It looks like you're using an Ad Blocker.
Please white-list or disable AboveTopSecret.com in your ad-blocking tool.
Some features of ATS will be disabled while you continue to use an ad-blocker.
Refusing to accept the explanation of Toyota and the federal government, hundreds of Toyota owners are in rebellion after a series of accidents caused by what they call "runaway cars."
Safety analysts found an estimated 2000 cases in which owners of Toyota cars including Camry, Prius and Lexus, reported that their cars surged without warning up to speeds of 100 miles per hour.
Toyota says the incidents are caused by floor mats becoming stuck under gas pedals, but owners say that's not what happened to them.
The 2009 Lexus ES 350 shot through suburban San Diego like a runaway missile, weaving at 120 mph through rush-hour freeway traffic as flames flashed from under the car.
At the wheel, veteran California Highway Patrol Officer Mark Saylor desperately tried to control the 272-horsepower engine that was roaring at full throttle as his wife, teenage daughter and brother-in-law were gripped by fear.
"We're in trouble. ... There's no brakes," Saylor's brother-in-law, Chris Lastrella, told a police dispatcher over a cell phone. Moments later, frantic shrieks filled the car as it slammed into another vehicle and then careened into a dirt embankment, killing all four aboard.
One obvious line of defense is to simply shut off the engine, a step that may not be intuitive on the ES 350. The car has a push-button start system, activated by the combination of a wireless electronic fob carried by the driver and a button on the dashboard.
But once the vehicle is moving, the engine will not shut off unless the button is held down for a full three seconds — a period of time in which Saylor's car would have traveled 528 feet. A driver may push the button repeatedly, not knowing it requires a three-second hold.
"I think it's possible to get the shifter confused, but I can't be sure that's what happened" in San Diego, [Toyota spokesman Brian] Lyons said. "You'd be surprised how many people around here [Toyota] don't know what the neutral position is for."
The ES 350 and most other modern vehicles are equipped with power-assisted brakes, which operate by drawing vacuum power from the engine. But when an engine opens to full throttle, the vacuum drops, and after one or two pumps of the brake pedal the power assist feature disappears.
"I don't think you can stop a car going 120 mph and an engine at full throttle without power assist," said [Clarence] Ditlow, the safety center director.
Why didn't he shift into neutral? No one really knows what happened in this incident, but it seems that automatic transmissions have "dumbed-down" the public such that one expert says that many drivers don't know what neutral is for, even if they could effectively maneuver through the shift-gates in an emergency.