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Apple Co-Founder “Woz” Wozniak Reports Safety Problems With His Prius

Claims his hybrid “goes wild;” blames onboard computer.

by on Feb.02, 2010

Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak is weighing in on Toyota's safety problems and insists there's an electronic glitch with his 2010 Toyota Prius.

Despite claims by Toyota that it has finally found and solved the various problems with “unintended acceleration” affecting millions of its vehicles, one of the most respected high-tech specialists in the U.S. contends the Japanese maker is either missing or denying another serious safety issue.

In a series of interviews, the legendary co-founder of Apple, Steve “Woz” Wozniak, has been pressing his position that some sort of glitch with the electronics controlling the powertrain in his new Toyota Prius “goes wild.”

After initially denying its vehicles could surge out of control unexpectedly, Toyota last October conceded there was a “carpet entrapment” issue, in which loose floor mats could jam the pedal and make it difficult to slow down, and recalled 3.8 million cars, trucks and crossovers.  At the time, Toyota Division boss Bob Carter insisted claims of other problems were “unwarranted speculation.”

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But last month, the maker added another 2.3 million vehicles to the recall list – a figure since boosted to 4.5 million – because of a problem with sticky accelerators.  Again, in a teleconference with reporters, on February 1, company officials insisted that they had isolated all the problems.

“We are very confident this will stop” the problems, said Jim Lentz, president of Toyota Motor Sales USA.  In particular, he and other officials dismissed claims of onboard computer problems, addings that, “In terms of electronics, we’ve been extensively testing and found no evidence of problems.”

Not so, asserts Wozniak.  In a conversation with the online technology magazine, CNET.com, the original partner to Steve Jobs noted he has several Prius hybrids, but it is the newest, 2010 model that is acting up and, “This is software. It’s not a bad accelerator pedal. It’s very scary, but luckily for me I can hit the brakes.”

Part of the problem with isolating any unintended acceleration problem has been the fact that things don’t necessarily reoccur, at least not on a regular basis.  During the Monday news conference, a Toyota official likened the problem with the sticky accelerator to the way a bit of condensation can make two sheets of glass stick together, but when the moisture dries, the glass slides normally.  Electronic problems, in general, have proved elusive and difficult to track for the auto industry.

Not here, said “Woz,” explaining that while his Prius problems, “only under certain conditions of cruise control….I can repeat it over and over and over again–safely.”

In a separate interview with the techy Gizmodo.com, Wozniak expressed his increasing frustration with the problem, noting that he has spent several months trying to make contact with Toyota to discuss the problem, first through his dealer and then by directly reaching out to the automaker.  So far, the company has made no effort to follow up with Wozniak, either to hear what is wrong with his Prius or to schedule a visit to actually experience the problem he insists he can repeat at will.

The involvement of Steve Wozniak into the debate over the ongoing safety issues plaguing Toyota could escalate matters significantly – and potentially bring into the spotlight a vehicle that has become the halo model for the troubled manufacturer.

But Wozniak is by no means the only one reporting problems with the car.  As TheDetroitBureau.com has repeatedly covered, a growing number of owners are reporting that the 2010 version of the hybrid can experience unintended brake release.  It appears to occur, drivers explain, when they are braking the 2010 Toyota Prius and hit a bump or pothole.  The brakes briefly release, forcng the driver to take emergency measures to continue to stop safely.

Toyota officials have acknowledged there is an “issue” they are examining, but have so far declined to say more than that “aggressive” ABS brakes could be involved.  They have refused to describe the matter as a safety issue.

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One Response to “Apple Co-Founder “Woz” Wozniak Reports Safety Problems With His Prius”

  1. harry says:

    Isn’t ironic that he is complaining about a software bug in his car? I wonder how many apple customers have the same complaints? Maybe Toyota should sell him the next release of Prius software to remove the bug?