another -gate (UNCLASSIFIED)

Mullins, Bill AMRDEC Bill.Mullins at US.ARMY.MIL
Mon Aug 9 17:56:07 UTC 2010

Classification: UNCLASSIFIED
Caveats: NONE

> -----Original Message-----
> From: American Dialect Society [mailto:ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] On
Behalf Of
> victor steinbok
> Sent: Monday, August 09, 2010 10:52 AM
> Subject: Re: another -gate (UNCLASSIFIED)
> Two things that the report apparently did not consider:
> 1) the problem is generated by the car hardware and not the physical
> locking of the acceleration pedal. In other words, if the on-board
> electronics interprets a signal coming from the pedals as
> acceleration, there will be no record of the brake pedal even having
> been pressed. So it becomes a chicken-and-egg question.

There are any number of hypothetical ways in which the signals may be
mislogged, generated improperly, or other faults in the transducers or
datalinks or the computer may give the appearance of driver error, when
in fact the car decided of its own accord to take off.  But given that
the NHTSA, with assistance from NASA and the National Academy of
Sciences, have been looking hard for design flaws such as this and have
found no (reported) evidence of them, and given that the data logged by
automobile "black boxes" consistently shows
34.html ) throttles wide open with no brake pedal engagements, it's
reasonable to assume that the problem is not a design flaw per se, but
driver error.  At least, that's what Occam's Razor would suggest.

Further evidence is this article:
showing a strong correlation with advanced age.

The situation with Toyota is very much analogous to that with Audi in
the mid 1980s.  Audi had a reputation for sudden unintended
acceleration, got a lot of media coverage (including a notorious 60
Minutes episode in which they faked an incident), issued recalls, got
sued, and then the NHTSA issued a report which essentially said that
there is no evidence of anything other than driver error.

> 2) If indeed the trouble is human error, Toyota may still be to blame
> for the simple reason that the problem is far more prevalent in Toyota
> vehicles (although not even distributed between those vehicles)

I haven't seen any evidence that says a Toyota is more likely to have
unintended acceleration problems than any other make of car.  I have
seen much more media coverage with respect to Toyota than any other
brand.  I won't deny that there may be such evidence, just that I
haven't seen it.

But even if there is a correlation between Toyotas and unintended
acceleration, it would have to be controlled for other things (such as
driver age -- do older people like Avalons more than younger people?;
driver height -- do short people who can't reach the pedals as well like
Camrys more than tall people?; etc.)

> than
> in others. That points to a design problem, not a mechanical problem.
> But the company is still responsible for design flaws (see under "Ford
> Pinto", etc.).

Odd that you would pick the Pinto.  Despite its place in our collective
memory, much of what we think we know may be wrong.  Fatalities in it
were comparable to other subcompact cars (see table on p 17 of this
document: )

> Either way, I would not jump to conclusions that NHTSA is backing
> Toyota (although WSJ certainly is).

Fair enough.  (In fact, NHTSA may be out to screw Toyota -- see WSJ
article linked above. When the govt starts to own the American
companies, govt action against foreign companies should be scrutinized.)
But neither would I jump to the conclusion that Toyota has made attempts
at "denial, misreporting and all."   It may turn out that that is the
case, but right now, it looks like Toyota has much more of a PR problem
than an actual design flaw problem.

Just about all consumer products may be made more safe, at a greater
cost.  The ways that media focus on individual products may have little
to do with the actual safeness of the products (especially compared to
other similar products), but a great deal to do with the politics,
nationality, notoriety, etc. of the parties involved, and whether or not
the story that may result has "legs".

> VS-)
> On 8/9/10, Mullins, Bill AMRDEC <Bill.Mullins at> wrote:
> > ---------------------- Information from the mail header
> > -----------------------
> > Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> > Poster:       "Mullins, Bill AMRDEC" <Bill.Mullins at US.ARMY.MIL>
> > Subject:      Re: another -gate (UNCLASSIFIED)
> >
> ---
> >
> > Classification: UNCLASSIFIED
> > Caveats: NONE
> >
> >> -
> >>
> >> At 5:17 PM -0400 8/8/10, Joel S. Berson wrote:
> >> >At 8/8/2010 03:28 PM, victor steinbok wrote:
> >> >>There was unquestionable cover-up, complete with the usual
> >> >>First, Apple denied the problem altogether. Then they agreed to
> >> >>replace some phones for people who complained, but still denied
> >> >>problem. Then they offered the "bumper", but claimed it was a
> >> >>good-will gesture, not a recognition of the problem. Now they are
> >> >>admitting the design flaw, but still blame the user for the
> >> >>positions of the hand that cause problems and claim that the
> > "bumper"
> >> >>solves the problem (it does not). Finally, the VP in charge of
> >> >>design team has resigned--will more heads roll?
> >> >
> >> >Are we reminded of Toyota-gate and uncontrolled acceleration?
> >> >
> >> >Jorl
> >> >
> >> That was certainly a nice, well-behaved -gate, what with their
> >> attempts at denial, misreporting, and all.
> >>
> >
> > Apparently the NHTSA is backing up Toyota on this one:
> >
> >
> > 4.html
> >
> >
> > Classification: UNCLASSIFIED
> > Caveats: NONE
> >
> > ------------------------------------------------------------
> > The American Dialect Society -
> >
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society -
Classification: UNCLASSIFIED
Caveats: NONE

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