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posted by janrinok on Sunday March 23 2014, @05:36AM   Printer-friendly
from the money-talks dept.

n1 writes:

"U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced a criminal wire fraud charge against Toyota for defrauding consumers by issuing misleading statements about safety issues in Toyota and Lexus vehicles.

On the same day, The Department of Justice also announced a deferred prosecution agreement with Toyota under which the automotive company accepts a $1.2bn penalty and admits that it misled U.S. consumers by concealing and making deceptive statements about two safety issues affecting its vehicles, each regarding unintended acceleration. If Toyota conforms to all the terms of the agreement, the government will defer prosecution on the information for three years and then seek to dismiss the charge."

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  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 23 2014, @07:29AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 23 2014, @07:29AM (#19895)

    Does anyone else find it strange that these "unintended acceleration" issues only happens in america, although the cars are sold worldwide?

    I can't help to think that this is just operator error much like the Audi 5000 debacle.

    • (Score: 3, Informative) by davester666 on Sunday March 23 2014, @08:18AM

      by davester666 (155) on Sunday March 23 2014, @08:18AM (#19900)

      Um, the cars are generally made for specific markets, even if they have the same name due to different regulations. The Camry you buy in the US isn't the same as the Camry you buy in the EU.

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 23 2014, @09:03AM

        by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 23 2014, @09:03AM (#19903)

        I doubt a Camry would pass EU regulations for sale here. Are they even on sale? (I'm just thinking out loud)

        • (Score: 2) by Reziac on Monday March 24 2014, @03:50AM

          by Reziac (2489) on Monday March 24 2014, @03:50AM (#20074) Homepage

          From what I've heard in the past, it's the other way around -- EU cars require modifications (safety and emissions) to be legally sold by dealers in the U.S. Hence 'grey market' imports.

      • (Score: 2) by c0lo on Sunday March 23 2014, @11:54AM

        by c0lo (156) on Sunday March 23 2014, @11:54AM (#19920) Journal

        The Camry you buy in the US isn't the same as the Camry you buy in the EU.

        Would you be willing to measure the Camry's speed with enough precision, Heisenberg principle will guarantee you that the position will be so indeterminate that it may well happen an US and another EU customers would buy the same vehicle.

        --
        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aoFiw2jMy-0
    • (Score: 3, Insightful) by sjames on Sunday March 23 2014, @09:19AM

      by sjames (2882) on Sunday March 23 2014, @09:19AM (#19907) Journal

      The name may be the same, but they sell different variants in different regions. They have to deal with different emissions and other regulations, left vs. right hand drive, etc.

      Meanwhile, Toyota has actually owned up to a fault. I doubt they did that just for fun.

    • (Score: 3, Interesting) by shortscreen on Sunday March 23 2014, @12:58PM

      by shortscreen (2252) on Sunday March 23 2014, @12:58PM (#19927) Journal

      Problems were also reported in Europe, and Toyota was able to reproduce them during their own testing. But they did not fully disclose the results of internal tests to NHTSA, and did a half-assed recall which didn't address all the problems (while publicly claiming that it did so). Hence why they are in hot water.

      I personally find it hard to imagine a situation where my car is accelerating wildly and I have time to call 911 but can't perform any action to bring the car under control. But car manufacturers are the ones building more complexity into vehicles, changing controls around, and in some cases taking control away from the driver. If a minor defect causes an unsafe condition that people don't know how to respond to then that is largely on the car maker.

      Interestingly, TFA only mentioned floormat-entrapment and "sticky pedal," but not ECU firmware bugs http://www.edn.com/design/automotive/4423428/Toyot a-s-killer-firmware--Bad-design-and-its-consequenc es [edn.com]

      • (Score: 2) by Grishnakh on Monday March 24 2014, @01:48PM

        by Grishnakh (2831) on Monday March 24 2014, @01:48PM (#20215)

        I personally find it hard to imagine a situation where my car is accelerating wildly and I have time to call 911 but can't perform any action to bring the car under control.

        That's because there is no such situation. Car drivers in the US are simply too stupid and shouldn't be allowed to drive themselves.

        Even in a brand-new car with everything highly automated, there's ways to bring the car under control, even if you have an ECU firmware bug that results in full-throttle acceleration: 1) hit the brakes. There isn't a car made where the engine can overpower the brakes (unless perhaps you get into territory like the 1000+HP Bugatti Veyron or other supercars, and even there those cars have massive brakes so it's unlikely the engine is more powerful). 2) Shift into neutral. Your engine may redline and bounce off the rev-limiter, but that's better than dying and won't cause any permanent damage if you do #3 quickly. 3) Turn off the engine. Many new cars now have push-button ignitions, but to turn them off all you do is push and hold the button for several seconds. Yes, this kinda sucks compared to the older cars where you just turn the key off and it kills the engine instantly, but it's good enough after doing #1 and #2.

        The fact that so many drivers can't think to do these simple actions (esp. #1 and #2) in an emergency is nothing short of pathetic. We should have driving simulators where drivers are required to prove their driving skills, including dealing with emergencies like these, and if they fail, they get their license revoked. If you can't handle an emergency, you have no business piloting a 5000-lb vehicle.

    • (Score: 3, Insightful) by Rune of Doom on Sunday March 23 2014, @02:52PM

      by Rune of Doom (1392) on Sunday March 23 2014, @02:52PM (#19939)

      Nope, not strange at all. Obviously Toyota didn't spend enough lobbying dollars in America.

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 23 2014, @07:44AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 23 2014, @07:44AM (#19897)

    This is the second time that when viewing the comments section, the layout is square corners and greyscale. It might be client side issue but never the less I love it!! Wish the whole site was like that.

  • (Score: 3, Interesting) by timbim on Sunday March 23 2014, @09:33AM

    by timbim (907) on Sunday March 23 2014, @09:33AM (#19910)

    How does any of this help the US consumer? Where's my cut of the 1.2 x 10^9 dollars?

    • (Score: 2) by c0lo on Sunday March 23 2014, @11:46AM

      by c0lo (156) on Sunday March 23 2014, @11:46AM (#19919) Journal
      Hey, hmmmm... think like this: some 14,999 more fines of the same magnitude and US can get free of its national debt. How hard can it be?
      --
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aoFiw2jMy-0
      • (Score: 2, Funny) by dmbasso on Sunday March 23 2014, @12:43PM

        by dmbasso (3237) on Sunday March 23 2014, @12:43PM (#19926)

        Half of that could be achieved by punishing the deceptive practices of Fox News. OTOH, if a food stamp was given for every lie they tell, the obesity problem in US would be highly exacerbated.

        --
        `echo $[0x853204FA81]|tr 0-9 ionbsdeaml`@gmail.com
    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 23 2014, @12:14PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 23 2014, @12:14PM (#19922)

      Are you simple? You get safer shit.

    • (Score: 1) by Tork on Sunday March 23 2014, @04:02PM

      by Tork (3914) on Sunday March 23 2014, @04:02PM (#19945)
      It helps the US consumer because these companies don't want to spend a billion over mistakes like this.
      --
      Slashdolt Logic: "25 year old jokes about sharks and lasers are +5, Funny." 💩
  • (Score: 2) by moo kuh on Sunday March 23 2014, @10:39AM

    by moo kuh (2044) on Sunday March 23 2014, @10:39AM (#19916) Journal

    How do we know its not just people driving like maniacs and claiming it was the car? How hard is it to pop the car into neutral?

    • (Score: 3, Interesting) by Open4D on Sunday March 23 2014, @04:00PM

      by Open4D (371) on Sunday March 23 2014, @04:00PM (#19944) Journal

      How hard is it to pop the car into neutral?

      Maybe in the heat of the moment, not completely trivial?

      I wonder whether this might answer the question of why it's more of a problem in the USA than other parts of the world. I've only ever driven manual transmission [wikipedia.org] vehicles. Pressing the clutch pedal would seem like a very natural action to take no matter what the speed, whereas actually changing to neutral at high speed takes at least a bit of thought.

      Anyway, bring on the self-driving cars, I say.

      • (Score: 2) by VLM on Sunday March 23 2014, @07:00PM

        by VLM (445) on Sunday March 23 2014, @07:00PM (#19965)

        "Maybe in the heat of the moment, not completely trivial?"

        They shouldn't be on the road for safety reasons. No excuses. Intentionally going out there with no idea what you're doing is exactly as irresponsible as driving drunk. Exactly the same scenario.

        Decades ago I had an ancient carb car and those had issues when cold or not perfectly maintained as teen driver clunkers often are, and one time I stalled it on the road while making a turn, popped it into neutral to restart the engine (starter won't crank unless neutral or park) and once it started flipped it back into drive while still moving. It was certainly the most exciting part of the entire trip, but no big deal. Probably lost about 5 MPH and the whole process only took 50 feet maybe, didn't even coast to a stop. Never practiced it, only happened once, I'm no amazing driver, it was simple and instinctual for a teen driver. This seems to be worst case situation other than an elderly driver or drunk driver?

        Somehow, if you look at the demographics, the majority of unintended accelerations know to happen when the driver is over 65. That's some amazing software. Also the software knows whats being reported on TV so "suicide by runaway car" happens a lot more when its heavily covered on TV but when the news cycle moves on, the "problem" software magically disappears. I had no idea my car's engine computer watched fox news behind my back.

        Also I read a lot of quotes about the average terrified american is unable to produce 150 pounds of braking force (again, my occasionally non-power brake clunker never required 150 pounds...) and most people's commuter class cars can accelerate 10x faster than they brake, so a mere 15 pounds of foot pressure should stop the car as fast as flooring the engine would speed it up. Yet in America, all Americans are fat so they can't push their foot down with 350 pounds of force in a car, only while standing on one foot, all while normal cars certainly don't take even 150 pounds of force or some similar illogic that I simply can't wrap my head around.

        • (Score: 1) by adolf on Monday March 24 2014, @12:52AM

          by adolf (1961) on Monday March 24 2014, @12:52AM (#20017)

          They shouldn't be on the road for safety reasons. No excuses. Intentionally going out there with no idea what you're doing is exactly as irresponsible as driving drunk. Exactly the same scenario.

          It might be different now, but dealing with sudden, unwanted acceleration was something that was not covered when I went to a private, state-licensed driver's education school to get my license around a couple of decades ago.

          Lots of other emergency situations were discussed. Sudden acceleration? Nope. Not at all.

          Before we can logically expect someone to be able to do a thing, we must first afford them the opportunity to learn that thing.

          Decades ago I had an ancient carb car and those had issues when cold or not perfectly maintained as teen driver clunkers often are, and one time I stalled it on the road while making a turn, popped it into neutral to restart the engine (starter won't crank unless neutral or park) and once it started flipped it back into drive while still moving. It was certainly the most exciting part of the entire trip, but no big deal. Probably lost about 5 MPH and the whole process only took 50 feet maybe, didn't even coast to a stop.

          Nice move; excellence in motion. But it was a straight-forward solution to a problem which is exactly the opposite of what is being discussed. Worst case for you was some cussing with restarting a stalled car at the side of the road; worst case in unintended acceleration is a bit different -- obviously.

          --
          I'm wasting my days as I've wasted my nights and I've wasted my youth
    • (Score: 1) by Techwolf on Sunday March 23 2014, @09:00PM

      by Techwolf (87) on Sunday March 23 2014, @09:00PM (#19983)

      In this case, it was locked out for "safty" reasons. Don't want to damage the engine/car. This was a classic case of where one failure or design defect would not be dangirous. In this case, you had serveral combined. ECM bug putting full power on. The design failures was several. Brakes to weak, ECM failsafe of powerdown on brake was missing from software, no ignition key to turn off and "panic" mode off was to hold down button for seconds instead of reconizing rapied pushing of button, and lastly, tranmissiom gear lock to prevent damage for warrenity/reliabily purpuses.

  • (Score: 3, Interesting) by n1 on Sunday March 23 2014, @04:59PM

    by n1 (993) on Sunday March 23 2014, @04:59PM (#19950) Journal

    I'm curious about this story, which is part of the reason I submitted it...

    Is it normal for charges and the deferment of prosecution to be made in the same announcement with the terms already agreed by both parties?

    To me it seems like it was all conducted behind closed doors to a situation where both the DoJ and Toyota win... The DoJ gets to say they leveled the biggest fine ever against a foreign company. Toyota as a company and the executives dont actually get prosecuted or convicted of anything. If there was a week or two between charges and deferment, then that would have caused two drops in Toyota share prices, as it stands it's all wrapped up in a neat package before the word gets out, maximum headlines, minimum impact.

    Does this kind of thing ever happen in cases involving people and blue collar crime? (where charges and deferment of prosecution are made in the same statement) As an outside observer, it seems like a mockery of the law and justice.

    • (Score: 4, Informative) by VLM on Sunday March 23 2014, @06:32PM

      by VLM (445) on Sunday March 23 2014, @06:32PM (#19962)

      I think for class reasons they'd be called "plea bargains" and yes they're normal and yes they're a mockery of the law and justice etc just as you say.

      What is unusual is its so large. Obviously a certain company is not contributing their fair share to re-election campaigns so as to sweep this whole thing under the rug. A mere $50M in election campaigns, properly distributed, could have prevented this whole billion dollar thing.