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Toyota Camry Hybrid, Car Safety, Sedan
#2 of 63 Safety Defect: Push Button Start/Stop (2007 Toyota Camry Hybrid)
May 13, 2007 (10:25 am)
I leased a 2007 Toyota Camry Hybrid in June of 2006. I've been very pleased with the vehicle, and I've averaged over 40 mpg on the last five tanks of gas. However, there's a very serious safety concern which has come to my attention.
About three weeks ago a co-worker related a story to me about how his friend's "push button start/stop" vehicle has accidentally turned off while he was driving. I don't remember the specifics, but the driver apparently hit the start/stop button while he was driving.
I was naturally shocked to hear that this might happen. Within the next few days, I was reminded about this conversation, and I decided to test my own vehicle.
I found an isolated part of my employer's parking lot, and while driving about 5 mph I pushed the start/stop button. Sure enough... the vehicle turned off.
Now I don't remember whether I immediately pushed the button again, or whether I brought the vehicle to a stop before starting. My guess is that I stopped the vehicle; put it in park; depressed the brake pedal; and pushed the start/stop button. Again, I don't remember, but this is the usual start routine for the TCH.
My point is this: no vehicle should turn off while the gear selector is in "drive", or for that matter... any position other than "park".
The significance of this safety defect and its potential consequences were only hypothetical to me until this past Saturday (May 5, 2007). It then materialized into a full fledged, real-life automobile accident. Fortunately, there were no injuries or deaths.
I had gone to my local Toyota dealership to have the 10,000 mile maintenance preformed (i.e. oil change & tire rotation). Upon completion of the service, the manager drove the vehicle out of the service bay and parked it adjacent to the building. She then got out of the car and came inside the office area.
However, when she turned off the TCH she neglected to place the vehicle in "park", and she didn't apply the emergency brake either. My guess is the vehicle sounded an audible alarm to caution the driver that the vehicle was not in gear.
I don't know for a fact that the vehicle sounded an alarm, but the TCH is pretty smart. It usually sounds an alarm when the driver neglects to do something correctly (e.g. turn off the lights; or failing to remove the "smart key" from the vehicle after it's been turned off).
Once in the office area, the service manager began talking to the attendant receiving my payment. None of us knew that the TCH had already started a slow roll through the parking lot.
By the time the service manager saw the vehicle moving it was too late for any of us to intervene. She said something to the effect of, "Oh my god, your car just went down the hill!" My reply was an astonished, "My car?!"
The service manager then said "yes" and bolted out the employee entrance, towards the scene of the accident. I knew my car was likely destroyed, and there wasn't much I could do about it. So, I walked slowly out of the office to investigate the damage.
The TCH had jumped the curb at the oil change facility, and rolled head long down an embankment into the dealership's parking lot below. The difference in elevation between the two parking lots was about two stories (28 feet), and the embankment was approximately a 45 degree slope.
By the time I saw the accident scene, the TCH had come to rest. It had impacted a Toyota Highlander, which then impacted a third vehicle. Again, none of these vehicles were occupied, so no injuries were sustained.
Naturally, I was quite livid!
This was no ordinary accident. In my opinion, employees of such commercial businesses should be held to a higher degree of responsibility that an average citizen. Since properly moving customer vehicles is an every day occurrence, there should be an increased awareness of safety as part of the training and expectations of all employees at the dealership and/or oil change site.
My initial and subsequent “gut feeling” about this accident has been that I should be compensated with a brand new Toyota Camry Hybrid. Whether this will happen or not remains to be seen, as the issue has not yet been resolved.
I seriously believe the keyless push button start/stop was a contributing factor to this accident. The design of all modern vehicles should take into consideration that motorists may inadvertently attempt to turn off a vehicle while it’s not in the “park” position. There should be an engineering solution which will not let a consumer do this.
I can imagine many “worst case scenarios” where people might be injured or killed if this safety defect is not corrected.
#3 of 63 Re: Safety Defect: Push Button Start/Stop (2007 Toyota Camry Hybrid) [michaelgcrist]
May 13, 2007 (11:35 am)
What a story! Good luck in getting completely satisfied.
As to Smart Key shortcomings, well, had I a choice I'd not have chosen the feature. It's conveniences don't overcome some of its drawbacks, imo.
Still, in an emergency situation one should always be able to turn off an engine without putting the gear shift into park. Gas pedals stick, brakes fail, drivers have heart attacks, etc.
#4 of 63 Re: Safety Defect: Push Button Start/Stop (2007 Toyota Camry Hybrid) [michaelgcrist]
May 13, 2007 (3:08 pm)
Here are my suggestions for an "engineering solution":
1. Under ordinary conditions it should not be possible to turn off the motor unless the vehicle is in park. This will prevent accidentally turning off the motor by simply touching or bumping the start/stop button.
2. Under extraordinary circumstances, such as emergency responders taking action at an accident scene, it should be possible to turn off the motor while it's not in park. (It may be physically impossible to place the vehicle in park.) This "override" might be something like continuously holding the start/stop button for a specified length of time. My suggestion would be at least 10 seconds.
3. Additional consideration should be given to whether or not the key must be present to activate this "override". My suggestion would be "no".
In the event of a serious crash, the key may no longer be present in or around the vehicle, and for that matter it may no longer function anyway.
This could also be a type "car jacking" prevention method. Simply ditch the key somewhere, then manually override the normal turn off procedure (preferably at the next intersection or other place where the vehicle isn't moving). It will then be impossible to re-start the vehicle without the key.
#5 of 63 Re: Safety Defect: Push Button Start/Stop (2007 Toyota Camry Hybrid) [michaelgcrist]
May 13, 2007 (6:26 pm)
I don't know about your car, but my Smart Key start button will not respond to a "touch" or "bump." It must be firmly pushed, with significant inward button travel, before engagement takes place.
As to a 10-second lag before engine shutdown, that would not be acceptable in any emergency. I can hear attorneys murmuring now.
#6 of 63 Hold on folks
May 14, 2007 (6:23 am)
This is not AT ALL a Camry Hybrid safety issue, nor is it a "safety lack thereof" issue.
This could happen to ANY CAR which is left in gear while sitting on an incline.
It was not technological error or bad engineering - it was 100% HUMAN ERROR.
So far, as far as I know, there is no car ever engineered which accounts for HUMAN ERROR.
The error was made by the person not putting the car into Park. Not by any technology on the car.
#7 of 63 Re: Hold on folks [larsb]
May 14, 2007 (12:19 pm)
I couldn't have said it better. Everyone has a friend with a story. If the story is real, I suspect the person was "testing" what would happen if the start button was pushed while the car was in drive. That's it. This was not done accidentally and certainly isn't a safety issue (the opposite would be true). Heck, I've been tempted to try it myself. Thanks for saving me the trouble. Now I know it works as it should.
#8 of 63 Re: Safety Defect: Push Button Start/Stop (2007 Toyota Camry Hybrid) [michaelgcrist]
May 18, 2007 (11:25 am)
The story seems to have a two'missing' links IMO. But I could be in error. I have a Prius with the same system.
It appears from your report that the service writer brought the vehicle around to the front for you and [ thought that she ] put the vehicle in park then turned off the vehicle.
Somehow [ according to her ]the vehicle restarted itself and shifted itself out of Park into drive and began rolling down the hill. My guess is that the service writer just was in too much of a hurry and never put it in Park and never shut it off.....the vehicle not surprisingly just took off like any other vehicle would.
There are three beeps that the SKS sounds when the engine is running and the SKS Fob is moved outside the frame of the car. It seems that the service writer ignored them, never heard them or didnt know what they meant.
As in most things the first explanation often seems to me 'It's not my fault, I did nothing wrong, it must be the ......' Usually it's operator error that ends up being the cause of a problem.
#9 of 63 Re: Safety Defect: Push Button Start/Stop (2007 Toyota Camry Hybrid) [mich
Jun 03, 2007 (12:26 pm)
Actually your "test" only worked because you were going very slowly in a parking lot. If you pressed the Power button at speed it would have given you a warning "Beep!" and done nothing.
Same thing if you tried to shift to reverse at speed.
#10 of 63 Re: Safety Defect: Push Button Start/Stop (2007 Toyota Camry Hybrid) [mich
Jun 21, 2007 (2:44 pm)
Sorry to hear that your car got in an accident, but these guys are right. Your accident wasn't any fault of the car's design. The service adviser simply didn't put it in park, any vehicle can be turned off in gear and that is exactly what they did.
Also, as plawler stated, your low speed test to turn off the vehicle is flawed, due to the speed you were traveling at. If you were at higher speed simply pressing the power button would do nothing. However, if you press and hold the power button for 3 seconds, the car will shut down. (Look at page 304 of your owner's manual)
This is a very important safety feature for two reasons. For one, having a set time for how long you hold down the button prevents people from accidentally shutting off the vehicle. If the button is held for three seconds, that shows that you have intent to turn off the vehicle and it is reasonable for the vehicle to assume that the driver has a specific reason for wanting to do so.
This leads to reason two, "the run away car" scenario. There are stories everywhere about people driving their car (any car not necessarily TCHs) and then suddenly the car begins to accelerate uncontrollably. 90% of the time it is caused by a floor mat getting pushed on top of the accelerator, sometimes its something more serious. But in either case there absolutely HAS to be a way to disable the vehicle in such a scenario. That is why you can turn off the vehicle.
The smart key system didn't add to your accident, one person's stupidity did.
#11 of 63 Re: Safety Defect: Push Button Start/Stop (2007 Toyota Camry Hybrid) [mich
Jul 10, 2007 (10:28 pm)
That Toyota dealership should definite work with your insurance company to give you a brand new TCH. A mistake like that is ridiculous and negligent. That employee is probably the laughing stock of her dealership right now. Get an attorney if they're stubborn about it.