Tuesday, March 16, 2010

California Highway Patrol to weigh in on Sikes' Prius story

First Toyota challenged Sikes' story on the runaway Prius; now the California Highway Patrol is challenging Toyota's account:

From the WSJ online:

California Highway Patrol spokesman Brian Pennings said there are "some serious discrepancies between what Toyota is saying and what our officer's observations are. The CHP intends to release its incident report with more details shortly.

While the incident was occurring, an officer who pulled up beside Mr. Sikes's car said he saw the driver appear to lean back, lift his body off his seat and push his feet on the brake pedal. CHP officers also said they saw plumes of smoke from the car and brake dust on the wheels, which they believed had come from heavy brake use.

In contrast: According to the preliminary findings of Toyota's investigation, the brakes were overheated by light application.

From a comment on an ABCNews post:

Prius hoax? I think not. Here's the reality of the situation. Toyota developed an embedded software program which overides the driver's ability to control the vehicle in favor of more "efficient" means. The problem is that the program cannot, and does not, interpret every concievable scenario, thus "defaults" to its primary settings. Also, there is a high probability that it is not programmed correctly thus mis-interprets "activate braking" for "accelerate" code and takes over full control of the vehicle. The fundamental problem is that Toyota's platform software sensory controls have elected to "take over operational command" of the vehicle away from the driver when it deems that it needs to execute its own course above that of the driver's judgment. Thank god that the Airline pilots are equipped with a manual over ride switch allowing the pilot to make the final critical decisions, not inboard computers. Essentially, this is Prius' problem. Let us not cast blame on the drivers for the vehicles' programming defects.

from Detroit Free - Press:

Laura Scotti of Richboro, Pa., said she experienced unintended acceleration three times last year in her 2009 Camry hybrid. No incident lasted more than a few seconds and no one was hurt.

"I believe Toyota is eventually going to do the right thing, but they are not giving me much confidence so far," Scotti said. "We can't sell the car. It wouldn't be morally right at this point."

NHTSA said it so far has not found a cause of Sikes' incident. The agency is reviewing data obtained from the car.

"We observed there was very little left of the car's brakes," NHTSA said in a statement. "Our work continues. We may never know exactly what happened."

**As a separate point, from an opinion piece, Theodore H. Frank: I am not afraid of my Toyota Prius [Theodore H. Frank, a classmate of LBE's at the University of Chicago Law School, raised the issue of AGE among Toyota drivers afflicted with the acceleration problem]:

In the 24 cases where driver age was reported or readily inferred, the drivers included those of the ages 60, 61, 63, 66, 68, 71, 72, 72, 77, 79, 83, 85, 89—and I’m leaving out the son whose age wasn’t identified, but whose 94-year-old father died as a passenger.

These “electronic defects” apparently discriminate against the elderly, just as the sudden acceleration of Audis and GM autos did before them. (If computers are going to discriminate against anyone, they should be picking on the young, who are more likely to take up arms against the rise of the machines and future Terminators).

But Toyota is being mau-maued by Democratic regulators and legislators in the pockets of trial lawyers—who, according to the Associated Press, stand to make a billion dollars from blaming Toyota for driver error.

See previous post:

Credibility issues with Sikes' Prius story?

Results of LA Times poll as of 10:15am on 17 March 2010:

Yes, his experience is just another example of how dangerous these vehicles are. 13% (337 votes)
No, I think this was a ploy for media attention and I believe the findings prove his story isn't true. 78% (1,965 votes)

[IPBiz notes that these questions are not mutually exclusive. One could believe the event does NOT prove "how dangerous" the vehicles are AND not believe this was "a ploy for media attention."]

**Highway Patrol report released on 17 March 2010.

The Reuters account of the Highway Patrol report suggested the report strongly supported the driver's discussion of the incident. Titled California police report supports Prius driver , the Reuters story includes text:

A California Highway Patrol report released on Wednesday in a sensational "runaway" Toyota Prius incident appears to support the version of events given by the driver, which the automaker has called into question.


The written account by a CHP officer who raced to the aid of James Sikes after his emergency call on March 8 says that the 61-year-old realtor appeared to be stomping heavily on the brake pedal while speeding at 85 to 90 miles per hour on a freeway near San Diego.

Toyota has said it found no evidence that Sikes had been applying the brakes forcefully and that by doing so he should have been able to stop his blue 2008 Prius.

"I could see the driver sat up off his seat indicating that he was possibly applying the brake pedal with his body weight," CHP Officer Todd Neibert wrote in his investigative report.

"I was able to view his actions through the lowered right rear window," Neibert said in the seven-page written narrative. "His back was arched and both hands were pulling on the steering wheel. I noticed that the Prius slowed slightly, down to approximately 85 to 90 miles per hour."

Neibert wrote that Sikes "looked over at me briefly and appeared to be in a panicked state" as they drove at high speeds along Interstate 8. The officer also noted that the brake lights on the blue Prius were lit as it ascended a long uphill grade at about 85 miles an hour.

From AP's Authorities: Prius seen with flashing brake lights ;

The lights were on "for a period of time and would turn off, indicating the driver was possibly pumping the brakes," CHP Officer Todd Neibert wrote in his seven-page incident report.
"I was within 1/4 mile of the vehicle and could smell the heated brakes which indicated they had been used extensively," it states, referring to 400 meters.

IPBiz notes the the ability of Officer Neibert to smell the brakes at a distance of 1/4 mile is inconsistent with Toyota's allegation of "light application".


Neibert also wrote that a Border Patrol agent in an unmarked vehicle with emergency lights flashing was trying to help guide the Toyota to safety. The report didn't say how long the Border Patrol agent had been tracking the Prius in the Chevrolet Tahoe.
"It was staying ahead of us and it was later determined that the agent driving the Chevrolet Tahoe was aware of the situation," Neibert wrote.

**The post on green.autoblog titled CHP report seemingly sides with Sikes on case of the Runaway Prius has a copy of the Highway Patrol report and includes the text:

CHP spokesman Brian Pennings has said that it is the CHP's position that no evidence has emerged to doubt Sikes' version of events.

**A story by Michael Fumento titled Toyota Prius speeding drama smells like a hoax identifies many hard-to-believe parts of Sikes' story, including "why" Sikes did NOT put the Prius into neutral. HOWEVER, Fumento in turn does not explain "how" Toyota's assertion that light application of the brakes would destroy the brakes in 20 minutes could be true. Fumento writes: "Virtually every aspect of Sikes' story makes no sense." But one might ask Fumento: what has Sikes gained, or what will Sikes gain by all of this? Fumento concluded his story:

Sleuth work at the websites Jalopnik. comand Gawker.com reveals Sikes and his wife Patty in 2008 filed for bankruptcy and are more than $700,000 in debt. Among their creditors is Toyota Financial Services for a lease on a 2008 Toyota Prius, with value at time of bankruptcy of $20,494.

But the news conference alone makes it clear Sikes' story didn't wash. Journalism schools are supposed to teach that skepticism is paramount. Yet comments on websites across the country reveal that practically everyone thought the Prius incident was a hoax -- though they couldn't prove it -- except for the media.

IPBiz agrees that skepticism is paramount (especially as to law review articles in the intellectual property area!) but here, one asks why the Prius didn't stop when the evidence shows that the brakes were applied during the event, and essentially disintegrated during the 20 minutes? Is it correct that "light application" of the brakes over 20 minutes will cause the brakes to become totally worn? Further, assuming for sake of argument that Sikes might be a slippery character, what was the objective of the putative hoax?

**On a different type of disparate age impact
18- to 24-year-olds most at risk for ID theft, survey finds

The "core millennial" group, identified as people ages 18 to 24, is at the greatest risk because it takes them longer to figure out that they have been defrauded -- meaning their information is compromised for a longer period, according to the survey, which is a snapshot of the identity fraud landscape from last year.

**The ABA Journal has a piece on Ted Frank Unsettling Advocate which includes a reference to Center for Class Action Fairness, through an ABA journal blawglink to http://centerforclassactionfairness.blogspot.com/.

***Of an old person recognizing a problem, recall "Twelve Angry Men":

To the benefit of the deliberation process, 1) the very elderly juror (Joseph Sweeney, Juror #9) is the only one that can see a possible motive explaining why an elderly witness may have misled the court in his testimony,

[after Juror #8 has established that the old man witness could not have heard the killing over the noise of the elevated train]
Juror #3: Why should he lie? What's he got to gain?
Juror #9: Attention, maybe.


Post a Comment

<< Home