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Old 10-07-2009, 12:32 AM   #1
hwy61
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Default Stopping an '09 Lexus ES 350 with WOT - Test drive

I must have an honest face. Not being able to find adequate answers I went into a Lexus dealership today to try to get to the bottom of how a Lexus like the one that killed four people in CA actually worked. There are no good answers anywhere that I have searched. Not the Lexus forums, not here, not Googling the incident regarding this or that. So after looking around for an answer, wondering about anti-lock brakes, how an ES transmission worked, what the ECU would control, how to shut the engine off in an emergency and not finding any really good info including comments from Lexus owners I decided the only way to get to the bottom of this was...................go to a Lexus dealer and take a test drive in an '09 ES 350.

Now exactly what Lexus dealer is going to turn over a new car to a guy dressed in work boots, blue jeans, jean work shirt, dried mud on the knees of his jeans. Especially after he tells them what he wants to do. Specifically, I want to take one of your new cars out and test drive it to see how the transmission works and whether or not the brakes can haul it down from 80 mph at full throttle.

They threw me a key fob and said go test that one and give us a report on what you find.

But before I get into that we had a little discussion at the dealership. It was the floor mat they said. Ah, but it isn't nearly that simple I replied. I've been to Lexus forums to read owner comments, gun forums, Subaru, Mitsubishi, Corvette, BMW, Porsche....etc. No one knows the answer, there seems to be a lot of confusion and no one has tested this. Why didn't the brakes stop the car, why didn't the driver shift to neutral?, can the car be shifted to neutral when accelerating?, etc.

So they turned me loose with one of their brand new '09 cars with 31 miles on it. I had my camera, wishing I had new batteries it. I took a few pictures then realized it had a video mode. I had never used it. But, I fired that up in hopes that I could record what I learned

I sized up the interior and the dash, the accelerator pedal and the front mat that was still installed in this one. It was no where near the pedal. The brakes felt exactly like the ones in my Ford truck. Spongy but they seemed to work fine. I sped down the entrance ramp to the nearby interstate searching for a big hole in the evening traffic. Soon I had my chance. I eyed the start/stop button with suspicion should things not go well. I played around with the shifter putting it into the driver side slot. The most forward position is neutral, then drive, then lower gears can be selected by pulling the lever to the rear. There is a short center gate position with nothing showing and a right gate that leads to reverse and park.

70 mph came up quickly, the road was clear and straight for 1/2 mile front and rear, four lanes. I nailed it, the transmission downshifted once or twice, the tach hit about 5,700 rpm if I remember correctly. As the car surged forward I hit the brakes with my left foot hard at 80 mph, right foot still planted on the floorboard. The brakes hauled the car down, was it smooth, no, the car was shaking like the rotors were warped but I expect it was the anti-lock system kicking in. As I slowed enough to have ditched the car, put it against the rail, etc. Appx 20 mph and the brakes were still good. I let off the brakes and reaccelerated to 80, foot still on the floor. This didn't take long and I hit the brakes hard again.

This time I had about 1/3 the braking force as before and the car would not stop. It did slow but not easily and not nearly enough. I let off the brake pedal and ran it back up to 80. I immediately hit the brakes hard again. This time.....I had essentially no brakes. I stood on em. They had faded. My conclusion. On this car you have one chance to stop with the brakes with the engine at WOT. If you play with the brakes, try to stop a bit, let off, allow the car to reaccelerate, try to stop, etc., you aren't going to stop. This car has four wheel disc brakes. But they have a limit and one stop from this speed with the engine at WOT is it.

Now about the transmission. From all "apearances" the left gate is the one you would use. It is lit, shows neutral, drive, lower gears. The right gate is for reverse and park. The very short center gate appears to do nothing. So with gear selection lever in the left gate and in the drive positon I pushed the gear selector all the way forward to neutral. Nothing. I accelerated and while accelerating pushed the lever all the way against the neutral position which is as far forward as it will go in the left gate. Again nothing, the transmission stays engaged.

So, what about downshifting? As I expected you can downshift progressively with each pull of the gear selector toward the rear. Downshift up to a point that is. The ECU controls how far down you can shift or if you can downshift at all, based on speed. At speed you cannot downshift. Reverse is locked out.

But what does that short center section do. No lights, no nothing but it is a gate. So I shifted into it. Here my options are drive and neutral, nothing else and nothing marked as best I could tell. Push forward on the gear selection lever in the center gate and the transmission goes into neutral regardless of throttle position. Yes, the engine will rev when in heavy acceleration and idle if you push the lever to neutral. Just like it should. What is a problem is that if you weren't familiar with the car and in a panic you might not recognize this gate as a viable option. I only tried it because I was testing everything. Wasn't my car. So, there is a functioning, non computer locked out neutral.

Next I tried the start/stop button. Punching it will do nothing to turn the engine off whether moving slowly, coasting or accelerating. On the other hand, holding it in continuously for several seconds will kill the engine regardless of throttle position and the car is completely controllable. A quick punch restarts the engine with all the normal start up lights on the dash lighting.

So our driver only needed to know there was a functioning, manually engaged neutral position and where to find it, or, how to use the dash start/stop button to kill the engine. Unfortunately he apparently didn't know either. I suggested that all Lexus clients be notified about how to shut the engine off in an emergency and where the non computer controlled neutral is located. You can't control what aftermarket mats might be put in a car. You can make sure purchasers know these two things. I haven't tried the camera yet. If I was able to get a video of the stop and start and attempted stops I'll post it. Hwy61
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Last edited by hwy61; 10-07-2009 at 01:05 AM.
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Old 10-07-2009, 12:39 AM   #2
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cool story bro.
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Old 10-07-2009, 03:53 AM   #3
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Toyota cleary told every owner of a Toyota Product what and how to do it, IF The Car Stayed WOT While Driving.

When I get around to it I will post the actual letter and Web site info.

In general, put brakes on, hit nuetral, turn key to ACC( off one click). But the first thing they said to do is try to remove the floor mat first.

Also, the Brakes will over heat after one hard stop from 80 at WOT, so you are not going to getting second time. Remove The Rug From The Pedal First
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Old 10-07-2009, 04:05 AM   #4
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Default Toyota/Lexus Consumer Safety Advisory Potential Floor Mat Interference with Accelerat

Quote:
Toyota/Lexus Consumer Safety Advisory Potential Floor Mat Interference with Accelerator Pedal


Toyota Motor Sales, USA, Inc. takes public safety very seriously. It believes its vehicles to be among the safest on the road today.

Recent events have prompted Toyota to take a closer look at the potential for an accelerator pedal to get stuck in the full open position due to an unsecured or incompatible driver's floor mat. A stuck open accelerator pedal may result in very high vehicle speeds and make it difficult to stop the vehicle, which could cause a crash, serious injury or death.

Toyota considers this a critical matter and will soon launch a safety campaign on specific Toyota and Lexus vehicles. Throughout the process of developing the details of the action plan, it will advise the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

Until Toyota develops a remedy, it is asking owners of specific Toyota and Lexus models to take out any removable driver’s floor mat and NOT replace it with any other floor mat. The following models are affected:

• 2007 – 2010 Camry
• 2005 – 2010 Avalon
• 2004 – 2009 Prius
• 2005 – 2010 Tacoma
• 2007 – 2010 Tundra
• 2007 – 2010 ES350
• 2006 – 2010 IS250 and IS350

Should the vehicle continue to accelerate rapidly after releasing the accelerator pedal, this could be an indication of floor mat interference. If this occurs, Toyota recommends the driver take the following actions:

First, if it is possible and safe to do so, pull back the floor mat and dislodge it from the accelerator pedal; then pull over and stop the vehicle.

If the floor mat cannot be dislodged, then firmly and steadily step on the brake pedal with both feet. Do NOT pump the brake pedal repeatedly as this will increase the effort required to slow the vehicle.

Shift the transmission gear selector to the Neutral (N) position and use the brakes to make a controlled stop at the side of the road and turn off the engine.

If unable to put the vehicle in Neutral, turn the engine OFF, or to ACC. This will not cause loss of steering or braking control, but the power assist to these systems will be lost.

-If the vehicle is equipped with an Engine Start/Stop button, firmly and steadily push the button for at least three seconds to turn off the engine. Do NOT tap the Engine Start/Stop button.

-If the vehicle is equipped with a conventional key-ignition, turn the ignition key to the ACC position to turn off the engine. Do NOT remove the key from the ignition as this will lock the steering wheel.

In the event owners choose not to remove their floor mat, Toyota strongly recommends that they ensure that the correct floor mat is being used, that it is properly installed and secured, that it is not flipped over with bottom-side up, and that one floor mat is not stacked over another. Information on proper floor mat installation can be found on http://www.toyota.com and http://www.lexus.com.

Owners with questions or concerns, are asked to please contact the Toyota Customer Experience Center (1 800 331-4331) or Lexus Customer Assistance Center (1 800 255¬3987), or consult the information posted at http://www.toyota.com and http://www.lexus.com.

September 29, 2009

EXAMPLE OF PROPERLY INSTALLED FLOOR MAT
http://pressroom.toyota.com/pr/tms/t...ry-102565.aspx
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Old 10-07-2009, 11:25 AM   #5
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wow, thanks so much for that.... it is scary and explains things pretty well.
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Old 10-07-2009, 12:15 PM   #6
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Very good write up, surprised they let you take one out.
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Old 10-07-2009, 12:58 PM   #7
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Great writeup. I pieced that whole thing together from various places, I don't understand why the media did not do what you did when it was first released. Controlling of information simply should now happen in the modern age.
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Old 10-07-2009, 01:21 PM   #8
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Great writeup! You may have done some serious damage to the engine and brakes, but I don't feel much sympathy for Lexus or the dealer.

Quote:
Originally Posted by AVANTI R5 View Post
In general, put brakes on, hit nuetral, turn key to ACC( off one click).
Except neither one works in this model. There is no key and neutral is not where you would expect it to be:

Quote:
Now about the transmission. From all "apearances" the left gate is the one you would use. It is lit, shows neutral, drive, lower gears. The right gate is for reverse and park. The very short center gate appears to do nothing. So with gear selection lever in the left gate and in the drive positon I pushed the gear selector all the way forward to neutral. Nothing. I accelerated and while accelerating pushed the lever all the way against the neutral position which is as far forward as it will go in the left gate. Again nothing, the transmission stays engaged.

But what does that short center section do. No lights, no nothing but it is a gate. So I shifted into it. Here my options are drive and neutral, nothing else and nothing marked as best I could tell. Push forward on the gear selection lever in the center gate and the transmission goes into neutral regardless of throttle position. Yes, the engine will rev when in heavy acceleration and idle if you push the lever to neutral. Just like it should. What is a problem is that if you weren't familiar with the car and in a panic you might not recognize this gate as a viable option. I only tried it because I was testing everything. Wasn't my car. So, there is a functioning, non computer locked out neutral.
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Old 10-07-2009, 02:00 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AaronCompNetSys View Post
Great writeup. I pieced that whole thing together from various places, I don't understand why the media did not do what you did when it was first released. Controlling of information simply should now happen in the modern age.
This is why the media is losing out to everyday people reporting on the Internet.
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Old 10-07-2009, 02:27 PM   #10
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Good write up! I too had many questions about that incident. I'd have to say that the neutral lockout in the one gate is a huge oversight.
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Old 10-07-2009, 03:06 PM   #11
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I'll post a picture of the gear selection layout. There are 4 gates BTW.

Quote:
Originally Posted by hwy61 View Post
I'll post a picture of the gear selection layout. There are 4 gates BTW.



In the above picture the gear selector lever is in the only working neutral postion I could find. The one to the left does nothing to disengage the transmission and that is where I instinctively found myself placing the lever at the beginning of my test.



The information on the mats is good but misses the point. I buy a new Lexus, I did have a new IS recently with the push button btw, but I did not know the ignition button would kill the engine only by holding it in continuously for several seconds. Anyway, suppose I read the mat information, suppose the dealer goes over it with me. Then my wife takes the car to a car wash. They remove the mats for vacuuming the floor and reinstall them improperly. We are back to square one, nothing resolved.

Purchasers of Lexuses are buying luxury atomobiles and I full expect 80% of them could care less about anthing mechanical on the car and would only know to hit the brakes in this situation. With the lever in the left gate, neutral is clearly there....it just doesn't function. Speed builds quickly in most modern cars. If you have to think about it, or spend much time figuring it out....you lose. My STI will go from 50 to 80 in 2.2 sec. I've timed in a number of times. Yeah it's modded but if this car had reached 100 mph I'm not sure you or I could have stopped it with the brakes.

I vote for a trip back to the drawing board to put a 100% failsafe switch in the car that when the brakes are heavily applied the engine management returns the engine to idle power immediately. Hwy61
The information on the mats is good but misses the point. I buy a new Lexus, I did have a new IS recently with the push button btw, but I did not know the ignition button would kill the engine only by holding it in continuously for several seconds. Anyway, suppose I read the mat information, suppose the dealer goes over it with me. Then my wife takes the car to a car wash. They remove the mats for vacuuming the floor and reinstall them improperly. We are back to square one, nothing resolved.

Purchasers of Lexuses are buying luxury atomobiles and I full expect 80% of them could care less about anthing mechanical on the car and would only know to hit the brakes in this situation. With the lever in the left gate, neutral is clearly there....it just doesn't function. Speed builds quickly in most modern cars. If you have to think about it, or spend much time figuring it out....you lose. My STI will go from 50 to 80 in 2.2 sec. I've timed in a number of times. Yeah it's modded but if this car had reached 100 mph I'm not sure you or I could have stopped it with the brakes.

I vote for a trip back to the drawing board to put a 100% failsafe switch in the car that when the brakes are heavily applied the engine management returns the engine to idle power immediately. Hwy61

Last edited by hwy61; 10-08-2009 at 12:25 AM.
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Old 10-07-2009, 03:27 PM   #12
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from a NY times blog:

http://wheels.blogs.nytimes.com/2009...at-problem/?hp

Quote:
October 7, 2009, 12:49 pm
Smart Gas Pedals May Solve Floor-Mat Problem
By Christopher Jensen

Some automakers – primarily European - are using an unusual method to reduce the chances of unintended acceleration from something like a floor mat getting tangled up with the accelerator: smart gas pedals.

If the vehicle is moving and both the gas and brake pedal are being pushed at the same time the computer tells the engine to ignore the gas pedal.

"It is an additional safety feature," said Thomas Plucinsky, a BMW spokesman. "The brake takes precedence."

Mr. Plucinsky said BMW made the feature standard on all its vehicles starting in the 2005 model year. He said the system requires a drive-by-wire accelerator and uses software BMW developed. It was designed, in part, with unintended acceleration in mind. He said the feature only works when the vehicle is moving. That means enthusiasts who want to launch the vehicle by revving the engine and holding down the brake may do so.

A smart-pedal system is apparently something Toyota is considering as it attempts to deal with a safety problem involving floor mats that could cover 3.8 million vehicles. Last week the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the automaker urged owners to remove the driver's side floor mat to keep them from moving forward and jamming the gas pedal down.

Brian Lyons, a Toyota spokesman, said at the time that the automaker was not going to redesign floor mats, but instead was working on something that could be done to the vehicles. He said one possibility was software that would allow the brake to overrule the accelerator pedal.

Oddly enough, equipping its vehicles with the safety feature could put Toyota ahead of many other automakers. So far, smart gas pedal systems are used mostly by German automakers.

Audi, which was badly hurt by accusations of unintended acceleration in the late 1980's, uses such a system, a company spokesman said. Volkswagen has had the feature since about the 2001 model year, a spokesman said. A Mercedes-Benz spokesman declined to confirm the use of such software.

Spokespeople for General Motors, Ford, Honda, Acura, Toyota, Lexus and Hyundai said their vehicles do not have smart pedals. Nissan says it will have such a system on its 2010 Infiniti M.

"We continue to accept application of the accelerator and brake pedals as representing the driver's intention," Chris Naughton, a Honda spokesman, said.

Lisa Barrow, a spokeswoman for Chrysler said "most of our vehicles have a feature that recognizes the use of both pedals at the same and brings the engine speed to idle."
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Old 10-07-2009, 03:36 PM   #13
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Was that Tom Williams Lexus that gave you the ES350??
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Old 10-07-2009, 03:39 PM   #14
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does anybody knows when the recall for the mats is going to happen... i do drive a 07 toyota tacoma aswell...
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Old 10-07-2009, 04:35 PM   #15
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Since when did floor mats become such a problem? What is going on down there, pretend walking while you drive? Maybe if these people weren't so lazy and just drove a manual, you could just hold the clutch down, and if you really wanted put it in neutral. Another sign of the deterioration of the masses.
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Old 10-07-2009, 04:45 PM   #16
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Quote:
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Hopefully they disable the feature for stick shift vehicles...
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Old 10-07-2009, 05:28 PM   #17
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I just mentioned this to some co-workers. I asked, "what would you do if your throttle was stuck wide open?"

Met with blank stares. They both know what wide open throttle is, but no idea how to remedy it.
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Old 10-07-2009, 05:32 PM   #18
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So basically you showed that the brakes can stop a car from 80mph at WOT, unless you try to do that 2 or 3 times - and you didn't even use the handbrake in the tests.
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Old 10-07-2009, 05:34 PM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tristar Racing View Post
Hopefully they disable the feature for stick shift vehicles...
Not in Audis; no heel-toe allowed.

Quote:
Mr. Plucinsky said BMW made the feature standard on all its vehicles starting in the 2005 model year.
OTOH, I test-drove a new 535xi and was able to heel-toe.
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Old 10-08-2009, 12:35 AM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AVANTI R5 View Post
Was that Tom Williams Lexus that gave you the ES350??

I ain't talkin about where the car came from or what city I was in or what State. It seems a 100% fail proof system that returns the engine to idle power when the brakes are applied hard is a good idea. Properly tethering your mats only works until your wife takes the car in for a wash and the guys unhook them and of course fail to properly reinstall them. I don't expect that the majority of Lexus purchasers are car enthusiasts. If this happened to my 85 year old Mom she would not have a clue other than to step on the brakes.

AllAWD, throw in the part about this car having no key inserted in an ingnition switch to turn off and see if they are even more confused.

Several people have asked about the e-brake. I fail to understand what that would have helped. All that does is activate the rear brakes. I had all four of the brakes fully and very firmly engaged. There aren't any more that I know of. Well, perhaps Arkansas air brakes.....er....mudflaps.


Good post WRXVT. One of the best I've read. Hwy61

Last edited by hwy61; 10-08-2009 at 12:40 AM.
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Old 10-08-2009, 12:44 AM   #21
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The design of the shifter gate is stupid, IMHO. They cramped it up so much that the "+" on the manual gate and the "N" in neutral is next to each other, and people who are not savvy with cars or that particular one would instinctively shift up instead of shifting into neutral.
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Old 10-08-2009, 03:51 AM   #22
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never mind..
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Old 10-08-2009, 10:24 AM   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hwy61 View Post
Several people have asked about the e-brake. I fail to understand what that would have helped. All that does is activate the rear brakes. I had all four of the brakes fully and very firmly engaged. There aren't any more that I know of. Well, perhaps Arkansas air brakes.....er....mudflaps.
Hwy61
There are two more brakes on a lot of cars. Internal drums below the rear disc, I'm not saying they would stop you but I think they would slow you some and I think they handle heat a little better. Could bide you some precious seconds to think things thru.

As a regular computer user I would instinctively hold down the power button to force quit the car(computer). But that is just me.
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Old 10-08-2009, 10:44 AM   #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nico Flax View Post
Since when did floor mats become such a problem? What is going on down there, pretend walking while you drive? Maybe if these people weren't so lazy and just drove a manual, you could just hold the clutch down, and if you really wanted put it in neutral. Another sign of the deterioration of the masses.
Regardless, the throttle should not have pinned like that and it should have been a bit more obvious as to how to remedy it.

I'm not defending the driver, but people do tend to freeze up in emergency situations. Going off of the OP's report and the ambiguity as to how to remedy the problem, mixed with unfamiliarity with a rental car - I can see how the driver was confused. It's the swiss cheese model - when all of the holes(factors) align, you get disaster.

And apparently some people are reporting this happening without floor mats in the car, so it maybe be something more than the mats.
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Old 10-08-2009, 10:45 AM   #25
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Woah huge red flag here.


Neutral is CLEARLY the center gate he is referring to as being unlabeled. What the hell do you think that + and - are on the drive position? There is no way you could mistake + for neutral. It doesnt even stay there, you just knock the leaver up and it falls back down to D. I mean come on, if it passes through neutral you could have even thrown it in park. The reverse is locked out, and if you put it in park the pin is just going to make a little noise until you stop.

Last edited by Tim-H; 10-08-2009 at 10:50 AM.
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