• Feb 3, 2010
Reports from multiple news outlets cite sources within the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration who claim the government is now looking into electrical problems as the source for Toyota's recall troubles. The unnamed agency employee reportedly told CNN that the government is investigating whether electromagnetic interference might cause the electronic throttle control system to malfunction. The source went on to add that the agency has found no evidence of problems with the electronic throttle, though engineers at NHTSA were still actively investigating the matter.

News of a possible electronics investigation comes not long after Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood claimed that NHTSA "wasn't done with Toyota," and that the Japanese automaker was "a little safety deaf." Shinichi Sasaki, Toyota's vice president in charge of quality, reportedly claimed that the embattled automaker has never found any evidence of electrical problems, a familiar line from the automaker that we've heard since the latest recall was announced. Toyota has been quick to state, however, that it will do anything possible to cooperate in the investigation.

At least one safety expert feels NHTSA should have investigated electronic issues long ago. Sean Kane, president of Safety Research Strategies, said in a recent interview that "by all appearances, electronics are playing a significant role in the problems." Kane says 2002–2006 Camry and 2005–2007 Tacoma models should specifically be investigated, and he points to a case of a 2005 Camry owner who experienced unintended acceleration as he attempted to park. The driver instead launched 23 feet and then dropped off of a 70-foot cliff, killing the driver's wife. Kane says the floor mat was securely fastened to the floor when the accident occurred.

As is typically the case with "anonymous sources," we expect an announcement from NHTSA any day now. Is the safety organization trying to show Congress just how hard it's working to find a solution for Toyota's problems in advance of the February 10 hearing on Capitol Hill? Could be, but more negative press is the last thing Toyota needs right now.



[Source: CNN Money | Automotive News – sub. req.]


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  • 13 Comments
      • 4 Years Ago
      With these 'drive-by-wire' systems now common and the increasing number of cars that don't use a traditional key and ignition, it's time to have an emergency shut off switch that would shut the engine off with out locking the steering column (yes I know that this is key position determined) or better yet forces the car into a limp mode that keeps it running at idle speed, therefore keeping power to the steering and brakes.
        • 4 Years Ago
        There's another option it's called neutral, just wondering if most drivers are smart enough to use it????
      • 4 Years Ago
      I don't know why people keep getting quotes from guys like Sean Kane who have been show to horribly distorted the facts on this issue. Ugh.
      • 4 Years Ago
      It's interesting to see that there is a recall for millions of cars and hundreds of complaints made about unintended acceleration. There have been no accidents in Europe from those who complained and only one tragedy I've heard of in the U.S. where the cop and his family died. Obviously, this is a huge problem that needs to be fixed, which I'm assuming Toyota is taking care of already.

      What I am wondering though is how many legitimate occurrences have been reported here in the U.S.? Obviously this has more to do with mechanical and drivebywire problems than the floormats, but how many of these of complaints are even real? The percentage chance of unintended acceleration must be slim to none when its millions of toyota cars out there. These things aren't happening in droves.

      Does anyone know the figure of how many accidents occured???
        • 4 Years Ago
        The numbers commonly quoted by the media and politicians are the ones from Safety Research and Strategies, which are the highest cited numbers available I think. Since 1999, there have been UP TO 19 deaths, 341 injuries, 815 crashes, and 2262 incidents. However, there are some major caveats with their data.

        1. They use multiple sources like NHTSA complaints, Toyota-submitted claims to the NHTSA, consumers contacting SRS, and the media. They acknowledge there could be duplicate data. I don't know why they didn't just use NHTSA reported incidents.

        2. They are claims, and they are not confirmed cases of it being Toyota's fault rather than user error. This is a biggie.

        3. Since December 2009, they have reported a sudden jump of 200 incidents since then. It's irresponsible to include those numbers in the total tally because consumers always report more incidents once a recall is announced.

        4. They use data from all the way from 1999. I don't know when this problem exactly started with all the rumours flying around, but I don't think Toyota used these pedals or electronic systems that many people suspect in 1999.

        http://www.safetyresearch.net/2010/01/29/toyota-unintended-acceleration-complaints-update/
        • 4 Years Ago
        If indeed there are no accidents in Europe, this might lend credence to speculation that it is an electrical/software problem rather than a mechanical one, though both might be present. Given the slightly different emissions standards and clearly different testing standards, Toyota may have distinct programing for throttle control for North America V. Europe.

        Glad I don't own a Toyota as the resale is sure to take a hit.
      • 4 Years Ago
      If I recall this is what the majority of posters on here have thought for some time. Someone needs to start reading autoblog...
        • 4 Years Ago
        Amen.

        Software has been Toyota's main weakness for a long time. Prius drivers were getting stuck in their driveways with an inch of snow because of poorly programmed traction control.

        Most of these cases of unintended acceleration also don't add up as a mechanical issue. It is not like the person was flooring it and then suddenly took their foot off the pedal and slammed on the brakes. Instead in most reported cases people were either stopped or travelling slowly when the accelerator suddenly becomes fully engaged. If the pedal had simply got stuck it would have got stuck where it was at. A certain percentage of these cases will be human error but when one manufacturer has a far larger number of complaints (even prior to the media coverage) then it is obvious there is more than human error going on here.

        What is troubling about all of this is that this one little "Magic Bullet" cheap and easy to install piece of metal is expected to solve the problem. Remarkable or unbelievable some might say that a little cheap and easy to mass produce overnight piece of metal fixes everything. It sounds like something they would sell on an infomercial. But that is the flaw in the system. The manufacturer doesn't have to prove that their recall fix actually fixes the problem. They just have to prove that they are doing a recall. In most cases the manufacturer just wants it done and over with quickly and quietly so they can be counted on to get it done the first time but what if it simply can't be done fast enough? Is a feel good solution good enough until they can get to the bottom of the problem? Should they be forced out of business in the process of doing the right thing?

        You can't help but wonder whether or not this is damage control. When a large company is faced with dealing with a massive recall that could require them to change an expensive part on their entire fleet. Cost aside there is the simple truth that there is a limit to the supply of these parts. The more complex the part the more difficult it is to ramp up additional manufacturing. If they were forced to swap out a major part like the pedal assemblies on all of these vehicles it simply couldn't be done within a reasonable time frame. Especially these days when people don't want to wait for anything and are addicted to media hysteria. Suddenly the Corolla is parked until the dealer will do the recall and they better make time for ME this week because I am their most important customer. Plus doing the recall would tap the entire supply of parts killing new vehicle production for an extended period.

        If as many people expect the problem is software related it could take them a long time to track it down. Time is not something the customer or the government is about to give Toyota so instead we get the "Slap Chop" fix. You can bet GM is taking notes on how well this goes over before committing to what action they will take with all those defective Cobalt electric steering systems. Every other manufacturer is watching closing as well for that matter. Only a fool would believe that if Toyota gets away with this the rest won't do the same thing. But if they aren't allowed to do the feel good fix for now the alternative would likely bankrupt them so which is better? Get ready to find an answer to that question because every automaker is following the Toyota model. They are all using the same part across as many models as possible so one defective part is more and more likely to effect the entire lineup.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Peter De Lorenzo sums the Toyota situation up nicely in today's Autoextremist, and takes no prisoners, whether it be Toyota, or the Toyota "homers" at The New York Times:

      Today's Rant:
      http://www.autoextremist.com/

      Today's On The Table:
      http://www.autoextremist.com/on-the-table1/

      Ouch. That's gonna leave a mark.
        • 4 Years Ago
        wow, that's about the most succinctly I've seen it summed up to date.
        • 4 Years Ago
        The New York Times gets a lot of ad dollars from Toyota. I am sure they don't want to see them disappear.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Was driving my 2002 avalon to work this morning and it started having the acceleration issues. I didnt even have to step on the gas after stopping at a stop sign and got to 40 mph no problem. When I finally got to work and put in in part the engine revved up and down like I was a teenager stepping on the gas pedal getting ready to race. It was not stuck in the down position. Definitely seems electronic to me. Now Toyota is charging $95 just to diagnose issue as it is outside of the years recalled. I came across a report that they are investigating as far back as my year now though. http://www.comcast.net/video/uproar-over-car-pedals/1404058099 Hoping they expand this thing and get it fixed!
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