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Category Archives: Protecting Your Life

ET ALERT: Toyota ‘Unintended Acceleration’ Is Still Occurring

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Despite claims that Toyota’s problems with unintended acceleration have been due to driver error, or cured via floor-mat adjustments, a recent case has been reported wherein neither of those factors were relevant. As reported by “Charles” in a message to Engineering Thinking:

The following events occurred on May 15, 2015 while driving from Charleston, SC to Nashville, TN (I-26, I-40) in my 2012 Toyota Highlander.  Normally interstate traffic is so congested it prevents use of cruise control; however, that morning I was able to turn it on and set it on 75 MPH.  As we were coming up on slower moving traffic, I applied the brakes to switch off the cruise control and it did not work – even after pumping the brake pedal.  I then used the off/on on button(switch) on end of cruise control lever to switch off cruise control – and that worked. If that switch had failed – or if I had panicked – then I would have had a “runaway” Toyota.  The car did not accelerate, but when you are standing on the brakes and the car is still “cruising” at 75 MPH it sure feels like it is accelerating.

Later on during the same trip I tried the cruise control again (several times actually) and each time applying the brakes would not switch off the cruise control.  Whatever is wrong with the cruise control system, on this Toyota, it is what we call in my line of work a “solid fault” – not intermittent.  I feel confident that my car will repeat the scenario every time it is tried…

…I am a semi-retired Electrical Engineer with over 40 years in the power industry.  For approximately 5 of those 40+ years I worked as a field engineer, testing and commissioning power control systems.  So I know a little something about how control systems (cruise or otherwise) are supposed to function.  I would like to add, that in my testing/commissioning experience, I only had one programmable relay that failed out-of-the-box, and it was not a software problem.  All the problems I encountered were related to wiring and/or wiring design … I strongly suspect the Toyota “problem” may also be related to wiring (wiring harness, assembly process, etc) not software.

…Please note, our Highlander has the factory floor mats which are held in place by two hooks.  My cruise control issue had (has) nothing to do with floor mats….

Charles

Charles’ expert qualifications and detailed report are compelling evidence that Toyota still has a serious issue that cannot be dismissed by blaming the driver or the floor mats. My thanks to Charles for sharing his experience, and for alerting Toyota owners to the fact that ‘unintended acceleration’ is still a very real possibility.

Prior posts on this issue can be found at the following links:

2011/02/9
Toyota Unintended Acceleration: “No Electronics-Based Cause”: Not True & Misleading

2010/03/09
Customers Claim “Fixed” Toyotas Are Still Accelerating

2010/02/05
Toyota’s “Drive By Wire” Throttle System Suspected As Crash Cause

2010/02/03
Stop Driving Recalled Toyotas

2009/11/10
Toyota Unintended Acceleration Causing Deaths And Injuries

-Ed Walker

 

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Is Organic Food Actually Better For You?

organicfoodThe typical argument against organic food is that it is more costly, yet does not provide any additional health benefits.

The argument for organic food is that, because it does not contain nearly as many pesticides, hormones, antibiotics, and contaminants, organic food is both safer and more nutritious.

Which argument is correct?

One way to find out would be to use what engineers call a comparative analysis. In a proper comparative analysis, two trials are compared, where the only major variable that is different between the trials is the variable of interest. (If too many significant variables are present, they can obscure the actual results and yield misleading or erroneous conclusions.)

Many trials have already been done of organic versus commercial farming of plant-based foods. A recent study (“Nutritional, food safety benefits of organic farming documented by major study“) reviewed the results of these trials, wherein most of the trials were well-controlled to minimize variables. The conclusion was that organic foods were indeed clearly much safer and much more nutritious. “This study is telling a powerful story of how organic plant-based foods are nutritionally superior and deliver bona fide health benefits,” said Charles Benbrook, co-author.

 

 

 

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Women, Protect Your Life: Read The Gift of Fear by Gavin De Becker

giftoffearEvery so often I come across a book (in this case, it was recommended by a friend) that is worth its weight in platinum. The Gift of Fear by Gavin De Becker is a dazzling presentation of extensively researched facts, many of them contrary to our popular notions, that provide bright insight into our culture’s epidemic of violence. More importantly, De Becker provides practical and essential guidance for those women who may be suffering from domestic abuse, stalking, or even pushy dates, and also for those who may be wondering whether or not they should stay in a problematic relationship. Mr. De Becker also explores the mystery of why some women stay with abusive men, and provides the insight that can motivate such psychologically trapped women to break free.

Although the subject is dark, Mr. De Becker writes in a respectful yet entertaining style, and even manages to adroitly and tastefully inject humor along the way. Using numerous can’t-put-down-the-book true stories to illustrate his points, De Becker captivates while he educates.

Writing a book is tough work, and as a successful businessman for many years, it is unlikely that Mr. De Becker needed the income. It is one of those books that appears to be a labor of love, with the author motivated by a desire to share his deep knowledge and experience in order to improve the safety of women. Towards the end of the book De Becker teaches us all, men and women alike, on how to avoid over-fearfulness while being alert to danger. An impressive balancing act, successfully accomplished.

-Ed Walker

Note: I do not accept compensation, direct or indirect, for any reviews posted in Engineering Thinking

 

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Protect Your Online Privacy

prismAre you fearful that governmental and other busybodies might be monitoring your online browsing and your emails? Here are some tips on helping to protect your privacy: “Privacy Tools: Encrypt What You Can,” by Julia Angwin, ProPublica, 6 May 2014.

 

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Protecting Your Life: How We Have Destroyed Our Food

wasteland“Widespread agriculture methods are behind this trend to increase certain traits in our produce, such as size, growth rate, and pest resistance at the cost of nutritional value. USDA data for both 1950 and 1999 determined “43 different vegetables and fruits, finding “reliable declines” in the amount of protein, calcium, phosphorus, iron, riboflavin (vitamin B2) and vitamin C over the past half century” (Scientific American, 2011). Another article cited says that “one would have to eat eight oranges today to derive the same amount of Vitamin A as our grandparents would have gotten from one”.  With faster growth there is less time to extract nutrients from the soil before harvest, making each harvest less nutritious than the one before.”

-from “Growing Sources of Nutrient Depletion, 7 Mar 2014, by Chef Joy in Choose Cooking

 
 

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Autism and Other Neurodevelopmental Disabilities: Are We Poisoning Our Future?

brainscan“…many more chemicals than the known dozen or so identified as neurotoxicants contribute to a “silent pandemic” of neurobehavioral deficits that is eroding intelligence, disrupting behaviors, and damaging societies.”

from “Growing number of chemicals linked with brain disorders in children,” 14 Feb 2014, Harvard School of Public Health,

 

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Feedback is Critical for Great Relationships (How Not to Lose Your Partner)

sleepA review of the stats for prior ET posts indicates that some of the most popular are those that apply engineering thinking principles to relationship issues (e.g., see “Protecting Your Relationship: How To Fight Fair“;
Protect Yourself: Four Ways To Tell If Someone Is Trying To Emotionally Manipulate You“; “Feedback, Delay, and Sullen Spouses“).

In this post we’ll briefly discuss why the principle of “feedback”(1) is critical to successful relationships.

Feedback is a universal concept, applicable to every goal we have, whether the goal is bringing a fork to the mouth, maintaining the desired speed of a car, finding the best price for a purchase, and many, many others, including maintaining a great relationship.

With regard to your important relationships, do you simply assume everything is okay? If you don’t employ feedback — if you don’t measure the consequences of your actions (by frequently observing and asking how your partner feels, and by absorbing your partner’s suggestions and complaints) — then how can you be so sure? Without the use of feedback a big surprise may be awaiting, on that day when your smug assumptions explode, along with your relationship.

For a vivid example of the necessity of feedback in relationships, please see “Men: Read This Before You Lose Your Woman Forever,” by Dr. Barbara LoFrisco (counselorbarb.com). (2)

Note 1. Feedback is a measurement of the outcome of an action. This allows one to determine whether or not the action is achieving its desired objective. If one does not measure the output (zero feedback), one is “flying blind” and results will typically be bad, very bad.

Note 2. Dr. LoFrisco, among her many other qualifications, is a relationship expert, and (based on my latest feedback sampling) is also my happy spouse.

-Ed Walker

 

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