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NHTSA Formally Opens Prius Braking Investigation

Office of Defects Investigation has received 124 reports from consumers, including four alleging that crashes occurred.

by on Feb.04, 2010

Storm clouds have been forming for a long time.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) today announced that it is opening a formal investigation of the Toyota Prius Hybrid model year 2010 to look into allegations of momentary loss of braking capability while traveling over an uneven road surface, pothole or bump.

Readers of TheDetroitBureau.com will not be surprised by the latest development, which we first reported back in December, (click here) along with Toyota’s initial statement that it was unaware of the problem, as Toyota engineers in Japan were preparing a computer programming fix that went into production late in January.

The Office of Defects Investigation has received 124 reports from consumers, including four reports alleging that crashes occurred. Investigators have spoken with consumers and conducted pre-investigatory fieldwork.

“Safety is our top priority,” said Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, who is in charge of NHTSA. “That is why in recent weeks NHTSA has also issued a consumer advisory on the recall of several models of Toyota vehicles and the Pontiac Vibe involving pedal entrapment and sticky accelerator pedals. We will continue to monitor these issues closely.”

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"Braking" News!

Late Wednesday, Secretary LaHood spoke with Toyota president, Akio Toyoda, who reassured him that Toyota takes U.S. safety concerns seriously and puts safety at the top of the company’s priorities.

Toyota has repeatedly claimed  that safety is its top priority, of course, but has been proven wrong about its previous statements asserting the causes of unintended acceleration. (more…)

NHTSA Tracking Braking Loss on Prius Hybrids

Toyota owners are unhappy about the performance of the system, calling it defective. Pedestrian lives at risk?

by on Dec.24, 2009

Drivers are unhappy about stopping distances on bumps, tracks and slippery surfaces.

Dozens of owners of the current third generation Toyota Prius models have filled complaints with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration about the alleged brake failures they have experienced.

The Office of Defects Investigation has at least 33 complaints that we are aware of from Prius owners alleging a problem or safety defect, often about the design or performance of the braking system, which recharges the battery when the Prius decelerates.

Some owners describe this as unintended acceleration, but a review of the complaints by TheDetroitBureau.com leads me to think that this is an issue about how the braking system is calibrated. Whether this is a safety related defect is ultimately up to NHTSA to decide. The safety agency is authorized to order manufacturers to recall and repair vehicles when ODI investigations indicate that they contain serious safety defects in their design, construction, or performance.

For Toyota, it is another owner satisfaction or quality issue, at a minimum, coming from its most advanced technology vehicle at a time when Toyota is under attack for its handling of safety matters.

Braking performance issues?

In the case of the Prius brakes, it appears that the transition from regenerative braking to hydraulic braking is not transparent to drivers. Under certain conditions, the driver needs to press harder on the brake pedal to obtain the same stopping performance that the regenerative system working in conjunction with the hydraulic brakes initially provides. Drivers are clearly upset by longer than expected stopping distances when the antilock system shuts off  the regenerative brakes.

Issues!

“What I, and others have been experiencing, is certainly not “runaway acceleration” or anything to do with pressing the gas pedal,”  Robert Becker, an unhappy owner of a 2010 Prius, told TDB.

(more…)