November 28, 2020

Japanese Automakers Recall 3.3 Million Vehicles

The recalls, announced in Tokyo, include about 1.7 million Toyotas, 1.1 million Hondas, 480,000 Nissans and 20,000 Mazdas. Almost 1.4 million of the vehicles are in the United States.

Among the automakers, Honda has had the most serious, continuing problem with air bags. Before Thursday’s action, Honda had already recalled almost two million vehicles since 2008 for an excessively powerful driver’s air bag.

Honda said on Thursday that it was not aware of any injuries related to the defect, which involves the inflaters on passenger-side air bags. But late in 2011, Honda acknowledged 18 injuries and two deaths linked to a recall of two million vehicles because of the problem with the driver’s air bag.

Chris Martin, a Honda spokesman, said in an e-mail that the passenger-side air bag deploys differently.

Instead of sending metal fragments directly at the driver, he said, the passenger’s air bag “could propel metal fragments upward toward the windshield or downward toward the front passenger’s footwell.”

The bags were produced by the Japanese supplier Takata Corporation, which also sold some of the defective products to General Motors and BMW, according to a report Takata filed Thursday with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in Washington.

About 48,000 2003 Pontiac Vibes, which is a mechanical sibling of the Toyota Matrix, will be recalled, a G.M. spokesman, Alan Adler, wrote in an e-mail.

A Toyota spokeswoman, Cindy Knight, said in an interview that only 170,000 of the company’s vehicles would need repair, but 510,000 vehicles had to be inspected to find them.

The models are the 2001-3 Toyota Corolla, Corolla Matrix, Sequoia and Tundra, and the Lexus SC 430.

The Hondas being recalled are 2002-3 CR-V models; 2001-3 Civics; and 2002 Odyssey minivans. The Mazdas are the 2003-4 Mazda 6 and 2004 RX-8.

The Nissans being recalled are the 2001-3 Nissan Maxima, Infiniti FX, Infiniti QX4, Nissan Pathfinder and Nissan Sentra, a Nissan spokesman, Steve Yaeger, said in an e-mail.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/12/business/global/automakers-recall-3-3-million-vehicles-over-air-bags.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Lawsuit Seeks Records From U.S. Investigation of Prius Acceleration

The freedom-of-information lawsuit by the firm, Safety Research and Strategies, said that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration was withholding documents and videos that may depict an acceleration incident caused by electronic systems in a Prius instead of the floor mats or pedals covered by Toyota recalls.

The suit seeks transcripts, recordings, photographs and videotapes generated by a visit of two federal investigators to the home of a senior government official who had complained about sudden, unexplained acceleration of his own Prius.

According to a sworn statement by the official, Joseph H. McClelland, investigators visited his Chambersburg, Pa., home last May 17, documented the sudden acceleration problem and recorded evidence of it.

Although other Toyota owners have suspected that sudden acceleration was caused by electronic systems, federal regulators have said they have found no evidence of such a cause.

The lawsuit, filed on Monday in federal court in Washington, is the latest effort by Safety Research to force the government to release internal records that could cast doubt on whether it sufficiently investigated possible electronic problems in Toyota vehicles.

“This is all about transparency,” said Sean Kane, co-founder of Safety Research, an auto consulting firm in Rehoboth, Mass. “This is an agency that selectively releases data that fits its narrative that electronics are not at fault in sudden acceleration.”

The N.H.T.S.A. confirmed on Tuesday that it did conduct an investigation of Mr. McClelland’s Prius but said it did not find any link to known causes of unintended acceleration.

The agency closed a lengthy investigation of Toyota last year without finding defects in the company’s electronic throttle systems.

Instead, the agency concurred with the automaker’s explanation that faulty floor mats and sticky accelerator pedals were causing Toyota’s vehicles to suddenly accelerate out of control. A separate study by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration also found no electronic defects.

Last week, a branch of the National Academy of Sciences said there was no evidence of electronic malfunctions in Toyotas. However, its report also concluded that federal regulators were ill equipped to detect problems in the increasingly complex computer systems of modern automobiles.

Safety Research, which in the past has advised consumers suing Toyota, goes a step further and contends that the N.H.T.S.A. is ignoring acceleration complaints that cannot be explained by driver error or defective floor mats and pedals.

Mr. McClelland, an engineer and director of the Office of Electric Reliability at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, called the N.H.T.S.A. after experiencing repeated incidents of unintended acceleration in his 2003 Toyota Prius.

The Prius, which had about 280,000 miles on it, was not included in Toyota’s recalls of more than eight million vehicles worldwide in 2009 and 2010 for problems with floor mats and pedals.

According to a sworn statement given to Safety Research, Mr. McClelland was driving between his home and Washington on May 5, 2011, when the car’s engine surged repeatedly, forcing him to shift into neutral, pull off the road and shut the vehicle off.

Mr. McClelland has not responded to requests for an interview. But in his statement, he described how his Prius “over-accelerated” several times on the 200-mile round trip.

“The engine started to rev — actually almost roaring — and the vehicle picked up speed,” he said.

He noted that the accelerator pedal was neither stuck nor constrained by the floor mat. “The floor mat wasn’t up against the accelerator pedal,” he said. “I put my toe up against the back of the accelerator pedal to see if it was stuck. It was not stuck; it was fully up.”

Each time the car sped up, Mr. McClelland said he was able to apply the brakes, turn the vehicle off and restart it. After researching the N.H.T.S.A. Web site about Toyota’s acceleration issues, he contacted the agency. Two investigators came to his home and accompanied him on a test drive of the Prius.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=0ffad4570282d1ff5a0a808a41f75297

Technology: Simpler Antidote for Heavy Eyelids

Testing your stamina on the highway — perhaps so you can make it to the family vacation spot in one shot — can be a deadly practice. Fatigued drivers cause more than 100,000 crashes a year in the United States, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, causing roughly 1,550 deaths. Simply, most drivers cannot judge when they are on the verge of slumber or have seriously compromised reaction times.

Both automakers and independent electronics companies are applying technology to this problem, with solutions ranging from simple head-position monitors to integrated sensor systems. In the middle ground is a device I tested recently, the Anti Sleep Pilot.

Most of the high-tech solutions intended to address the problem have focused on looking for clues that the driver is about to fall asleep. The most rudimentary devices cost less than $10 and hook over a driver’s ear. Whenever the wearer’s head dips forward, the unit vibrates or blares a loud wake-up call.

While some users may find the low-cost gadgets reassuring, their warnings may come too late. By the time a driver’s head nods, the car may already be off the road.

More sophisticated systems introduced in recent years take advantage of computers and cameras built into cars. Mercedes-Benz, for instance, experimented with interior cameras that scanned the driver’s eyes for signs of drowsiness. However, the company found eye-monitoring software stymied by challenges like sunglasses — people don’t fall asleep only at night — and not entirely reliable.

In its stead are other systems designed to take advantage of existing electronics. Mercedes calls its version Attention Assist, which is standard in E-Class and CL-Class cars. The program monitors the driver’s steering input at the beginning of a trip and then looks for erratic changes, a sign that the driver is tiring. A warning sounds, accompanied by a visual reproach: “Time for a Rest?”

The system in the Volvo XC60 operates on a slightly different principle, monitoring lane markers and looking for “micro corrections” in the steering that inattentive drivers tend to make. However, some drivers have found these systems too sensitive and turn them off to silence the beeps.

The makers of the $179 Anti Sleep Pilot have taken a simpler and quite different approach. This device requires regular input from drivers to ensure they are alert. Placed on the dashboard, the Oreo-size Anti Sleep Pilot has a built-in motion detector, flashing lights and an audible alarm. IPhone users can instead buy a $19.99 app that mirrors most features of the standalone model.

The touch-sensitive device has a line of ascending lights that indicate the risk of falling asleep, which is determined by answering a variety of questions (age, type of driving you do, sleeping habits, etc.) covering 26 different fatigue factors. The driver sets the risk number on the device; it then calculates a safe driving time before a break is needed.

At the beginning of a trip, its prompt is a mild-mannered chirp, which the driver quells by touching the device. The chimes may start at 15-minute intervals, for example, and gradually increase in frequency depending on the initial fatigue settings and the response time to each beep. The more fatigued it senses a driver is, the more often it will beep. When it determines a rest break is needed, a loud alarm sounds and the lights go red.

Passengers will no doubt find the whole beep-and-response routine irritating (it tends to keep them awake), but on long late-night drives I found it helpful. However, there is a danger that reaching to silence the alarm can become reflexive; rather than making you pull over, it can turn into a game.

Will the Anti Sleep Pilot stop drivers who are drowsy? For some people, I suspect it can, though for me, stopping to take a break every 90 minutes can be just as effective — so long as I actually do it.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=dc4047562b337219f5fce7d3e02cb888