Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Toyota 4.0

Toyota is being lynched by the Federalis. On C-Span today a Times reporter talked about recalls and for the whole hour women called in terrified of their cars as if it was a Stephen King novel. Most were afraid to drive them to the dealer for the repair and some were trading them in and taking a big financial hit.

All this drive-by-wire technology is a result of the environmental movement. In order to get the absolute best mileage while putting out zero emissions you need a computer. It is also driven by Americans' addiction to performance. We want a four cylinder car with every possible amenity and safety feature to turn a 14 second quarter mile time and avg. 30 mpg. Now we have smart cars that compensate for our lack of intelligence and driving skill. The problem however, is when HAL our computer co-pilot gets the hiccups.

Now I'm an old fart whose first car was a 1953 Chevrolet Bel-Air. What this tank lacked in gigabytes it made up for in grease fittings. However, the throttle was controlled by a steel rod, the steering was an erector set of steel bars and gears, the ignition switch was a simple toggle and between the brake pedal and the drums there only existed hydraulic fluid. I'm not ready to hand over steering, throttle and brakes to the geek squad. Perhaps some M.I.T. post grad fellow would feel fine going down I-80 in the middle of a convoy with their hand on a wireless mouse, but not me.

Commercial jets are controlled by computers but they have a few safeguards . Jets have redundancy built into the system. This usually translates to three independent systems that have to fail together for a catastrophe to result. The other is the jets have trained pilots that can recognize a computer malfunction. Even with all the precautions in aviation more than one Air-Bus has somehow unintentionally accelerated into the ocean. How many women driving their Starship-Caravans even understand the systems that make them operate, let alone know how to troubleshoot them in an emergency. In general most drivers have no clue how to handle a blow-out, a loss of brakes, a skid , a runaway, or emergency lane change. These incidents used to be seasonal occurrences thirty years ago. The cars get smarter and the people get stupider.

Now the Senate is having hearings. These morons are putting on a show, complete with weeping women and cowering executives. No scientist or engineers need be present when you are putting on a show. This unexplained acceleration is a dangerous malfunction but how often does it happen? Will they ever find the problem with the software? Twenty years ago Audi had unintended acceleration. They never found the problem but they gave us the brake-shift interlock which locked the shifter until the brake was forcefully applied. This solved the problem of people mixing up the brake with the accelerator and hopefully no more parents will run their kids through the garage wall. Before the neutral safety switch was implemented everyone had a story about being pinned against the garage door by their truck. I'm not sure that fixing a car's CPU will be that easy. Perhaps a big red KILL-SWITCH on the dashboard should be installed on all Toyota's just in case Window's-95 decides it "wants to see what this baby can do". In the meantime the media and the politicians will have a heyday trying destroy a good company and put more Southern Non-Union Americans out of work. On the brighter side this may be a time to get a great deal on a used Lexus.


M- said...

You nailed it, Babba. 100%.

David DiQuattro said...

Brilliant post Babba.

My generation uses technology far more than previous ones and understands it all far less.

We just watched "Mad mad mad mad world." Those people knew how to operate vehicles. Anyone 30 and under should be forced to perform some of the maneuvers from that film to keep our licenses.

jondale said...


goober said...

Never trust anyone over 30.

D- ....and over thirty said...

I watched some of the monkey court proceedings the elected idiots are holding against Toyota. Not once have I heard where anyone actually shut off the runaway engine.

On your 1953 there was an oil hole for the mechanic to lubricate the gas pedal linkage. This was done periodically during oil changes or tune ups.

On another note, we had a couple of CNC machines where, on occasion, they could be programmed perfectly and while running they would just take off on their own either ruining the parts and or the machine. Eventually it was found that the controlling computers would build up static electricity messing with the electrical impulses controlling the machine. After grounding the units better all funky movements stopped. Based on that experience, could it be that Toyota's sporadic problem is as easy as better grounding of the on board computer?
Toyota has some great deals out there now.