DOT Finds No Electronic Flaws in Toyotas Cause Unintended Acceleration

WASHINGTON - A 10-month study by the U.S. Department of Transportation did not find any electronic system flaws in Toyota vehicles capable of producing the large throttle openings required to create dangerous high-speed unintended acceleration incidents, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

“We enlisted the best and brightest engineers to study Toyota’s electronics systems, and the verdict is in. There is no electronic-based cause for unintended high-speed acceleration in Toyotas," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.

NHTSA launched the investigation and conducted the study at the request of Congress and enlisted NASA engineers to find out whether any issues with the electronics in Toyota vehicles played a role.

"NASA found no evidence that a malfunction in electronics caused large unintended accelerations," said Michael Kirsch, Principal Engineer at the NASA Engineering and Safety Center (NESC).

NHTSA stated that the two mechanical safety defects identified by the organization previously, specifically “sticking” accelerator pedals and a design flaw that enabled accelerator pedals to become trapped by floor mats, remain the only known causes for unintended acceleration incidents.

Toyota's Chief Quality Officer for North America Steve St. Angelo responded to the study's findings.

“Toyota welcomes the findings of NASA and NHTSA regarding our Electronic Throttle Control System with intelligence (ETCS-i) and we appreciate the thoroughness of their review,” St. Angelo said. “We believe this rigorous scientific analysis by some of America's foremost engineers should further reinforce confidence in the safety of Toyota and Lexus vehicles. We hope this important study will help put to rest unsupported speculation about Toyota's ETCS-i, which is well-designed and well-tested to ensure that a real world, un-commanded acceleration of the vehicle cannot occur.
“We will continue to develop and equip Toyota and Lexus vehicles with industry-leading safety technologies, including many based on breakthroughs in sophisticated electronics systems. We will also continue to cooperate fully with NHTSA and respected outside experts in order to help ensure that our customers have the utmost confidence in the safety and reliability of our vehicles. Everyone at Toyota – all 30,000 of our team members in the United States and the many thousands of Americans at our dealers and suppliers across the country – is focused on listening to our customers and constantly improving our products and service.”

Although NHTSA and NASA engineers did not identify any electronic cause of dangerous unintended acceleration incidents in Toyota vehicles, or any new mechanical causes beyond sticking pedals and accelerator pedal entrapment, NHTSA is considering several actions:

  • Propose rules, by the end of 2011, to require brake override systems, to standardize operation of keyless ignition systems, and to require the installation of event data recorders in all passenger vehicles;
  • Begin broad research on the reliability and security of electronic control systems;
  • Research the placement and design of accelerator and brake pedals, as well as driver usage of pedals, to determine whether design and placement can be improved to reduce pedal misapplication.

NHTSA said that based on objective event data recorder (EDR) readings and crash investigations conducted as part of NHTSA’s report, the organization is researching the placement and design of accelerator and brake pedals to potentially reduce pedal missaplication. NHTSA’s forthcoming rulemaking that will require brake override systems in all passenger vehicles is designed to ensure that braking takes precedence over accelerator pedal application in emergency situations.

In 2009 and 2010, Toyota recalled nearly 8 million vehicles as part of the recalls related to sticking pedals and pedal entrapment. The automaker paid $48.8 million in civil penalties as a result of the NHTSA investigations.

Comment On This Story

Comment: (Max. 10000 characters)  
Please leave blank:
* Please note that every comment is moderated.


Newsletter: Sign up to receive latest news, articles, and much more.

Read the latest

Auto Focus Blog: A blog covering fleets, auto rental and the business of cars

Trends Moving the Truck Market

Storylines that emerged from the 2018 Work Truck Show include the increasing need for on-site productivity, inclusion of active safety systems in trucks, DPF frustrations affecting product decisions, data management, and the growing link between fleet management and company revenue.

MIT Study Reinforces the Newfound Importance of Fleet

Uber and Lyft drivers make far less when factoring vehicle expenses, though the actual numbers are now in dispute. A proper lifecycle cost analysis would’ve helped, and shows the benefit of collaboration with fleet professionals.

What a Connected Fleet Means to Avis (and Car Rental)

Counter bypass is just the beginning. The promise of a “data-driven ecosystem” that connects renters with the rental agency, retail services, and even the city is a better managed fleet, an improved user experience, and new revenue opportunities during the rental itself.

Job Finder: Access Top Talent. Fill Key Positions.