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    May 17, 2016

    LTA probes sudden speed pickup in Hyundai taxis

    THE Land Transport Authority is investigating a phenomenon known as "sudden unintended acceleration" (SUA) in Hyundais which may have caused a spate of accidents involving taxis here.

    The move arises from footage captured by car cameras showing Hyundai cabs operated by ComfortDelGro in dramatic crashes that suggest the drivers were not in control of their vehicles at the time.

    In one video, a taxi reversed hard into a parked vehicle in a HDB carpark. It then moved forward, only to reverse again - this time mounting a kerb and crashing tail-first into a block of flats.

    In another video, a cab reversed into another vehicle near a carpark gantry, and then bolted forward at a high speed and collided with more than one vehicle.

    A cabby of 13 years claimed his Hyundai Sonata cab surged forward when he was in a taxi queue in Resorts World in March.

    "My first instinct was to steer away," said the relief driver who declined to be named. "The cab mounted two kerbs before it came to a stop. I believe I stepped on the brakes but it was not hard enough."

    In response to a query, the LTA said it was "looking into the reported cases of Hyundai vehicles having an unintended acceleration in reverse gear". But a spokesman added that "it is premature to draw any conclusions at this point in time".

    Cases of SUA have been well documented, although not all can be proven to be mechanical in nature. Some are attributable to drivers stepping on the accelerator instead of the brake pedal, and in panic, depressing the accelerator further.

    BusinessKorea, a news portal in Seoul, reported that 417 accidents between 2010 and 2014 were suspected to have been caused by SUA.

    Cars from Hyundai and sister brand Kia accounted for nearly 60 per cent of the cases, it added.

    In 2012, the South Korean authorities investigated the cases, leading Hyundai to say that it would introduce a "brake pedal throttle override" function in its cars.

    However, it is unknown how many models have been equipped with this feature, which cuts off throttle when brakes are applied.

    It admitted to Road & Track magazine that "with virtually all cars using electronic throttle control today, there remains the remote possibility for an unforeseen electronic throttle control malfunction, causing a vehicle to accelerate contrary to driver input".

    In 2014, an in-depth investigation by the Korean Broadcast System (Seoul's equivalent of the BBC) found that a version of the Hyundai Sonata had a defective engine control unit which caused SUA.

    Meanwhile, neither ComfortDelGro nor Hyundai distributor Komoco would comment on the purported cases of SUA in Singapore.

    Hyundai is not alone in this. In 2014, Toyota settled a multi-billion-dollar suit involving SUA in its cars, which were deemed to have caused fatal crashes. Following that, Toyota also introduced a similar throttle override as Hyundai's.