Toyota Accused In Prius Sudden Acceleration

March 22, 2010

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Since 2002, the electronic throttle system in most Toyota vehicles, including cars that Toyota has to date refused to recall, relies on sensors, microprocessors and electronic motors instead of a mechanical linkage, such as steel cable, to connect the accelerator pedal to the engine throttle plate.

In the lawsuits filed against Toyota by affected owners the plaintiffs charge that:

  • Toyota had full knowledge of the numerous complaints regarding its vehicles, that such vehicles were susceptible to incidents of sudden unintended acceleration, and thus that such vehicles posed a significant risk of injury and death to vehicle occupants, other motorists, and pedestrians;
  • Toyota failed to exercise ordinary care and breached its duty to manufacture and sell safe automobiles by:
    1. producing vehicles Toyota knew or should have known were defectively designed and/or manufactured and were therefore prone to failure under normal driving conditions, potentially causing injuries and/or deaths;
    2. failing to incorporate within its vehicles and designs reasonable safeguards and protections against sudden acceleration; and
    3. failing to adequately identify and mitigate the hazards associated with sudden unintended acceleration in accordance with good engineering practices.

Toyota failed to equip the Prius with a vital safety feature  known as “brake to idle override” that enables the driver to override the electronic throttle and gain control of the vehicle in the event of sudden unintended acceleration.    In 2007 Federal Regulators asked Toyota to  consider installing the software after numerous complaints were received from drivers that vehicles were racing out of control. To date, more than 100 drivers have reported sudden acceleration incidents.  This safety feature is used by other manufacturers but Toyota elected not to include it until 2010 when it began recalling more that 7 million vehicles in the US.

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