutral from drive or reverse yet but will get to it.

My question is can you overshoot neutral and end up in reverse? That sounds expensive. The complicated pattern in an emergency might put you there if you push the shift hard right. If you push straight ahead it should hit neutral I think.

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A lot of talk about Toyota and stuck wide open throttles. That is a very scary thing to think about.

This is a major issue. I found the article below and forwarded it to all my friends and family. Please spread it around:

Safety of cars' keyless entry and ignition systems questioned

The technology is popular but quirky and there is no universal standard. Its problems are potentially serious.

By Ralph Vartabedian and Ken Bensinger

January 24, 2010

The sleek Infiniti G37 Cindy Marsh bought last August was the car of her dreams, equipped with the latest keyless electronics technology that allows her to start the engine with the touch of a button.

But right away, the system gave her trouble. To get the engine started, she would sometimes have to tap the power button repeatedly. Sometimes it wouldn't start unless she opened and closed the car doors, Marsh recalled.

She eventually adapted to the system's quirks but said that even now she isn't sure how to shut off the engine in an emergency.

"I don't know if I ever read it in the owners manual or not," said Marsh, who lives in Columbus, Ohio.

Old-school car keys appear headed for extinction, as automakers rush to install wireless systems that allow drivers to unlock their doors and start their engines with an electronic fob that they never have to take out of their purse or pocket.

Introduced less than a decade ago on luxury models, the push-button systems are rapidly spreading to all segments of the market, including bargain-priced Kias. The number of models with them as standard or optional equipment has quadrupled in the last five years.

Many drivers don't fully understand how the systems work, however, leaving them vulnerable to potentially serious safety problems.

In complaints to federal regulators, motorists have reported that they were unable to shut down engines during highway emergencies, including sudden acceleration events. In other cases, parked vehicles accidentally rolled away and engines were left running for hours without their owners realizing it.

And although traditional keys all work the same way and are universally understood by consumers, automakers have adopted different procedures for using the keyless ignition systems. As a result, owners may not know how to operate their own cars in an emergency, let alone a rented or borrowed car.

"Where you have a second to make an emergency maneuver, you shouldn't have to search around for the right procedure to use on a switch," said Henry Jasny, general counsel at Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, a nonprofit group based in Washington, D.C., that pushes for laws to make roads safer.

Standards weighed

The risk is considered serious enough that federal regulators and an auto industry trade group are looking at adopting standard procedures.

All of the systems rely on a similar architecture that uses a fob: a small transmitter that communicates with the vehicle's computer. The fob can automatically open door locks when the owner approaches the vehicle, and then the engine can be started with just the push of a power button on the dashboard.

But to shut down the engine while the vehicle is moving, drivers must hold down the power button for one to three full seconds, depending on the make. In some cases, two or three successive taps on the button will work. Mercedes-Benz allows drivers to kill the engine with a single push of the power button, but only if the transmission is in neutral. At least one manufacturer prevents emergency engine shutdowns if the vehicle is moving at less than 5 mph.

Industry officials say that the devices have become wildly popular with buyers and that glitches will be eliminated through the normal course of technological improvements, making new regulations unnecessary.

"We really haven't seen too much confusion with these systems," said Dave Proefke, a vehicle security engineer at General Motors Co.

"As they become more widely adopted, I think we'll find that they converge in how they operate," he said.

Besides offering convenience for motorists, Proefke said, the technology gives auto designers greater styling freedom because there's no longer the need for a key cylinder in the steering column. It also benefits older people who have difficulty removing keys from their pockets or turning a key in a lock.

And "it has that cool factor," said Dan Edmunds, director of vehicle testing at www.edmunds.com, an Internet automobile research site.

Auto safety experts say the industry needs to do a better job explaining the functions of advanced technology to motorists and needs to adopt common operating procedures.

Automakers are offering the systems on 155 models this year, compared with 41 in the 2006 model year, according to Edmunds.com. Ford Motor is planning to make keyless ignition an option in its entry-level 2011 Fiesta, due out later this year.

Freeway panic

But some owners say that confusing software rules have put them in peril.

Wally Brithinee was in his 2007 Toyota Avalon last August when it began to speed out of control on Interstate 5 near San Diego. Thinking quickly, Brithinee, president of an electric motor repair business in Colton, pressed the sedan's power button, but nothing happened.

"This car isn't stopping," he told a passenger as he felt panic swelling in his chest. "I really didn't know what to do at that point."

Five terrifying miles later, Brithinee managed to halt the runaway Avalon by braking hard and shifting to a lower gear. He walked away unharmed. All that could have been avoided, he later learned, had he depressed the button for a full three seconds, the emergency shut-off procedure used in Toyota Motor Corp. vehicles.

A keyless ignition system may also have played a role in the Aug. 29 crash that took the life of California Highway Patrol Officer Mark Saylor and three members of his family when a Lexus ES 350 lent to Saylor by a car dealer accelerated out of control to speeds of more than 120 mph before hitting an embankment in suburban San Diego County.

Some safety experts believe that a warning label should be included on the dashboard, telling motorists how to shut off the engine. But industry analysts say manufacturers typically resist installing such labels.

What's more, automakers maintain that shutting off the engine may not be the best option in an emergency, because doing so will cause the driver to lose power steering and possibly braking ability.

Toyota has blamed the San Diego accident on a floor mat that trapped the accelerator pedal. But a September memorandum by investigators for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration also identified the Lexus' push-button ignition as one of the "significant factors" in the crash and noted that "there was no ignition key" that could shut down the engine or warning label on the power button to explain how to shut off the engine.

In the aftermath of the Saylor tragedy, Toyota issued a recall covering 4.3 million of its vehicles and said it would modify gas pedals, change floor padding and install new software.

Toyota spokesman John Hanson said the company is also discussing internally whether to change the function of its power button.

And Thursday, Toyota launched another recall targeting 2.3 million vehicles, including many of the models subject to the floor-mat recall, saying their gas pedals could stick.

Paul Green, a human factors expert at the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute, said he sees the issue with keyless technology as part of a growing problem of high-tech features being introduced faster than the industry is able to agree on common operating procedures.

"The amount of research we are doing is not adequate," Green said.

Motorists are confused even when they pay top dollar for advanced features. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found in a recent survey that a majority of owners of Infinitis equipped with automatic lane departure warning systems did not know that a button on the steering wheel turned the system on and off.

"They had no idea that they had a button on the steering wheel that could activate the system," said Russ Rader, a spokesman for the institute.

The highway safety administration said in a statement that it has begun to look into possible standards for the keyless systems. And the Society of Automotive Engineers formed a committee in July to examine keyless technology and "study a possible standard on how long the ignition button should be depressed to shut off the engine."

But new federal safety rules or industry standards typically can take years to adopt. The scrutiny is coming eight years after the first system was introduced by Mercedes-Benz.

Abetting thefts

Beyond safety problems, the push-button technology has some idiosyncrasies that have left motorists stranded but also provided loopholes for car thieves.

In early General Motors vehicles with push-button start systems, owners would sometimes shut down the engines with the transmission still in gear.

That would not electronically lock the ignition system, and thieves soon found they could simply get in the vehicle, push the start button and drive away, said Forrest Folck, a forensic mechanic in San Diego who investigated the issue for an insurance company.

"Cars were being stolen all over the United States," he said.

Larry Stewart, a former Times sportswriter, discovered an opposite problem with the technology in his 2007 Toyota Camry.

After he parked at a Granada Hills restaurant last summer, the car would not start. The tow truck driver who came to Stewart's rescue wasn't surprised, telling Stewart he had been there several times recently for the same reason.

The driver blamed the problem on stray radio signals, possibly from a powerful police or fire station transmitter nearby. He towed the car 100 yards, and it started immediately.

"It's really unnerving that such a thing could happen," said Stewart, who lives in Arcadia.

Even GM engineers found themselves in the same situation when they parked test vehicles at a Detroit-area shopping mall and found that the keyless ignition system was disabled, according to Proefke, the GM expert.

"It was a dead zone," he said.

Proefke said the problem was traced to interference from a nearby nightclub's lighting system, which was broadcasting unlicensed high-power radio signals.


No single standard applies: Automakers have adopted different procedures for turning off engines in an emergency for cars with keyless ignitions.


Corvette, Cadillac XLR: Push power button once.

Cadillac SRX, Buick LaCrosse: Push and hold button for two seconds or tap button twice.


(includes Ford Taurus and Lincoln CCC)

Push and hold power button for one second.


(includes Toyota Avalon and most Lexus models)

Push and hold power button for three seconds.


(includes Dodge Challenger and Chrysler 300)

Push and hold button for three seconds when speed is greater than 5 mph.


(includes Acura RL and TL)

Push and hold button for three seconds or tap button three times.


(includes Genesis and Veracruz)

Push and hold power button for three seconds or tap button three times.


(includes Nissan Altima and Infiniti G37)

Push and hold button for two seconds or tap button three times.


(includes X6 and 7-series)

Push and hold power button for two seconds or tap button three times.


(most models)

Shift car into neutral and press button once.

Copyright © 2010, The Los Angeles Times

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The zigzag pattern (called a gated shifter) is no easier to overshoot neutral in than an inline shifter. I much prefer the gated shifter, to me its much more precise and harder to overshoot the gears.

I don't believe the car will shift into reverse at speed...

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This problem happens to people who are not educated about how their car works.

If turning the ignition OFF does not work, then simply move the gear into "Neutral". If you put it into "Reverse", the car would just simply go in "Neutral", especially on the newer computer controlled transmissions. Moving the shifter controls a series of switches that tells the computer what gear to be in. It's not mechanical anymore... I've taken the shifter units out of cars (both the Rx300 and Rx400h) and trust me, no mechanical wires going to the transmission! It's all electric.

This whole runaway car thing is rediculous. Blaming an insecurely fastened car mat for your not knowing how to move your car in neutral and applying the brake and "emergency brake" is stupid. If you dropped your handbag and it got caught on the gas pedal and you didn't know how to turn your car off, are you gonna blame the bag company??

Read your manuals people :D

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Yeah I agree. The argument that push-button ignition systems are dangerous is meaningless also if everyone just takes a moment to figure out how to turn their particular car off in the event of an emergency.

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I'm a bit confused. No mention of the LS460 in the recall. Also no definitive statement of what is causing the runaway problem. Every thing from floor mats to soft ware has been mentioned yet Toyota is still looking for the answer. What is so diferent between the Camray and Lexus basic software? I have no idea.

Seems to me the basic fix should be software that takes over if the brake and gas pedal or depressed at the same time. If this happens the brake take charge and the throttle is shut off. Easy to do on a computer controlled system. Even if this is not the problem it should be incorporated. I wonder if any other mfg use this system?

So far Toyota had recalled 2.3 million cars and shut down 57% of their line. In the past 10 years or so Toyota has had 2274 complaints of runaway with 275 wrecks and 18 fatalities,

Is Toyota the new GM?

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This recall has nothing to do with software. The issue is with a specific accelerator unit manufactured by a specific manufacturer. Cars that do not have that unit are unaffected.

THink about the number of cars Toyota has sold in 10 years and compare that figure...

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As noted the recall has nothing to do with software- but it should! The whole mess would not of become an emergency however if the brake software cut off the throttle, just like it does for the cruise control.. Measure the RPM,and return it to idle when the brake pedal or emergency brake is activated.

Typical bureaucratic response to a problem. First blame the floor mats. Very unlikely the mat could rise up and force the petal to full open as the claim was for the San Diego fatalities. Car crashed at over 100 mph. Hard to believe a person would freeze at the wheel and not shift to neutral but it happened. I'm an Engineer and we are supposed to be trained in the "what if" scenario Redundancy on critical items is a must and its dirt cheap to do with software.. Engineering bosses are usually Liberal art guys however and I have been over ridden many times. Learned on my first job, right out of school, document every bad decisions as protection because you will become the scape goat. Saved my rear more then once.. Sure made a lot of bosses mad however which was not good for a career. As a side note Ford hired an Engineer as top dog, first time in Detroit this has been done in a long, long time. Ford is doing very well thank you. By the way the President of Germany has a degree in Physics. And we have a Lawyer along with most of our Congress.. Who's in better shape?

Now the claim is an American supplier is at fault. Maybe, but I assume they were building to Toyota prints. On the other hand parts made in Japan have no problem it's claimed.. Both our cars, a Highlander and Lexus 460 were made in Japan. The Highlander was a special order.. No problems at all. Never been back to a really rotten dealer.

No question in my mind that anything made in the US is problematic. Just read on the news that linear accelerators used for cancer treatment were programed wrong and burnt a lot of people who died a horrible slow death. Our schools no longer teach much related to manufacturing or QC. Working with your hands is considered demeaning by a lot of folks and now most of our Engineers are foreign born .

The Engineering pay by Detroit is the bottom of the pile for Engineers according to pay surveys. Not good.

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I think Toyota is handling this situation very well. They have moved very quickly to get the issue out there and try to determine what the problem really is - necessary if a fix is to be found. From what I have read to date it is unclear if the problem lies with the design of the part(s) or QC in their manufacture. In any case the first priority is to get the information out there that Toyota is acting decisively on this issue. This is going to cost them a bundle and not at a good time in the economy. In the long run I believe they will maintain their well earned reputation for quality and putting the customer first. Just my opinion.

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I poked around on Google last night. Amazing the stuff you can find about the runaway problem. Business Week probably had the best article on it. 3 class action lawsuits have been filed with more coming. One of the lawyers claims There is no safety item tying the brake pedal to the throttle."Unlike other automakers such as Mercedes, Volkswagen and Nissan there is no override feature in Toyota's car that idles the engine when the driver steps on the brake."

Google - W.Va. Class action suit Toyota Absence of fail safe.

It turns out this has been a continuing problem for several years. NITSA , our governments Automotive watch dog, was not doing it's job under the George W. Bush administration. His Chief of Staff was an ex lobbyist for the auto industry and NITSA backed off the investigation.

What really gets me is the info giving out on what to do if throttle sticks.. The long article posted here saying press the start button foe 3 sec etc. WRONG !!! Think about the LS 460, in 3 Seconds you could be doing 80 -100 MPH . Then you have almost no brakes or power steering boost with a dead engine..

The fix is to hit the brakes and shift into neutral. Toyota is stonewalling here because they might have to replace some engines. Cheaper an engine then a life.

Governments and Bureaucrats react the same. I remember the Ford/Firestone Explorer mess with each company blaming the other. Turns out the tires were bad and the Explorer was prone to rolling over. Ford ignition locks were prone to setting the car on fire while parked. Total denial and stalling.

CTS, a very old and respected American company makes the pedal controller.assembly for Toyota . About 20% of production. The rest are made by Denso and Hella. Same prints and spects. Shouldn't make a bit of difference on what model as the philosophy of design puts all models at risk imho. Total recall of all cars that don't have a fail safe provision is a must..

I sure would not have bought my wife a Lexus 460 if I had known there was no fail safe. She's not to happy right now.

Interesting thought on reaction here. A lot more hits on the cost of an oil change vs the potential of a car killing you. Darwinism at work.

I have no idea what I'm talking about so I'm not responsible for any conclusions or remedies I suggest. This is a disclaimer. I have enough problems in life already.

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The article makes it sound like such a failsafe is the industry norm, but its not. A few manufacturers have such a failsafe...but not all hardly...

I'm interested to see what happens but I'm not afraid. My car can't kill be because I'm smart enough to be able to put it into neutral should the issue occur...

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As a design Engineer trained to think" what if" I can come up with several scenarios which I would not want to be in. One is S. Calif traffic. At 70 MPH there is typically less then 1-1.5 car lengths between cars. So worse case situation is the LS460 goes to full throttle with out notice. Now you might have time to slam on the brakes and shift to neutral before rear ending the car in front. I'm not sure I'm fast enough to do this and I'm sure my wife isn't.

Car phones, day dreaming, sight seeing distractions etc. Humans cannot stay totally focused for a long period of time say a 1 hour commute. Murphy lives and he bites at the most unfortunate time. I think I will time our 460 to see how fast it can close a 1 car length distance at 30, 45, 60, 65 and 70 MPH. with a friends help. Typical reflex time if you are watching for a typical situation like this is probably about .5 -.75 seconds for Geezers. A youth maybe .35 seconds. The after you recognize the situation you half to react by hitting the brakes and shifting which eats another .3-1.5 seconds. Now if you are steering with your right hand which is a typical driving style add more time as you grab the wheel with your left which is holding a cell phone so you can shift without loosing control when the brakes are applied. See where this is going?

The death penalty is a bit severe for daydream etc. while driving and just remember this person may take you with them.

I Googled to see which cars have fail safe. The claim was GM, Chrysler and Euro cars do. Ask friends to test their cars, that would be a very interesting survey. I mentioned NITSA whoops, sp error, I think it's NHTSA pronounced NITSA.

Why did Toyota not use a fail safe? I can surmise a bean counter at work over ruled an Engineer. Remember the Pinto? It turned out in Court that the actuaries figured out the cost of paying off the dead persons surveyors vs the money saved by the cheap design. Same at Toyota? There is a good chance that there are patents on the fail safe and Toyota did not want to pay royalties and figured it was cheaper to let people die. Somewhere there is an Engineer at work who has the paperwork to prove" I told you so". In my other post I stated that I learned very fast to document my work if I was overridden. I got some very interesting tales on this and when it got time to get fired it wasn't me.

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All those scenarios are well and good, but there are a lot of assumptions there. First, you're assuming that the issue is indeed with the DBW system. Second, you're assuming that the throttle will just takeoff as opposed to becoming stuck in an open position when you are accelerating which makes more sense to me.

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The problem isn't with the pedal itself "sticking", it's with the computer and components after that point. The pedal will be "released" when you let go, but the computer and components outside the cabin act differently. That's the problem with an electronic system. It's not mechanical anymore.

My guess as to why Toyota didn't include an override (causing the engine to idle if the gas and brake are depressed at the same time) is because of people who ride their brakes. A LOT of people do it (using two feet, one for the brake and one for the gas) and they are often pressing both pedals at the same time. If Toyota included this override, every other 10 feet the engine would be cutting out. I know a lot of the older folks do this, don't really know why.

It's the only reason i can think of...

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I only know what I read , mainly on the net, which sometimes has more opinions then fact. According to one accident report a Tundra truck throttle went from idle to full throttle resulting in a rear end accident with a BMW. The driver of the Tundra claims he had complained to the dealer about erratic throttle response before the accident and got no help. True? I have no idea. The motor in the Tundra uses a v8 similar to the Lexus Ithink.

Latest news on the net claims Toyota has been working on the throttle fix since Aug when a high profile CHP officer crashed and was killed along with several others. It took a high profile person to die before the press made a major story out of the problem.

Latest rumor is Toyota has developed a" Smart" pedal fix. I assume,( there's that word again)that this ties the brake and throttle together. I don't believe that the floor mats caused high speed crashes or corrosion caused by moisture or wear on the CTS sensor was the only problem.

The only fix that will satisfy me is the brake override on the throttle. I plan to sell the Highlander next year and hate to think what this mess has done to resale value. We kept out last LS400 about 15 years . This was a better car imho, with better rear visibility etc. I assume the LS400 also did not have the fail safe throttle but ignorance is bliss. Now I have something to worry about.

The court of public opinion is an awful thing to face and Toyota has a major problem. The major car rental agencies have pulled Toyota's from their fleets. Smart move,if one crashed guess who also gets sued? The no fail safe throttle is a claim on every civil class action and private law suit.This is a slam dunk in front of a jury and must be addressed on used cars sold and new cars. Toyota has stated their cars in 2011 or 20012 will have the fail safe feature..

Honda and others is staring down the barrel of a shot gun as they do not have a fail safe throttle either. I made a statement that GM has a fail safe but another source says they do not. It might be fun to pretend I'm a new car buyer and test various manufactures cars.

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The problem isn't with the pedal itself "sticking", it's with the computer and components after that point. The pedal will be "released" when you let go, but the computer and components outside the cabin act differently. That's the problem with an electronic system. It's not mechanical anymore.

Thats actually not what the latest recall claim is saying, its saying that the pedal mechanism gets physically stuck...

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Toyota today (Feb 1) announced the release of a fix for sticking gas pedal assemblies. A web site( please Google)"the truth about cars Toyota throttle fix" or"the truth about cars Toyota gas pedal fix". TTAC some how got their hands on two different pedal assemblies,one made by CTS and one made by Denso. In the article and photos they explain the difference between the two supplies which are totally different. If you have an interest in technical things a very good read which is not to technical to understand. They could not understand why the design is totally different between the two suppliers. They also said the cost for the CTS is about $15.00 which is sold to the public by dealers for $120.

Toyota's fix for the CTS unit is a small shim or washer which moves the steel tooth type friction assembly further apart and may eliminate sticking. Why this part was called a steel plate for reinforcement I can't understand. Double talk to me. I also don't know know why it took so long for this fix. TTAC does not like the fix and neither do I. The assembly will wear down and both parts being steel will corrode and stick in the future. A very bad design to start with and a very bad fix imho.

TTAC also mentions the lawsuits including Canada's that are based on like of a fail safe when the brake in energized,

Compared the pedal assembly in our Highlander vs our LS 460. The Highlander pedal pivots from the top. The Lexus pivots from the floor. Floor mounted pedals fell into disfavor because dirt, water or rust can get in the hinge and make them stick. An obsolete design. Also floor maps can slide forward over the top of the pedal and open the throttle. Floor mats in the overhead pivot usually will slide under the pedal. Strange mats got blamed. Bogus to me.

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Floor mounted pedals fell into disfavor because dirt, water or rust can get in the hinge and make them stick. An obsolete design. Also floor maps can slide forward over the top of the pedal and open the throttle. Floor mats in the overhead pivot usually will slide under the pedal. Strange mats got blamed. Bogus to me.

Do you have some data to back up this assertion?

Floor mounted pedals are used by BMW, Ferrari, Lamborghini, Mercedes...are all these very respected carmakers using an "obsolete design"?

I vastly prefer the floor mounted pedal.

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Most of the stuff I mention here is just my opinion. Some times ok , other times a duh. Never worked in the Auto industry, thank goodness , but they do have a reputation of doing things just because they have always done it that way. Not a very good reason, my opinion again It usually takes a law or a Nader to get things done like seat belts or smog controls I have noticed in the past..

. Floor or top mount hinge? My foot cannot tell the difference but I've never taken a survey among others.. In a race car using the heel and toe method a bottom hinged might work better but I really don't know.

From a design point a top hinge offers many benefits as to reducing costs, keeping the floor cleaner, no worry about hinge sticking etc. What I would really like to see are the floor pedals mounted on a slide so one could adjust the pedals distance for max comfort. This has been done in a few cars I think. The best pedal for a foot uses a double hinge design for less strain on the foot. Never happen in a hide bound company..

The main reason some cars use bottom hinges is just because they have always done it that way. The more expensive the car the less likely they worry about cutting a few cents off pedal costs. What's good for Mercedes is good enough for Lexus etc. What I can't figure out is why all cars look alike. Right now they all swoop the back so the visibility is reduced. Copy cats all.

I still can't figure out why a designer would go to great length in building a mechanical friction device into the pedal to reduce minor movements. This is very hard to do to keep it constant over the life of the car. That's a job for the firmware engineer not the ME. and a whole lot easier.

But Toyota was not forward thinking enough to designate the brake pedal number one over the motor pedal and that's why they are in this mess today, so why would anything else they do be any different?.

I've taught every one in our family to shift into neutral if the throttle sticks or opens unexpectedly, have you?. Should be instinctive.

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