Product Liability

Apple co-founder Wozniak and others find trouble with Prius

Many Toyota Prius owners continue to experience sporadic episodes of sudden, unintended acceleration while driving their cars, even without floor mats jamming the throttle wide open or the gas pedal sticking. Toyota included all 2004-2009 Prius models in the floor mat entrapment recall it announced last fall, but did not include the Prius in its subsequent recall of Toyotas for sticking accelerator pedals.

Jim Lentz, President and CEO of Toyota Motor Sales USA, says that the acceleration problems are completely fixed by the two recalls and that he is confident that electronics aren’t to blame. What Lentz says, however, contradicts the problem that many Toyota owners across the country continue to experience.

One 2010 Prius owner who continues to experience sudden acceleration while driving is Steve Wozniak, the co-founder of Apple and a man who has a working knowledge of electronics and software.

Wozniak told ABC News that when he taps the cruise control lever to increase speed, his car sometimes goes “into an unlimited speed up.”

“If I hit the brake it disables my cruise control and it goes back to normal,” Wozniak told ABC.

Wozniak says he believes his car’s problems aren’t caused by the gas pedal but by software, and said the same could be true for other Toyota owners who deal with sudden acceleration issues.

“I have many models of Prius that got recalled, but I have a new model that didn’t get recalled,” Wozniak told ABC. “This new model has an accelerator that goes wild but only certain conditions of cruise control. And I can repeat it over and over and over again – safely,” he said.

“This is software. It’s not a bad accelerator pedal. It’s very scary, but luckily for me I can hit the brakes,” Wozniak said.

Perhaps even more troubling is the response certain officials have given Wozniak when he tried to alert them to the problem. He told ABC that the NHTSA has given him the runaround and that he can’t get beyond lower-level customer service representatives with his complaint.

Wozniak said the problems were “very scary.”

Another Prius owner, Dr. Alan Ostroff of Philadelphia told ABC News that his Prius, which is not included in the recall, “just took off” on him.

“I panicked,” Ostroff told ABC. “It’s like driving on ice, you hit the brakes and you can’t stop.” Ostroff’s Prius almost hit the car in front of him, causing him to swerve into oncoming traffic. Ostroff said he narrowly escaped being hit by a huge truck.

He now leaves his Prius parked at home and refuses to drive it until Toyota can find and fix the problem.

Federal authorities and Toyota executives are currently investigating the antilock brake system in newer Prius model cars and are considering a recall of the vehicles over possible brake problems.

Toyota has received about 180 complaints about the brakes in its newest Prius models in both the United States and Japan.