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Toyota Investigation Turns Up No Surprises

Wednesday, 11 Aug 2010 | 1:42 PM ET

If you thought the Federal Governments investigation of unintended acceleration in Toyota vehicles would turn up any unusual revelations, think again.

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As many expected, the initial review of data recorderstaken from Toyota vehicles reported to have suddenly sped-up did not fault electronics as the cause for people reporting runaway Toyota vehicles.

The findings should go a long ways toward ending the belief I still hear from people that Toyota cars and trucks have a problem with their electronics.

But in a world where perception, not facts color our views, I'm not sure how much will change immediately.

After 8 months of stories about sudden acceleration, many people have come to believe the problem at Toyota goes beyond sticky gas pedals and floor mats entrapping accelerators. When I mention driver error has been the cause, many people scoff. Heck, I've even had a few suggest that I'm on the take for Toyota.

True, the preliminary investigation by the Feds focused on the data recorders in vehicles which provide a snapshot of the vehicle immediately before and after a crash where the air bag was deployed. If a car sped up at a slower speed and did not lead to a serious crash, the recorder data is of little use. And yes, Federal investigators are still studying whether there are potential defects in the electronics or software of Toyota models.

"The initial report should make one thing clear. Many of the cases of unintended acceleration can be blamed on driver error." -Behind The Wheel, CNBC, Phil LeBeau

In other words, there are still many questions to be answered.

That said, the initial report should make one thing clear. Many of the cases of unintended acceleration can be blamed on driver error. Not a surprise. In the auto industry, those who have studied reports of cars and trucks speeding up or suddenly lunging forward have found the problem is often the driver hitting the gas instead of the brake pedal. That's not calling the drivers in those cases liars. It's more a case where they honestly believe they were hitting the brakes, not the gas. Or in some cases, not hitting the brake at all.

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  • Phil LeBeau is a CNBC auto and airline industry reporter based in the Chicago bureau and editor of the Behind the Wheel section on CNBC.com.

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