Report: Toyota considers new push-button design
As Toyota faces high levels of scrutiny from the public, media and government safety officials, they have decided to go on the offensive with fixes for potential safety issues. First up is the push-button start system, which currently requires that the button be held down for three consecutive seconds to shut down the vehicle while driving.
Although the push-button start and stop system installed on high-end Toyota and Lexus models has not itself been named in any recalls or as an unintended acceleration cause, it has come under fire for being potentially dangerous in the event of an unintended acceleration episode.
Critics have pointed out that in a time of panic due to an an uncontrolled acceleration situation, many people may forget to hold the button for a full three seconds, they may not have the ability to take their hands off of the wheel for that long or as it is believed to be the case with the Lexus ES350 loaner car that took the lives of an off-duty CHP officer and three family members, drivers may not be familiar with the procedure.
Under normal circumstances, vehicles with a push-button system will shut off with a simple tap of the button while waiting in park. But in the event that the vehicle needs to be turned off during driving, the button then requires being depressed for three consecutive seconds - a step that safety critics say is potentially dangerous and confusing. Because of this, Toyota has reportedly begun testing a new system that would simply require a single touch - virtually eliminating the potential for a high-speed runaway vehicle scenario if the push-button system is installed in the vehicle.
Like the changes planned for the pedal assembly on 2011+ vehicles that will add a brake override in the event that both the accelerator and brake are simultaneously depressed, a Toyota rep indicated that there would be no recall for the push-button system, but it would instead be implemented on future vehicles.
According to the LA Times, a Toyota spokesman, Brian Lyons said, "It would not be part of a recall situation."