Toyota to pay US$1.4-billion settlement in acceleration defect case

DETROIT — Toyota Motor Corp has agreed to pay as much as US$1.4-billion to settle U.S. litigation claims that its vehicles suddenly and unintentionally accelerated, according to court filings made public Wednesday.

Toyota said it will take a one-time pre-tax charge of US$1.1-billion to cover the estimated costs of the settlement.

Hagens Berman, the law firm representing Toyota owners who brought the case in 2010, said in a press release the settlement was valued between US$1.2-billion and US$1.4-billion. In a plaintiff memo filed in court, the firm estimated that the total package was “conservatively valued” at more than US$1.3-billion.

The deal amounts to “a landmark, if not a record, settlement in automobile defect class action litigation in the United States,” according to the plaintiff memo. Toyota described the settlement as a “significant step forward” for the Japanese automaker, which has seen its image take a hit from the controversy.

The settlement, which must be approved by a California federal judge, includes direct payments to customers as well as the installation of a brake override system in about 3.25 million vehicles, plaintiff attorneys said.

The terms include a US$250-million fund for former Toyota owners who sold vehicles at reduced prices because of bad publicity, and a separate US$250-million fund for owners not eligible for the brake override system.

Plaintiff attorneys are slated to receive up to US$200-million in fees and US$27-million in costs, according to court documents.

© Thomson Reuters 2012

A Whimsical Seasonal Greeting From A Human Camera


One of the stranger things I came across while in Tokyo last month was a digital artist who built a human camera that requires touch from another person to snap photos.

It is artist Eric Siu’s bit of rebellion against an increasingly technology-dependent world that distances people from real-life interactions. This effect is especially pronounced where Siu lives in Japan, as the Internet has allowed “Hikikomori” and “Otaku” sub-cultures to thrive. In “Hikikomori” culture, teens actually shut themselves in from interaction with the outside world.

As social networking, e-mail and other forms of digital communication replace or squeeze out time for face-to-face meetings, Siu wanted to create a piece of technology that required the opposite — real human touch.

The Touchy Camera, which he built using off-the-shelf parts for a few hundred dollars, is a wearable camera that requires another person to touch the wearer in order for it to work. Otherwise, the wearer is blind because the camera’s shutter doesn’t open without contact from someone else (see the GIF I made below).

If you touch him for 10 seconds or longer, that camera snaps a photo that’s viewable from an LCD screen on the back of the his head.

We walked around with it one morning in the Roppongi Hills area in Tokyo. And to make an understatement, the effect on bystanders was a bit magical. Some people would run away if they saw us come close, while others started asking questions. When some of them touched him and the shutters in front of his eyes opened, they gasped and smiled.

The camera works when human touch completes a simple circuit. Siu hands you something that looks like a lightbulb to hold in one hand, and when you touch him with the other, it completes a basic low-voltage circuit.

Siu only has one version of the Touchy camera, although people have asked him before about buying one as a toy. Since releasing it earlier this year, he’s performed all around mainland China and Asia and actually has gotten a bit of interest in it as a product. He says he would be open to making others if there was demand.

He and his partner, another character named Margaret Toucha, just made a holiday video (above) filled with boxers, pole dancers and some meandering around downtown Tokyo.

Settlement Tops $1 Billion in Toyota Acceleration Lawsuit

(LOS ANGELES) — Toyota Motor Corp. said Wednesday it has reached a settlement worth more than $1 billion in a case involving hundreds of lawsuits over acceleration problems in its vehicles. The company said in a statement that the deal will resolve cases involving motorists who said the value of their vehicles was adversely affected by previous recalls stemming from sudden acceleration problems. Lawyer Steve Berman, a plaintiffs’ attorney, said the settlement is the largest settlement in U.S. history involving automobile defects. “We kept fighting and fighting and we secured what we think was a good settlement given the risks of this litigation,” Berman told The Associated Press. (PHOTOS: The Rise of Toyota) The proposed deal was filed Wednesday and must receive the approval of a federal judge. As part of the settlement, Toyota said it will offer cash payments to eligible customers who sold or turned in their leased vehicles between September 2009 and December 2010. The Japanese automaker also will launch a program to provide supplemental warranty coverage for certain vehicle components, and it will retrofit additional non-hybrid vehicle models that are subject to a floor mat recall with a free brake override system. The settlement would also establish additional driver education programs and fund new research into advanced safety technologies. “In keeping with our core principles, we have structured this agreement in ways that work to put our customers first and demonstrate that they can count on Toyota to stand behind our vehicles,” said Christopher Reynolds, Toyota vice president and general counsel. Toyota has recalled more than 14 million vehicles worldwide due to acceleration problems in several models and brake defects with the Prius hybrid. Toyota has blamed driver error, faulty floor mats and sticky accelerator pedals for the unintended acceleration. MORE: Toyota Prius: Niche Car No More

Treasury unveils plan to buy time under debt ceiling

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Treasury on Wednesday announced the first of a series of measures that should push back the day when the government will exceed its legal borrowing authority as imposed by Congress by around two months.

US Treasury in debt limit delay

The US Treasury is to take extraordinary measures to delay reaching a 31 December borrowing limit, as the so-called “fiscal cliff” looms.