Feds Clear Toyota Electronics in Unintended Acceleration Cases

After spending almost a year investigating the cause of Toyota cars and trucks suddenly speeding up, the Department of Transportation found no electronic problemsin Toyota vehicles that could have caused unintended acceleration. Not only that, the DOT found no other possible mechanical explanations for unintended acceleration cases beyond sticky gas pedals or floor mats entrapping accelerators.

2010 Toyota Prius
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2010 Toyota Prius

For Toyota it is vindication. Vindication at a steep price, but vindication just the same.

Ever since the unintended acceleration case explodedinto a national scandal, there were many people claiming the root cause of Toyota vehicles suddenly speeding up was in the electronics of the car. Even after independent firms came out and said they doubted a link between faulty electronics and unintended acceleration, there were still skeptics. But the DOT, working with electronics investigators from NASA and vehicle researchers from NHTSA found no link.

For Toyota this ends a lot of speculation, but the cost of the unintended acceleration scandal has been steep. The company has paid $48 million in fines for being too slow to alert the federal government of faulty gas pedals that should have been recalled. And then there are numerous lawsuits working their way through the courts. Who knows when it's all said and done how many millions, perhaps even billions, these reports of unintended acceleration will wind up costing the company.

The federal government is thinking of making three recommendations for the auto industry following this investigation:

  • 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.

Between 2000 and 2010, there were more than three thousand cases of unintended acceleration.

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