Toyota will add a brake override system to all of its 2011 models, the maker says, as well as an airline-style data recorder to monitor events leading up to an after an accident.
The maker says the new Smart Stop system has already led to an 84% reduction in complaints about so-called sudden acceleration – an issue that has led Toyota to recall millions of cars, trucks and crossover over the last 12 months. Additional safety problems have resulted in additional recalls, all told involving about 9 million Toyota vehicles.
The sudden acceleration recalls – and a number of accidents, deaths and injuries associated with the problem – have also triggered a rash of lawsuits targeting the Japanese giant. The latest legal salvo has been fired by mega-insurer Allstate, which claims that defective accelerator pedals and other safety-related issues have led to accidents involving its clients.
The Northbrook, Illinois company cited 725 accidents involving its clients while driving Toyota where sudden acceleration was reported as a possible cause. Those collisions resulted in 304 injuries and 18 fatalities.
As a result, “Toyota should be held accountable for the financial impact of these accidents,” said Christina Loznicka, a spokeswoman for Allstate.
The lawsuit came on the same day Toyota briefed journalists about its efforts to address quality and safety issues. “Toyota has made significant progress in recent months to help ensure that our customers can have complete confidence in the quality, safety and reliability of their vehicles,” proclaimed Steve St. Angelo, who was appointed the maker’s North American quality czar earlier this year.
Toyota has already been rolling out the Smart Stop system in a number of its products. Like other override technology, it’s designed to act when a motorist hits the brake pedal even if the accelerator is also engaged. It will immediately reduce power to the engine making it possible to stop in a situation where the throttle pedal might be stuck open.
The data recorder, meanwhile, is designed to continually record basic vehicle operating information, such as driving speed and whether the brake, throttle or both are being depressed. Unlike an airline “black box,” however, it does not record driver conversations.
Toyota meanwhile plans to step up its “Smart” team activities. They are charged with responding to reports of sudden acceleration. According to St. Angelo, calls linked to the problem have dropped by more than 80% since April, but still account for about 150 a week.
As it has done for more than a year, the maker continues to insist that it has no evidence of any sudden acceleration incident caused by alleged problems with onboard vehicle electronics. The two big recalls related to the issue have involved loose carpets that can jam a throttle open, and a sticky throttle assembly.
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