The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) concluded its ten-month study of probable causes of unintended acceleration issues in Toyota vehicles. The study concluded that the only known causes capable of producing the high-speed incidents were of two mechanical defects previously identified by NHTSA – “sticking” accelerator pedals and a design flaw that caused accelerator pedals to become trapped by floor mats in which Toyota has recalled nearly 8 million vehicles in the United States also paid $48.8 million in civil penalties as the result of NHTSA investigations into the timeliness of several safety recalls last year.
During the report, NASA engineers evaluated the electronic circuitry in Toyota vehicles and analyzed more than 280,000 lines of software code for any potential flaws that could initiate an unintended acceleration incident. NASA engineers examined and tested mechanical components that could result in an unwanted throttle opening. Toyota vehicles were also bombarded by NASA and NHTSA with electromagnetic radiation to study whether such radiation could cause malfunctions resulting in unintended acceleration and if there were any additional mechanical causes for unintended acceleration and whether any of the test scenarios developed could actually occur in real-world conditions.
“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).
Steve St. Angelo, Toyota’s Chief Quality Officer for North America, said: “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. 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. “
Even though no electronic causes were found in this study, NHTSA is considering taking several new actions as the result of today’s findings, including:
- 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.
“While today marks the end of our study with NASA, our work to protect millions of American drivers continues,” said NHTSA Administrator David Strickland. “The record number of voluntary recalls initiated by automakers last year is also very good news, and shows that we can work cooperatively with industry to protect consumers.”