Saturday, February 27, 2010

It's unrelated to the current Toyota mess,

or the Audi mess back when, but I do have a car story:
Back when, Dad was one of the people who taught Emergency Vehicle Operation at his agency. When anti-lock brakes came out, overall they seemed to be a pretty good thing. Until.

Imagine this: car with four people in it, two in back, driver, and instructor on the right. Coming into a curve at high speed the driver does it just right: comes in outside, then hits the brake to scrub off speed to make the turn, except that the car didn't slow down. At freakin' all. Happily the driver didn't try to make the turn at that speed, and there was nothing to run into except the plowed field through the fence, so nobody hurt.

First question, of course, was "Are you sure you were on the brake?" Driver said yes, instructor said flatly "YES. I looked, she had the pedal stomped all the way down and the brakes weren't braking." But when they got it back on pavement, they worked fine. So some experiments were done.

The road into that turn was slightly washboardy; not enough to jar your teeth, but enough to feel. It seems that in the speed range they went into the turn at, the tires were coming up enough for the brakes to grab slightly more than when the tires were solidly on the ground, which caused the computer chip in the anti-lock system to think the brakes were locking, so it released the brakes; thus, pedal stomped down with no effect as the car went through the fence.

As I recall, a phone call was made to the manufacturer where some 'customer service' type said "That can't happen." With predictable response, including an offer to glue him to the hood while they demonstrated. Finally got through to an engineer who listed and said "Oh bleep." And it got fixed.


Anonymous said...

I'm following the story. I see Toyota's problem as having too many totally tone deaf customer service executives who are doing it the tried and true feudal Japanese way: "We are the Bosses who live in mansions at the top of the hill where Father Sun shines on our anointed persons. We know what we're doing. You are unwashed peasants, Father Sun does not shine on you, you are ugly and you stink. Go Away Now." Unfortunately for Toyota, We are not generally illiterate Japanese peasants and that attitude will not go well in the US. Too many unwashed peasants with attitudes and computer access. Toyota Motors is going to do some serious bleeding before this is over. It's too bad really, they make a good product. Their attitude sucks, though. They really need to make some highly placed customer service asshats perform Hara Kiri. Figuratively, of course. Just fire the blockheads, admit there's a problem and fix it. Americans will accept that and get over it.

Gerry N.

Firehand said...

From the sound of things, either that or simply "We're Toyota; we don't have problems." Or a mix of both.

And let's not forget the clowns in government who should have checked into the first reports and jumped right on it.

You're probably right; if they'd do something dramatic with the people who didn't listen, it'd make a big difference in how Toyota is viewed.