• Mar 9th 2010 at 11:37AM
  • 42
Amid all of its other problems recently, Toyota is trying to figure out what, exactly, is wrong with the brakes on the Prius. An incident on the San Diego County freeway makes it look like the second-generation Prius might (repeat, might) be involved in the unintended acceleration issue that has affected other Toyota brand vehicles. At this early stage and without much information, no one can say for sure what happened, but James Sikes, the driver, claims:
I pushed the gas pedal to pass a car and it did something kind of funny... it jumped and it just stuck there. As it was going, I was trying the brakes...it wasn't stopping, it wasn't doing anything and it just kept speeding up.
The car got all the way up to 94 miles per hour before a combination of emergency braking, pushing the brake pedal all the way down and a steep incline allowed Sikes to turn the car off and coast to a stop with the assistance of a California Highway Patrol officer.

Sikes said he recently took his second-gen Prius to the dealer, but was told it wasn't on the recall list (which is true, although the third-gen is). He told the local news that he's taking his car to the dealer again and won't drive it any more until he gets some answers about what happened. Toyota has sent a field technical specialist to investigate. You can watch a local news report on the incident here. Thanks to Tohe for the tip!

*UPDATE: NHTSA is also investigating.

[Source: AP]

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 5 Years Ago
      Toyota needs to replace these cars (all Toyotas, not just Prius) with new cars with the gas acceleration override ( like GM and Nissan already has) or be thrown out of this country via lawsuits, end of story. Killing and endangering people like that, not a good thing.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Probably what the guy was hoping for by claiming he could not prevent the car from getting all the way to 94 mph.

        We should be arresting people for not following driving protocols when in an emergency!!!

        Every student driver is taught to shift into neutral under these circumstances and/or turn off the car.

        It is the state's fault for not requiring driving test to be taking upon renewal of one's license.

        Everyone knows (the insurance companies especially) that the two worst drivers are the very young and the very old.


        The guy called 911??? And waited at WOT going 94 mph for a cruiser to show up???

        BS! Guy was old and probably confused. Either that, or trying to be slick and avoid a speeding ticket.
      • 5 Years Ago
      @ DaveR: "2. The Prius' brakes are more than powerful enough to stop the car even with the car at WOT "

      Not only should the Prius Brakes overpower the engine, but the Prius is one of the few models on the road with a full brake throttle override. Push the brakes and the throttle will automatically cut.

      See these youtube demos of a Prius floored on the highway and the simple solutions:

      Shift to neutral. Problem solved instantly.

      Hold power button Problems solved but you do have to wait 3 seconds.

      Use the brakes. Problem solved instantly.

      A 2008 Prius like he has will immediately reduce the throttle to zero if you do any of these actions. So this requires a cascade of multiple failures, or a scam.

      I would say odds are more in favor of scam the massive coincidental system failures.
        • 5 Years Ago
        You shoulda posted this earlier. It would have shaved a lot of time off my daily Toyota bashing schedule.

        Okay, now i am skeptical of this dude.

        Normally i'd say the brakes would fade and start losing their effectiveness but yeah, i smell a hoax or a guy who wanted to get out of a speeding ticket.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I wonder if they are using the same CTS pedals in that car.
      Good thing he was driving a Prius, and not a car with some actual power. Could have been worse. I personally would be more scared of a car like the prius in that incident though because the braking system is complex & who knows how it reacts to that situation..

      Does a prius have a neutral gear that you can shift into, regardless of pedal position and such?

      I wonder when this Toyota scare will end. Their lies and deceitful tactics are really hurting them. If they would have fessed up to this a year ago & did an all-inclusive fix ( pedal, brake override, ECU reporting of SUA incidences ), they would not be in this situation so i have a hard time finding sympathy even when the media takes a dump on them. They are far from a real fix & people with the pedal shim are reporting that it didn't fix anything.

      It's really up to them to end the scare. I bet they are not recalling every car because it would bankrupt them right now in this economic climate. I think they already sank something like 2 billion into recalling the floor mats ( whoops )
        • 5 Years Ago
        All Priuses have Denso gas pedals, not CTS.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I wonder if the cruise control plays any part in these issues.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Well, I guess on the up side for me (RAV 4 driver), I'll have enough "reasonable doubt" to get out of the ticket next time I get busted trying to pass at 94 mph!

      Thanks American mass hysteria!

      • 5 Years Ago
      Something else funny about this story ...
      ""I pushed the gas pedal to pass a car and it did something kind of funny ... it jumped and it just stuck there," the 61-year-old driver said at a news conference."
      How did the pedal physically "jump"? As far as I know, there's no way for the Prius to physically move its gas pedal. There's no physical link between the throttle and pedal; for example, when the cruise control advances the throttle, the pedal stays in the rest position. This means it has to be an physical entrapment / floor mat problem, not an electronic one. It would be impossibly unlikely for an electronic glitch that disables the gear shift and reduces the effectiveness of the brakes to just happen to occur at the exact same time.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Yep there are two possible scenarios in my mind that would cause the pedal to feel like it "jumped" :

        1. Pedal entrapment due to wrong or unsecured floormat (most likely cause). The floor mat was far enough forward to catch the edge of the mat. When he floored the gas pedal, the "jump" he felt was the pedal slipping past the edge of the mat, which subsequently trapped it floored.
        2. Catastrophic failure of the gas pedal (nearly impossible). Looking at the disassembled gas pedal at ttac.com[1], the pedal assembly would literally have to disintegrate, or both of the return springs fail at the same time.

        [1] http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/the-complete-guide-to-toyota-gas-pedals-teardown-pictures-toyotas-fix-analysis-and-commentary/
      • 5 Years Ago
      The timing of this could not be worse for Toyota! At first I thought Toyota was going to blow right through these problems, but man was I wrong!
      • 5 Years Ago
      I drive a prius, and yes, it has a neutral gear. And, the brakes are so much more powerful than the barely 100HP engine that it shouldn't make too much of a difference in stopping power if the engine is floored or not. The car can barely go 90+ in the best of circumstances, I can't see how it could do it against both the brake and emergency brake. This sounds pretty fishy to me.
        • 5 Years Ago
        my bad - i only saw the most recent videos and didn't look at the older.

        i take that back.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Saw the video.. it took forever for you to stop the car. You haven't proved anything.

        You didn't demonstrate a brake override. holding the power button for 3 seconds is not a brake override when your car is accelerating in thick traffic.

        I suppose you consider the rear end of another car an override?
        • 5 Years Ago
        And to be clear: The 2G Prius already has a brake override. And I have tested this myself.

        You can also see video of these tests (neutral, power off, brake override) at

        Clearly a fake incident.
      • 5 Years Ago

      The 3rd generation Prius is recalled for an issue with the regen/ABS/braking systems -- NOT an acceleration problem. This post is possibly confusing on this?

      I think that the situation with Toyota has reached the point of piling on; and the ambulance chasers are circling:


      I seriously doubt the gentleman in this Prius had a actual systematic problem -- I think he was possibly put up to this stunt, and if they faked this incident, I would not be surprised. The lawyers smell money, and Toyota is in a weak position, and they will settle for almost any amount of money...

      It could also easily be some other problem (floor mats?) and the driver; who is already quite worried -- panicked... Hopefully, someone will get to the bottom of this.

      Sincerely, Neil
        • 5 Years Ago
        Hi Chris,

        From the NPR story I linked to above (who are working from the AP):

        ""I pushed the gas pedal to pass a car and it did something kind of funny ... it jumped and it just stuck there," the 61-year-old driver said at a news conference.

        "As it was going, I was trying the brakes ... it wasn't stopping, it wasn't doing anything and it just kept speeding up," Sikes said, adding he could smell the brakes burning he was pressing the pedal so hard.

        A patrol car pulled alongside the Prius and officers told Sikes over a loudspeaker to push the brake pedal to the floor and apply the emergency brake.

        "They also got it going on a steep upgrade," said Officer Jesse Udovich. "Between those three things, they got it to slow down."

        After the car decelerated to about 50 mph, Sikes turned off the engine and coasted to a halt.

        The officer then maneuvered his car in front of the Prius as a precautionary block, Udovich said."

        Judging solely from this quote, it puzzles me why they had to wait until the car slowed down below 50mph to turn off the car.

        I do know from my direct experience driving a second-gen Prius: the shifter is software controlled and the on/off switch is software control. We know that the Toyota models that have been recalled for acceleration problems all use a CTS-sourced accelerators; NOT the Denso-sourced units used on the models made in Japan.

        That doesn't mean that this particular Prius doesn't have some sort of acceleration problem -- it might. But, I find it to be very odd and problematic that a fellow who was obviously very worried about the acceleration recall (he doesn't even mention the *braking* recall that actually did affect the third-gen Prius), to the point that he took his car into the dealer -- *then* he has an apparent acceleration problem.

        I hope that the investigators look at this from all angles, including:

        Did Mr. Sikes have any contact with his lawyer *before* going to the dealer, or before the acceleration incident?

        Is there a "smoking gun" type of proof for an acceleration problem?

        If so, is it a mechanical issue (like with a floor mat or in the physical portion of the pedal unit -- and what brand is the pedal unit?), or is it an electrical problem (like a short circuit), or is it a software problem?

        Why didn't shifting it into neutral or shutting it off, work to slow down/stop the car?

        I'm sure that there are other important questions...

        Sincerely, Neil
        • 5 Years Ago
        Hi Sebastian,

        Here's the changes I would make to make it clearer to a reader that is not already steeped in this situation:

        "Sikes said he recently took his second-gen Prius to the dealer, but was told it wasn't on the recall list [ for "unintended" acceleration] (which is true, although the third-gen is [recalled for a braking problem])."

        Sincerely, Neil
        • 5 Years Ago
        Well, Toyota hasn't 'settled up' on this issue for over a year, and has lied to the public multiple times. They even went so far as to say, basically 'we slipped up because we were too busy becoming the #1 automaker and were too successful'

        It's the kinda evil, 'i only care when you're suing me', kind of behavior that consumer protectionist America is not really fond of, ya know.

        The floor mat thing has been debunked on a lot of cars. A quick search on youtube will produce some good vids of this. I'm not sure of specifics on the prius.

        Anyway, the media will continue to boil Toyota until they have a fix in place for all affected cars & thus have a leg to stand on. Right now they've got nothing.
        • 5 Years Ago

        Can you or any other Prius (second-gen or otherwise) confirm or deny that the Prius cannot be put into Neutral or the ignition turned off while the vehicle is at high speeds?

        There seems to be conflicting reports on this and I can't believe that the 911 dispatcher involved in this case or the officer responding and using his PA system didn't suggest either Neutral or disabling the ignition, first thing. Something just doesn't add up with all of these run-away Toyota stories unless there is some reason that Neutral and/or ignition disabling isn't an option.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Well, I tried to be clear in the lede that there are two different issues here. You don't think I was?
      • 5 Years Ago
      This may have really happened, but part of me still thinks of the Balloon Boy thing and how the media got that wrong. The media is just going on this one guys assessment (which could be true), and the fact the CHP got involved. But he may just want his 15 minutes of fame and to bring a lawsuit against Toyota.

      What is the truth? If there isn't a physical connection between the brakes and the wheels, then that is a problem with Toyota. If the car can't be forced into neutral or turned off at any time, then that is a problem with the car as well.

      Toyota may be at fault, but it seems like the media is acting as the judge and jury here.
        • 5 Years Ago
        You're not alone. My BS meter is in the red zone.

        Police dispatcher told him multiple times to put it in neutral. Ignored.
        A Prius hybrid engine has enough power to over-ride emergency brakes?
        Meeting with the press at the dealer immediately after the incident?

        How long before the lawsuit for emotional distress and PTSD.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Good -- I'm not alone. My first thought was this was a hoax, and my BS detector was going off. Why is there no damage to either vehicle?
      • 5 Years Ago
      With all due respect and sympathy to those truly injured due to this issue...

      If I were every to be caught speeding, I would hoot and holler that the car was experiencing unintended accerlation.

      It's difficult to believe all of these incidents --- difficult to prove - which brings out the "hey, look at me" crowd.

      With the tire shred recall - you at least had some tangible proof.

      I wish we had the black boxes in automobiles.

      • 5 Years Ago
      Yes, you can shift into neutral at any speed and any pedal position.

      This story does not make sense as he told it. Why did he need the brakes and the hill before he could shut the engine off? Apparently the brakes were functioning because he said he could smell them smoking - but the brakes should have enough power to stop the car relatively quickly, regardless of throttle position. Car and Driver tested a Camry and, even with the throttle stuck wide open, the brakes stopped the car from 70mph a foot shorter than a Ford Taurus with no throttle problems.

      I'm interested to see if this single report leads to a rash of similar claims about the 2nd-gen now...
        • 5 Years Ago
        You can't stop the car if you don't maintain pedal pressure the whole way. If you pulse the brakes or release pressure at some point, you may fade the brakes enough that you can't come to a stop, esp as speed continues to climb.

        Seems a bit too much of a coincidence that something like this happens in this time frame.
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