“There is no electronic-based cause for unintended high-speed acceleration in Toyota’s,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a statement yesterday afternoon. That was the finding of the 10-month probe into the problems that spurred Toyota to recall over 12 million vehicles around the globe. They also paid over $49 million in fines to the US Government. You might remember that Secretary Hood told all Toyota owners to stop driving their vehicles back in 2009.
Thirty full and part-time employees working for NASA on a study commissioned by the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) looked at 280,000 lines of code, and could not duplicate any failure in ETCS-i (Electronic Throttle Control Systems Intelligent) in Toyota Vehicles.
Directly from the report issued yesterday: “Driver defenses against UAs (Unintended Accelerations) in ETCS-i vehicles (Electronic Throttle Control Systems Intelligent) vehicles are similar to those in vehicles with mechanical throttles: apply brakes, shift to neutral, or turn the ignition off.
The NHTSA has received over 3,000 reports of unintended vehicle acceleration, and has only confirmed 5! WTF That seems a little strange. There were also four deaths in the San Diego crash that resulted from sudden acceleration as apparently evidenced by a 911 call during the incident.
When I first heard about the horrible accident in California, I thought, “Why didn’t he turn the car off?” I have a Toyota, two Toyota vehicles in fact. When I received the recall notice early, before the accident happened, about the floor mats, I checked my floor mats. Neither vehicle was affected. When I received the recall notice after the accident about sticking gas pedals, I took the one vehicle affected in to have the work done. Neither of the cars, both with ETCS-i has ever experienced unintended vehicle acceleration.
The chart below shows complaint rate for unintended acceleration per 100,000 vehicles from 1999-2009 as reported to the NHTSA. Does anything stand out to you on this report? Like maybe Volvo, Jaguar, and Suzuki had a bigger problem with this issue. Any huge fines handed out? Any front page daily press? Were recalls done in a timely fashion?
Now my conspiracy theory. Remember what happened right around the time this sudden acceleration came to the forefront? The US Government had just invested billions of dollars into GM to keep them afloat. What’s the best way to keep them afloat long enough to come up with, or finish, some new design and new technology vehicles? Slow down the #1 selling, and #1 rated vehicle for safety and reliability with a fatal accident, bad press, big fines and huge accusations about how Toyota knew all about it.
Except it didn’t really work. Toyota didn’t suffer that much financially or in the eyes of Toyota owners. The car maker had gains in other world markets too. GM came up with some good vehicles, trimmed down the waste, got concessions from employees, and survived. They did so well out of the box that they posted profits enough to pay back most of the government bail-out within two years.
Shares in Toyota jumped about 5 percent on the NASA Report according to the BBC. Just an idea, if your car suddenly accelerates, as it clearly is not just a Toyota issue, you might want to slam on the brakes, put the car in neutral, turn off the engine by turning the key, put on the emergency flashers and get safely to the shoulder. Don’t try to see if you can qualify for the Daytona 500 at speeds in excess of 90 mph on a busy freeway.
Oh, and you know what one attorney said yesterday after the findings were released? An attorney that is representing some of the alleged victims of unintended acceleration in a class action suit against Toyota? He thinks the NHTSA has done a disservice to America. WTF.