Feds Find No Defects in Toyota’s Electronic Throttles
By Chris Haak
So, it was about the floormats and pedals after all.
More than a year after Toyota’s reputation for quality and safety was damaged by a tsunami of recalls (18 million vehicles worldwide) to repair sticking accelerator pedals, and after a cloud of suspicion that Toyota’s electronic throttles were somehow at least partially to blame for the runaway Priuses and Camrys featured on the six o’clock news, it turns out that there apparently aren’t any electronic gremlins causing the problems. At least, that’s the findings after a 10-month study done by the US Department of Transportation, with the help of NASA engineers.
NASA looked at nine specific Toyotas that were suspected of experiencing sudden-acceleration events, and bombarded the cars with electromagnetic pulses to try to trick their electronic throttles into sending the wrong signal to the accelerator. A wrong signal could cause unintended acceleration, but no such issues emerged. A review of the vehicles’ software codes showed there to be no faults.
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a statement today, “There is no electronic-based cause for unintended high-speed acceleration in Toyotas.”
Toyota has not completely recovered, having lost market share in spite of increasing incentive spending during 2010. However, the company did have the most models in the recent IntelliChoice Overall Value awards. Toyota/Lexus vehicles won 11 of the 21 possible categories, where the award is based largely on resale value.
Other good may come from the study. The DOT plans to launch a long-term study into the placement and design of pedals in vehicles to see if pedal placement can be standardized and improved in order to reduce accidents. More safety requirements are also on the horizon: the DOT plans to consider requiring mandatory brake override systems, standardized keyless ignition systems and mandatory data event recorders in future vehicles, though those are only proposals at this stage.
Though it would appear that the government study results put the Toyota sudden acceleration article to bed for good, don’t think that plaintiff’s attorneys are going to just give up on their attempts to win settlements with Toyota, in or out of court. They have to convince a jury of their peers, not some rocket scientists, after all.