Posted on October 15th, 2010 No comments
I met Darren Ewing this past weekend at the Prius Tenth Anniversary (yeah, all those pictures down below). Here’s a link to his commentary and thoughts on Toyota vis a vis the sudden acceleration incidents from earlier this year and later year. You might find some argument with some of his points but what you won’t find missing are two things.
His willingness to honestly admit he was wrong before and he forthrightness in correcting that.
And his passion for greatness and respect for it.
Two things I admire a great deal.
Posted on March 15th, 2010 No comments
Toyota Offers Preliminary Findings From Technical Field Examination of Alleged ‘Runaway Prius’ in San Diego
• Toyota Engineers Conclude Two Days of Investigation
• Driver’s Account Of Event Inconsistent With Initial Findings
SAN DIEGO, Calif., March 15, 2010—At a press conference today, Toyota Motor Sales (TMS), U.S.A., Inc. offered key preliminary findings of technical field examination and testing that were performed on March 10 and 11 regarding an alleged “runaway Prius” event dramatically covered by national news media.
Toyota engineers completed an investigation of the 2008 Prius driven by Mr. James Sikes that was the subject of a 911 emergency call on Monday, March 8. The driver reported that the vehicle was traveling at a high rate of speed, the accelerator pedal was stuck, and that the vehicle was out of control and could not be stopped. The emergency operator repeatedly instructed the driver to shift the car into neutral and turn off the power button.
A California Highway Patrol officer intercepted the vehicle and instructed the driver to press firmly on the brakes, apply the emergency brake and turn off the car, at which time the Prius came to a safe stop.
While a final report is not yet complete, there are strong indications that the driver’s account of the event is inconsistent with the findings of the preliminary analysis.
Toyota engineers employed data download/analysis, static and dynamic testing as well as thorough inspections of all relative components. In addition, they retraced the reported driving route taking into account driving time and accounts from the 911 recording.
The investigation revealed the following initial findings:
• The accelerator pedal was tested and found to be working normally with no mechanical binding or friction. It should be noted that the Prius is not subject to a recall for sticking accelerator pedals and the Prius component is made by a different supplier than the one recalled.
• The front brakes showed severe wear and damage from overheating. The rear brakes and parking brake were in good condition and functional.
• A Toyota carpeted floor mat of the correct type for the vehicle was installed but not secured to the retention hooks. It was not found to be interfering or even touching the accelerator pedal.
• The pushbutton power switch worked normally and shut the vehicle off when depressed for 3 seconds as the 911 operator advised Mr. Sikes to do.
• The shift lever also worked normally and neutral could be selected. The neutral position is clearly marked and can be easily engaged by moving the lever left to the “N” marking.
• There were no diagnostic trouble codes found in the power management computer, nor was the dashboard malfunction indicator light activated. The hybrid self-diagnostic system did show evidence of numerous, rapidly repeated on-and- off applications of both the accelerator and the brake pedals.
• After examination of individual components, the front brakes were replaced and the vehicle was test driven, during which the vehicle was observed to be functioning normally.
• During testing, the brakes were purposely abused by continuous light application in order to overheat them. The vehicle could be safely stopped by means of the brake pedal, even when overheated.
The Prius braking system uses both conventional hydraulic friction brakes and a regenerative braking system which switches the electric drive motors into brakes to generate electricity.
The system features a sophisticated self- protection function which cuts engine power if moderate brake pedal pressure is applied and the accelerator pedal is depressed more than approximately 50 percent, in effect providing a form of “brake override.”
This function, which is intended to protect the system from overload and possible damage, was found to be functioning normally during the preliminary field examination.
Toyota engineers believe that it would be extremely difficult for the Prius to be driven at a continuous high speed with more than light brake-pedal pressure, and that the assertion that the vehicle could not be stopped with the brakes is fundamentally inconsistent with basic vehicle design and the investigation observations.
These findings suggest that there should be further examination of Mr. Sikes account of the events of March 8.
NHTSA investigators were present during Toyota’s examination, and are conducting their own investigation of the vehicle and its performance. Toyota’s examination was also observed by a congressional staff member.
Posted on March 13th, 2010 No comments
Last Monday James Sikes leaped into the national view when he claimed, via a twenty-three minute long 911 call that his Prius was speeding out of control. Pleading for help, a CHP officer finally drove next to him instructing him to engage the parking brake. After almost thirty minutes, James Sikes nightmare had ended.
Or had it?
There’s nothing our twenty-four a day media love more than a circus and this was a good one. On the very day Toyota conclusively debunked a so-called “expert’s” claim that he had reproduced unintended acceleration, Sikes appeared, as if by command, to show the world what it was like to speed out of control in a Prius.
Whether Sikes story is a hoax or not is debatable, to some extent. As yet, no physical evidence has been presented that he faked it or that it was real. The investigation is ongoing. Well, sort of.
The real failure in this tale of woe is that of the media. Our media failed us completely and utterly. Instead of asking hard questions, we were treated to press conferences with the “victim” and computer generated recreations of the incident (albeit mostly inaccurate ones).
Here’s a wire story from the Associated Press from late yesterday. Check out these excerpts and decide if there is a pattern here.
The California Highway Patrol has repeatedly said it has no reason to suspect a hoax. It does not plan to investigate the incident or perform a mechanical inspection because there were no injuries or property damage.
I guess driving over 80 MPH and making false claims to an officer is no longer a crime in California. That should make my next visit to California a lot more exciting.
“There is no factual information that I’m aware of, or the highway patrol is aware of, that would discredit his story,” agency spokesman Brian Pennings said Friday.
No, as I said, there isn’t yet. But where is the common sense? Where is the sober judgment of people who, at least I used to think, had vast experience with motor vehicles? And I guess since the CHP is not investigating it will be hard for them to turn up any additional facts in the case, won’t it. As I said, I hope the CHP who encounters me cruising at 90 MPH on California highways is as forgiving and incurious.
And after having several people prove that engaging the parking brake, shifting to neutral or simply turning the vehicle off would have stopped this, almost immediately, The AP felt it was necessary to bring another “expert” just toss some digital noise of their own into the mix:
But Raj Rajkumar, an electrical and computer-engineering professor at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh who studies auto electronics, said the Prius could still have acceleration malfunctions even with the fail-safe system.
Toyota says the fail-safe and the engine are controlled by a central computer that contains two independent microprocessors that communicate and must agree with each other. If there’s a disagreement, power would be cut to the wheels.
But Rajkumar said the two engine control unit microprocessors could still receive common erroneous signals from sensors or experience software errors that could cause the throttle and the fail-safe mechanism to malfunction.
Two, independent microprocessors giving identical erroneous sensor readings? That is indeed the perfect storm. I wonder what the odds of that are and I wonder why the AP didn’t ask him that. No I don’t.
Here’s the weirdest “fact”, and it’s only one of many that make no sense at all. From the AP story:
Todd Neibert, the officer who gave instructions to Sikes over a loudspeaker, said he smelled burning brakes when he caught up with the Prius. He examined the car when it came to a stop.
“The brakes were definitely down to hardly any material,” he told reporters. “There was a bunch of brake material on the ground and inside the wheels.”
Let’s walk through this, shall we? You’re accelerating out of control in a vehicle, you’re “standing on the brakes” over a thirty mile long stretch of road. I understand why the officer might examine the brakes and find little or no brake material on the mechanism but this part, “There was a bunch of brake material on the ground” has been repeatedly asserted by Officer Niebert and it makes no sense. If you’ve worn down the brakes over a thirty mile long drive, why would there be brake material in a pile, on the ground under the car? Shouldn’t the material be spread out over a thirty mile long stretch of road?
The problem here is no one in the media asked important questions or really questioned the entire incident until people started speaking out on the net and commenting how odd this entire incident is.
Instead, we get this from the AP:
Claybrook, the former federal administrator, noted that drivers often come under heavy scrutiny for reporting unintended acceleration.
“Attacking the driver has long been the answer that not just Toyota, but the entire industry, has had,” she said. “Blaming the driver is old hat.”
Old hat indeed when the facts make no sense. If someone tells me something that is, on the face it, wholly illogical, yes, I question them. And that Claybrook doesn’t and that the AP feels that’s a vital part of the story tells me more about each of them than the incident itself.
Then there’s this sad, sad bit of kabuki. A spokesperson from congressional rep Darrell Issa’s office showed at the investigation of the Sikes incident and demanded to be included, delaying the investigation for more than several hours. Why? Well, just because.
In all, no less than four reports of “sudden unintended acceleration” have been reported this week. In every case the initials reports (and most of the follow-ups) have been met with little or no skepticism, no important questions asked and just comments about how bad this look for Toyota.
The result of all this is simple, the media have, intentionally or otherwise, damaged every Toyota owner in the United States, no protected them. The kind of reporting that doesn’t look for facts and reasons and only relates the dramatic and exciting aspects have caused the values of every Toyota in the United States to decline. Kelley Blue Book has, twice in the last thirty days, announced reductions in the values of Toyota vehicles. This, quite literally, affects every person who owns a Toyota in the US. And when the dust has settled. When the facts do manage to ooze out. Who is going to repair that damage?
Posted on March 12th, 2010 1 comment
So earlier today Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas decided to rear up on his hind legs and grab some national attention by filing a class action suit “on behalf of the residents of Orange County”.
(image from the District Attorney’s office)
Clearly the worst problems in Orange County California appear to be, it’s not getting enough national press. If this is what occupying their district attorney then truly, Orange County must be a little slice heaven.
Keep in mind, this is the county, one of the most prosperous in California, that managed to go bankrupt in the mid nineties. I suppose by now the embarrassment from that has faded so this issue must loom large in the sights of ace law enforcer Joseph “Tony” Rackauckas. Sure, the Orange County has struggled with plummeting property values, rampant mortgage fraud and home foreclosures, losing jobs but this Toyota thing, well, it has to be addressed.
Here’s a PDF of the complaint. Here’s a bit of it:
3. This case is based on several simple and provable facts: (a) millions of California consumers purchased defective Toyota vehicles; (b) Toyota knew that these defects existed; (c) Toyota failed to disclose these defects, and actually took affirmative steps to hide the defects and mislead the public about them; (d) as a result, none of the California consumers knew about, or reasonably could have known about, the defects; (e) millions of California consumers have been harmed by owning or leasing Toyota vehicles that contain defects which completely undermine the safety and reliability of the vehicles; and (f) the value of every Toyota vehicle owned by California consumers has been reduced because of these defects.
So one has to wonder what evidence Rackauckas has that congress apparently lacks, oh, and the entire news media since we’ve seen no evidence that Toyota has done any of this. What we have seen is a lot of very bad reporting, some folks with claims that are backed no physical evidence and make little sense and a general, “We hate Toyota” sentiment that seems to be driving this in some areas.
Here’s the kicker:
Relief sought by the OCDA
The OCDA is seeking to permanently enjoin Toyota from continued unlawful, unfair, deceptive, and fraudulent business practices as it pertains to both consumers and competitors. The OCDA is seeking civil penalties in the amount of $2,500 for every violation of the Unfair Business Practices Act. The Plaintiff is also seeking recovery of attorneys’ fees, investigation costs, and any other equitable relief as deemed just.
So the “relief” is twenty-five hundred bucks for each Toyota owner plus legal fees? As usual, the attorney’s here bill for millions and the actual people might see as much as $2500. Great deal if you can get it, for the attorneys.
And because everyone deserves a chance to tell their own story I called the DA’s office in Orange County. I spoke with one of their spokespeople there and I asked a few questions to try wrap my mind around this thing.
I asked how many complaints the DA’s office had received regarding Toyota vehicles. The response was that this action on the part of DA Rackauckas is not based on consumer complaints from Orange County residents. Why Orange County first? Why not let the Feds deal with this. The response, from DA Rackauckas’ own speech is as follows:
As these cases continue to pile up, I became increasingly uneasy, knowing that many thousands of California consumers have purchased defective Toyota vehicles. I became increasingly concerned that Orange County consumers may be purchasing many more Toyotas without knowing the full facts.
I feel it is the duty of the Orange County District Attorney’s Office to protect the public and our consumers from unlawful, unfair, and fraudulent business practices. I feel it is our duty to make sure Toyota is not gaining an unfair business advantage over other car companies who are not doing what Toyota is doing.
Nice of OC to step up and offer to fight Toyota on behalf of, well, everyone. A little more history, directly from DA’s speech this morning:
You may remember that in 2002, we joined forces with the Robinson, Calcagnie & Robinson law firm in taking action against giant international oil companies to clean up poison from ground water. As a result, we forced the oil companies to clean up over 300 sites and pay over $25 million in penalties and millions more in unlimited costs for cleanup of contaminated sites.
(editors note: I can only find records of OCDA getting a little less than $10 million in these suits)
It’s no secret that our office has been enduring a severe budget crisis. We have to prosecute the same number of cases with 10 percent less prosecutors and investigators. As important as protecting the public from unfair business practices and this case may be, I could not take prosecutors away from prosecuting murderers, rapists and gang members.
We all know that as soon as we file this suit against the world’s largest, most successful car corporation, they are going to be parachuting in lawyers, with all kinds of legal tactics up their sleeves. We need the assistance of a law firm, with expertise in these types of cases, to help us defend against the barrage of legal attacks we expect from this gigantic international corporation. Believe me, they will spare no expense to hire an army of lawyers from fancy firms.
Brave, I guess, but then fighting paper dragons often sounds much more impressive than it is. So, the mostly broke office of the Orange County District Attorney is going to take on Toyota over what they perceive as some kind of mounting crisis because no one else will? And they’re going to do it armed with what facts? And taxpayer paid outside attorneys? With what evidence? Based on news reports? And let’s be clear here, getting oil companies to pay to “study” and clean up after 143 leaky gas stations is a lot different than somehow proving Toyota has been knowingly selling defective cars and intentionally hurting people. The evidence with the oil companies was measurable. And even that settlement didn’t clean up all the gas stations, it only provided that the oil companies would spend several million dollars studying the sites to determine if a clean up was necessary. And the OCDA got $5 million in legal fees. Funny thing, those same oil companies with the Lake Tahoe water district for a similar issue. The result, Lake Tahoe got $60 million. Not such a great deal for Orange County residents, eh?
What’s more, let’s pretend for a moment that DA Rackauckas has a point and he’s doing god’s work here. Why just Toyota? There are more than handful of other recalls on other vehicles from other companies, some going back years. So why just Toyota?
As I’ve said here before, I’ll lead parade with torches to the Torrance offices if someone can show me proof Toyota has done what many in the media and the DA of Orange County is claiming. Keep in mind, I have a big, fat car loan right now on a 2010. My kid drives a Corolla. I have no desire to prop up a company that would knowingly hurt people to make money least of all, hurt my family and I.
But where’s the evidence?
And without that, people like this asinine DA in Orange County have caused me harm. Armed with a “timeline” they’ve damaged the resale value of my property, this DA and the media, without evidence and without care to actually reporting facts. It’s my opinion that I can prove that. I can point to the hundreds of bad, misleading and inaccurate articles that have damaged what my property is worth. I can point to idiotic grandstanding by the media and now, an officer of the court, namely, the District Attorney of Orange County California all of which have done nothing to “protect the consumer” and a lot of harm millions of Toyota owners all over the United States.
Where’s my lawsuit?
If were an OC resident right now, I’d be pissed my tax dollars trying to chase some Toyota gravy train that is highly unlikely to ever come in. And let’s be honest here, he’s not doing it for people of Orange County, Rackauckas is doing it for himself and for the other attorney’s. This District Attorney has a history of chasing these kind of budget problems. Only last year DA Rackauckas came under fire from a death penalty proponent for prosecuting so many death penalty cases? Why? They’re expensive. And in a time of budgetary problems it seemed pointless to spend the money prosecute these cases and incur the additional cost of asking for the death penalty in a state that has no death penalty.
He’s going to spend Orange County tax dollars paying outside attorneys to prosecute this case and he’s doing it to try and build himself a bigger name. And that’s pathetic because I don’t think that’s what Orange County residents elected him for.
Posted on March 11th, 2010 1 comment
And here’s where I rip CNN a new one.
Let’s face it, running a huge multi-national, like the proverbial sausage factory, isn’t pretty but that doesn’t stop millions of people from gobbling up the product.
This story, no matter how it ends, is going to be real ugly for Toyota.
Apparently, a person whom CNN describes as “former in-house defense attorney Dimitrios Biller” resigned from Toyota, cashing in a four million dollar severance package and walked out with more than 6,000 documents and emails from his former employer. In the article, Biller claims the documents are damaging to Toyota, “Not potentially, they are. They are very damaging,”
There’s little doubt in my mind that just about any lawyer could produce documents that were damaging to a former client. That’s the nature of legal representation, right or wrong, we’re only pondering half the story if we can’t admit that. So even under the best circumstances, this is going to be another nightmare for Toyota.
So the real question is, so what does he have? What do these documents show us?
So what did CNN learn?
The documents — some of which were reviewed by CNN — were sent by Biller to Toyota officials. There are numerous references to so-called “Books of Knowledge,” highly confidential information on design, safety systems and testing records allegedly generated by Toyota engineers on everything from roll-overs and roof safety to sudden unintended acceleration.
Here’s a photograph of one of the not-so-secret “Books of Knowledge” I took in January of 2009. It happens to be “the Book” for the third generation Prius. The man holding it is known simply as the “The Chief”. He’s Chief Engineer of the Prius, Akihiko Otsuka.
And this picture…
And this picture of The Chief actually consulting the book to respond to a question…
So, yeah, secret book of knowledge. The Chief referred to this “book”, well, folder, that appeared to contain a vast amount of very well organized data on the the third generation Prius, many times throughout the presentation and questioning.
Here’s how CNN described it;
highly confidential information on design, safety systems and testing records allegedly generated by Toyota engineers on everything from roll-overs and roof safety to sudden unintended acceleration.
Of course any company that designs and builds a car has this information. In fact, I would guess that every car company has this information on every vehicle they’ve made and yes, it’s confidential. Is that surprising or somehow “damaging” to Toyota?
Again, the question is, depends on what’s in there. But by no means does mere existence of this information mean Toyota has done something wrong. This is shoddy, tawdry reporting. Give me an example of something that’s damning from these documents which CNN claim they have examined. CNN does, later on, but it’s, well, read on please…
So far, we know an ex-Toyota lawyer grabbed a bunch of privileged communications and is now, now that he’s out and has his four very-large bonus, he’s claiming these documents are damaging.
Further on we read about a specific liability case. A case, as it turns out, which Biller defended Toyota in. The accident was a Camry rollover which Toyota settled for $1.5 million. The plaintiff’s lawyer in the case is quoted as saying,
Embry, who added Toyota provided just enough information to show Toyota vehicles “met the minimum standards.”
Perhaps sad but again, what I would expect from any company defending itself in a multi-million dollar and not proof of guilt by any means.
Again, from the CNN article:
Included in Biller’s documents is an e-mail he said he sent to his bosses summarizing negotiations. It says, “TMS [Toyota Motor Sales USA] concluded that it would be better to pay a premium to settle this case and avoid producing the ‘Books of Knowledge.’”
So Toyota decided to pay off this claim rather than divulge what is basically a blueprint for building the Prius, even more, they’re the results of building the vehicle using those plans and testing it. I’m sure there’s a lot of folks that would like to get that information for free. GM claims to have spent three quarters of a billion dollars designing, building and testing the Volt, so far. Who wouldn’t love to see “the Book” on the Volt? Do you think GM would fight to keep that information secret?
Although Toyota calls the materials “trade secrets,” Embry said,
So why, if Biller knew a judge had ordered all information produced, didn’t he produce it? He said he tried but was stopped by a superior who told him, “You have to protect the client at all costs.”
“Even if that includes,” Biller asked, “committing criminal acts or violating the law?”
The answer, Biller said, was yes.
Did he break the law? “No, I did as much as I could as a lawyer for a client to not break the law,” he said.
At least he follows orders.
Toyota says publicly that Biller is full of it and they will continue to fight to keep those documents private. I can’t blame them but I will add this, if there is something in there that is truly damning, I’d be at the head of the line to kick some Toyota ass. But the evidence has to be there. I won’t do it on the allegations of a former lawyer who left Toyota years ago because of a “nervous breakdown”, grabbed a bunch of privileged communications and then, four years later, threatens to make them public.
I want evidence. Where is the evidence? We have enough allegation and assumption on this issue. Enough to clog the news organs of this country all too much. Where are the real facts?
There’s no doubt CNN should be reporting this story. My question for them, when will they actually do some reporting? If their goal was act as flack for this former lawyer, job well done. If their goal was to inform the public, they haven’t really bothered to tell us anything important, have they?
And as I said at the top, there’s no way this can end well for Toyota. It just adds more ironic gasoline to the fire. Even if Toyota is successful in keeping “the Book” and rest secret, then they lose image wise. If they make it public, everyone gets everything they spent millions learning.
Yes, this is going to suck for Toyota.
And by the way, just for laughs, here’s The Chief and I later in the day…
Posted on March 10th, 2010 2 comments
Tonight, my co-host, Danny Cooper of priuschat.com and I record our weekly What Drives Us podcast. Rather than write out my thoughts, I’m spending more time digging into this. If you’re interested in an update, please check out our podcast. We’ll have a lot to say about it.
Suffice to say, for now, that the reporting on this continues to be abysmal, the stories fantastic and no rational explanation backed up by physical evidence has yet been offered, by anyone. Aside form Toyota, the big loser here is the American car buyer who is being slathered in innuendo and assumption and none the wiser for it.
Posted on March 6th, 2010 No comments
An interesting op-ed from Electronics, Design Strategy News on drive-by-wire and how we evaluate these systems. Here’s the closing graph;
The only parties in this little tragedy with an interest in improving the state of the art are the engineers, whom no one will consult, and the victims, whom the lawyers will silence. It would be better for everyone if it were a principle of civil law that, when a failure inflicts damage, the vendor and independent parties must place all of the diagnostic information they find into the public domain, and the courts may not use this information to assess or assign damages. Such a notion might somewhat restrict the income opportunities of litigators, but it would unquestionably assist the engineering community in learning from its mistakes.
I couldn’t agree more.
The one thing I learned from watching over ten hours of the House hearings was that the entire charade was merely an opportunity to grandstand for the various House reps’ own causes, whatever they might be, free trade, more business in their district, championing for “victim’s rights” the whole thing was, if you’ll forgive the term, Kabuki of the most tawdry sort exemplified by Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton using the excuse of standing up for Toyota owners world-wide when she attempted to extract a commitment from Akio Toyoda that her Camry hybrid “would never be recalled”.
Transparency is the one thing that we all benefit from, car company, car owners, engineers. It’s the one thing we’re least likely to get.
Posted on July 15th, 2008 No comments
When government fuel economy testers drove the Acura MDX sport utility vehicle, they got 23 miles per gallon on the highway.
When Wayne Gerdes drove the Acura MDX, he got 37 mpg on the highway.
Gerdes is the man who came up with hypermiling, a grab bag of techniques that many economy-minded drivers are reaching into to cut their fuel consumption.
But AAA recently said many hypermilers are taking driving economically to a dangerous level.
In a June 27 statement by AAA, vice president Marshall L. Doney conceded that while the goals of hypermiling are positive, such as eliminating aggressive driving and saving energy, much of what they do is not safe and possibly illegal.
The controversy comes from some hypermiling techniques that reach beyond staying off the gas pedal.
What Gerdes calls advanced, AAA calls extreme.
Shutting off the engine or putting the vehicle in neutral while coasting downhill are two points of contention.
Capt. Michael Patrick of the state police said that while the state doesn’t have laws outlawing coasting, a motorist would likely be cited for reckless driving if he were involved in an accident while doing so.
Gerdes also recommends inflating ties to the maximum sidewall pressure rather than the vehicle manufacturer’s recommended pressure, usually found on the door jamb. That reduces rolling resistance and bumps up the mpg.
Dan Zielinski, Rubber Manufacturers Association spokesman, said motorists shouldn’t exceed the recommended pressure.
“The recommended inflation pressure is not just a suggestion,” Zielinski said.
He said along with a harsher ride, tires may wear out sooner and are at a greater risk of damage from road debris.
But Patrick said there isn’t a law specifically regarding tire pressure. However, there is a law that requires tires to be in a safe operating condition.
Still, Gerdes and local hypermiler Rich Mazzeo, 27, of Maidencreek Township say they’ve not had any problems with tires inflated to the maximum sidewall pressure.
Other practices AAA calls dangerous, such as ignoring stop signs and closely following — or drafting — vehicles, isn’t part of hypermiling, Mazzeo said.
He said he never drafts anyone, joking that he couldn’t even if he wanted to — the tractor trailer rigs are usually going too fast.
Ultimately, Mazzeo said, being courteous to other traffic and driving safely is more important than fuel.
“Stop signs are not good (for mileage) but you gotta take the hit,” he said.
Speaking personally, I don’t agree with some of it. I don’t think some hypermiling techniques are practical or reasonable given where we are now. There’s little argument that it’s not safe to be going 10-20 MPH slower (or slower) than the flow of traffic regardless of the law. Law enforcement cannot slow cars down, we’ve decades of practical experience there. Until most motorists decide that following the law is a good thing, for a number of reasons, being the one person in the slow lane going much slower than everyone else is, to one extent or another, dangerous. And that’s sad commentary on how we drive in general.
I don’t much like the idea of turning your car off while it’s in motion. There may be and are exceptions where this might be a safe practice but in general I would opine that it’s not a good strategy for anything other than saving fuel.
There are so many variables it’s difficult to comment on something like “hypermiling” in a general sense and say anything meaningful. Tire pressure, for instance is one of those things. Keeping your tires properly inflated is critical to maintaining the life of the tires and getting the best MPG possible. In some cases inflating higher than the car manufacturer (but not exceeding the tire companies sidewall pressure guidelines) is an excellent idea. I think it contributed a great deal to my Goodyear Integritys lasting 35k miles and me getting strong overall MPG but for other tires, it may not be as good of an idea.
The big problem here is one of context. We’re transitioning from a place where MPG meant little or nothing to manufacturers. You still can’t find decent data on low rolling resistance tires for instance. It’s spotty at best. Figuring out the optimal inflation for a given set of tires, ignoring manufacturer specs, is experimental at best. One has to rely your own tracking of MPG and reports from other drivers. In the instances where there is a wealth of data that’s fine but in many cases car owners may be breaking new ground on their own. I don’t know how comfortable I am encouraging thousands of hypermiling test pilots to find the limits of tire inflation. It’s a potentially dangerous situation.
Back to that context…until the majority of motorists change the way they drive, driving in a manner different from that majority is going to carry with it some added risk. That’s not a statement in favor of exceeding speed limit (to use one example) but it’s one example. Perhaps increased fuel costs will slow some people. I think I’m seeing some of that now. I don’t see the Navigators racing through parking lots as much as I used to. That said, driving the beltway around DC and Baltimore, where the posted limit is 55, at 55 is a stunning way to raise your blood pressure and make you feel as though you’re going at half the speed as everyone else. Until those people slow down going slower is carry added risks (just as going faster carries risks of their own).
There’s a lot issues wrapped up here under one heading. I think, in general, the AAA was pretty stupid to say what they did the way they did. I think it would have been better for the AAA (and its members) to have talked about hypermiling in the context of demanding better information from manufacturers, better law enforcement to curb scofflaw speeding and aggressive driving and support getting the best MPG from your vehicle. Instead, AAA took a slap at hypermilers.
That’s just my take, YMMV.