Personal Log #448
February 4, 2010 - February 9, 2010
Last Updated: Sat. 3/06/2010
page #447 page #449 BOOK INDEX
SSC-A0B. That's the brake recall for the 2010 Prius. It's an ABS (Anti-Lock Braking System) control ECU (Electronic Control Unit) update. Updates to the ECU are nothing new for Prius. Those of us who had an Iconic model already experienced this firsthand. The mechanic at the dealer plugs his computer into your Prius computer via the ODB-II port and the update is transferred. "AOB" is the SSC (Special Service Campaign) number for this update to the braking system. It took them 45 minutes to do mine, including waiting for them to wash & detail the car afterward at their expense. That was a nice touch.
eWork. Here's a new topic, one very different from anything recent here... or for that matter, ever! We got snow, lots and lots of it piled well over bumper height. For the very first time in my career, I actually had everything necessary to do my job entirely from home. Having enough capacity & power to run all the software I need while also video-conferencing to discuss that work (computer programming) while doing it was just plain not realistic. Now, it is! So, why bother with a long & risky commute when that is no longer necessary? My poor Prius. It didn't get to go out and play today. That's rare. But as time goes on, I can see the idea of "eWork" become somewhat routine. Right now it's quite challenging though, when so few have the hardware like that. It's something we've heard about for decades. I'll certainly be working long enough to see it become common. The time & fuel not wasted by driving quite a bit less could really add up.
We're All Going To Die, stigma. That's what many are pondering about now. When the update becomes available, owners will bring their Prius into the dealer and it will be done. Not much more will be said about it, right? Recall sounds like such a terrible thing, but the point is to prevent. A month or two from now, that objective will be achieved. Of course, awareness alone will go a long way. The upset came from owners not knowing. In the future will they resent not having known sooner? Will they worry about some other unknown emerging? Will safety concerns plague the industry? After all, people once worried far more about "crash tests" than accident avoidance. That "survive a crash" mentality is how the monster-size SUVs drew appeal. Now, it's all about not having an accident in the first place. So, it would seem as though no stigma could be realistic. The actual brake issue rarely occurred, yet concern became hysteria. That resulted in an update. We didn't all die.
We're All Going To Die, closure. Here's my thoughts I
posted as this situation hopefully draws to a close...
Seeing people drop the pedal to stop and drop it to start, resulting in wheels
skidding & spinning, is routine here. That's clearly the wrong approach
for driving traditional vehicles on snow. Yet, they don't give much
thought to the circumstances and do it anyway. So, feeling that brief
hybrid pulse then reacting under the assumption that something just failed makes
sense. After all, many of the reports state the driver thought something
went wrong. Now some are angry at the lack of reaction from informed
owners who knew it was an automatic system response similar to TC, ABS, and VSC.
That means what we want now is an official update followed by the formal
hearing. Closure is necessary when fear is felt, regardless of the reason
We're All Going To Die, looking back. Remember the first article written about this? It came from a Detroit publication saying the brakes in the new Prius fail and asking if this puts pedestrians lives at risk. I titled my blog entry about it "Spreading FUD", knowing that was something certain enthusiasts would capitalize on. Sure enough, they along with others milked it, playing up the Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt the topic of braking can stir. Rather than a constructive approach, we got emotional responses growing to the level of hysteria. Looking back, what really gets me is all the intentional misleading and blatantly incorrect information. That only led to confusion and blowing the situation way out of proportion. When you know that some of us have been driving the new Prius for 7 months now without any trouble and new owners are parking theirs with the fear of having an accident, you know that rationale thought is no longer happening. We're not all going to die. In fact, with all the raised awareness, the next step for hybrid market growth could actually be easier. We no longer have to point out the new Prius. People are now well aware that its more than just a size & horsepower increase. It's sad though that so many emerged with attempts to damage reputation.
We're All Going To Die, fallout. Finding out that Ford is also dealing with the same braking situation for their hybrids and seeing how differently the media is treating them sure is a head-scratcher. Reading about the American interpretation of the Japanese approach can be eye-opening. You'd think those differences would have been better understood at this point. In the end though, current problems will be resolved and the next step will still have to be taken. We obviously won't all die from killer cars that accelerate out of control and cannot be stopped. What will happen is having to deal with the grim reality of emissions & efficiency. Don't forget how many used this unfortunate situation to distract from that harsh reality. We still have GM struggling to just deliver a 40 MPG non-hybrid vehicle. Trust & Reliability are very important, but so is the need to reduce dependency on oil and prevent the air we breath from getting any worse. The lesson to be learned is that fallout of a terrible event shouldn't distract from the mission as a whole.
We're All Going To Die, attention. Discussions being undermined by posts about Toyota must really be upsetting to those on competitor forums wanting to have constructive posts about the usual topics. On that blog for Volt, it has become totally pointless to even attempt to discuss Volt. Some there absolutely cannot resist interjecting harmful words about Toyota & Prius. For me to try to intervene would be a waste too. They are so sick of hearing about bankruptcy troubles that this has emerged as their vindicating event... even though there isn't actually any merit to support that. After all, issues like brake sensation & response won't emerge until long after rollout, when rare circumstances & behavior are finally encountered. Anywho, I really got a kick out of the posts on the big GM forum. They started a thread with the purpose of creating Prius carnage. After several pages of posts, some members started to call me out. I remained quiet, letting them wonder why I hadn't made an appearance. When I finally did, they weren't happy. I pointed out all the bait they had dropped, making in painfully clear that they were guilty of trolling. When attention is diverted so far from the norm, you know they are getting desperate... fearing a better relationship with consumers could emerge in the end. After all, that is what happened when the Lexus division first debuted. Toyota made the best of a really bad situation and ended up recovering unexpectedly well.
We're All Going To Die, under-deliver. Remember the
"setting goals" fiasco? It continues. Claims that GM won't
over-promise is the only thing that seems to draw any type of passion for Volt
anymore. However, none of those enthusiasts chanting that ever clarify
what it actually means. They just say they are thankful GM won't
under-deliver like Toyota. What are they going to say if expectations
differ from what consumers are actually expecting from Volt.
With all the mixed messages over the past 3 years and continuously changing plans, there's no possible
way any type of unified message will emerge on its own. They have to
explicitly state something... just like Prius owners are doing now. It
would be hypocritical not to. Yet, all we get is vague comments.
When paying for a $40,000 vehicle, what do they expect? The intolerance of
Prius brakes being even the slightest bit different even in rare situations
seems to make it quite clear that this will come back to haunt them later.
We're All Going To Die, empowering. Newer owners, those who have been driving 2010 Prius for a few months as well as participating in discussions online, are now really starting to feel a connection to the technology. The hysteria nonsense is turning out to be an empowering event for them. There was a void rapidly growing larger as Iconic owners said their goodbyes. The model of Prius they had supported for years was no longer the topic of interest. But those new owners didn't feel it was their place to step into positions where years of experience had just held. They do now though! Taking that chance to speak up and voice their own opinion was immediately redeeming. It's something that would have normally had taken a year or two to occur. Instead, the craziness of the media "accelerating" that and there's no way to "brake" from that now. (Yes, I know... really bad puns.) That's a positive, a gain the competition will later be shocked to discover they contributed to. Thanks!
We're All Going To Die, promptness. I understand the concern some have about addressing unexpected brake behavior. Without an indicator light or beep, it indeed can be disconcerting. The pulse happens so quick, you don't get the opportunity to take it all in... and obviously, some people panic in response... hence claimed of a failure, even though nothing is broken and the odds of an even a minor fender-bender are extremely slim. Nonetheless, it's still a fair expectation for a prompt response when a complaint is made. What does prompt mean though? The automotive industry has a history of being painfully slow to respond to safety requirements. Even when forced with legal regulations, they are well known for doing the absolute minimum. Recent events have clearly changed that. The power of the internet is emerging in a way few ever expected. People can learn about things far faster than ever imagined, even compared to just a couple of years ago. Promptness is quickly becoming an expectation.
We're All Going To Die, software. A fascinating
revelation for me is the discovery that many consumers have no idea a vehicle's
computer can be upgraded. They are under the impression you are stuck with
whatever you originally purchased unless you pay to have devices replaced with
newer ones. That's the way the business has been for an entire century.
The fact that you can now get a software update at no cost when you bring your
vehicle in for routine service (like an oil-change or tire-rotation) never
crosses their mind. It's simply not common knowledge yet that such a thing
has been happening already. Iconic Prius owners already know this.
They've had their ECU updated a few times now. That's why those who have
traded up for a 2010 haven't panic about getting the brake update. They
know software upgrades are not a big deal. The mechanic loads a device
with the update, then connects that to the vehicle's ODB-II port to transfer it.
We're All Going To Die, perfection. Unrealistic
expectations stemming from not really knowing what a hybrid is designed to do in
the first place contributed to the escalation of emotion. With such an
incredibly diverse market now purchasing Prius, it should be no surprise that
revelations about the automobile itself are being made. Sadly, that is
actually the case. Some have been overwhelming surprised to discover
efficiency influencing factors like MPG dropping during the winter has always
been a problem. But with traditional vehicles so wasteful and not offering
a display screen to provide that information, people simply never noticed.
Hybrids exacerbate the drop too, leading to even greater upset from the
discovery. Combine that with other revelations, like SUVs actually being
more dangerous rather than safer as they had been promoted, you've got a
consumer base that's now quite disillusioned. They dreamed of perfection;
instead, they are getting improvement.
We're All Going To Die, pointless. What's the point of posts that aren't the slightest bit constructive? This particular one, from the same person as the prior attack, really irritated me: "Latest news from Japan. Potentially a Prius-gate for early 2010 Prius adopters. I'd like to see all the hardcore fan-boys continue to defend the issue as a normality or 'feature' of the ABS system now." From that, it's pretty clear that stirring trouble was the objective. My reply was this: Your attempt to blow the situation way out of proportion, feeding the hysteria, is a great example for my blog. Thanks! Pushing that "OMG we are going to die" belief is really sad. We've seen many, many improvements to the design of Prius over the years. Why would you try to convince people that the brakes wouldn't be improved too?
We're All Going To Die, attacks. We got quite a few on the big Prius forum this morning. This particular one from a member who just joined and doesn't even own a Prius posted this: "I'm sure the 'veterans' above can swallow their words now and actually consider that when newbies report serious issues with their Prius, they're not making stuff up." My response was much like the others in the endless stream of attempts to stir concern. It's hard to take the word "serious" seriously after driving my own Prius for so long without any trouble whatsoever. I posted this: Don't twist what we said. We said the situation was rare and there was no need to give into the hysteria. We've been driving Prius for years without incident and know improvements are always on-going. Nothing was dismissed. We just demonstrate greater patience... something required from the very beginning when we had to wait many months just for delivery.
We're All Going To Die, outcry. Notice who's actually screaming about Toyota problems? Based on the official complaints filed, which sadly are quite lacking in detail, the number of Prius owners is less than one-tenth of one-percent. Yet, we are being told this is a horrible crisis which must be resolved immediately because hoards of people are now afraid to drive. Really? It's certainly not good to downplay any situation involving safety. But since remedy actions are already in process, why all the screaming from non-owners? What do they hope to achieve after the fact. Awareness has been raised. There was no imminent danger. Recalls are nothing new, and for Prius one wasn't even issued. People continue to drive those vehicles afterward. Isn't turn-around within a few months acceptable? Those in charge are actively engaged already. A congressional hearing is scheduled to ensure all concerns have been addressed. What's the outcry for at this point?