• Mar 16, 2010
Could cosmic rays from space be to blame for Toyotas that uncontrollably speed out of control? Could such cosmic rays put you in danger of becoming a bright orange superhuman rocky man-Thing? These are the questions that a number of researchers are suggesting need a closer look to see if electronic glitches could be the root cause of Toyota's unexplainable rash of unintended acceleration.

Before you dismiss the cosmic ray theory, consider that the issue has been known since the 1950s, and airplane and spacecraft manufacturers design in safeguards that triple-check all data as a defense from such interference from space. Later, in the 1970s, researchers found that small amounts of this radiation does indeed make it down to the surface and can cause problems with small electronics like cell phones and computers.

For its part, Toyota responded to requests for comment from The Detroit Free Press that its electronics "are not the same as typical consumer electronics. The durability, size, susceptibility and specifications of the automotive electronics make them robust against this type of interference." Sounds like Toyota isn't buying the cosmic ray explanation.

Apparently, there's just one sure way to know if there's any legs to the issue of cosmic rays causing unintended acceleration, and it involves placing errant vehicles in front of particle accelerators and showering them with radiation. It seems that there are a number of firms that can perform such tests, but it remains to be seen if Toyota will make its vehicles available – and, we assume, write out a rather large check – for such testing.

[Source: Detroit Free Press]


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  • 40 Comments
      • 4 Years Ago
      I understand that Mazda has developed an accelerator over-ride system to avoid potential issues. That's a smart move. I prefer a simple cable system for acceleration, but would be okay without one if there was some kind of over-ride in place....impervious to cosmic rays, and not designed by Toyota :P
      • 4 Years Ago
      I would venture to say at this point, that it is likely a great majority of the cases are due strictly to human error:

      http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/11/opinion/11schmidt.html?emc=eta1
        • 4 Years Ago
        I dont think the cases where human error was at play is in question, it's for the other percentage of incidents where it was the car it self....
        • 4 Years Ago
        by error you mean purchasing a Toyota, right? :P
      • 4 Years Ago
      Everyone knows that it's Big Oil that created a giant ray gun that's circling the globe in outer space attacking cars that get above 50 mpg with cosmic rays which forces the gas pedal to the floor and effects the brain of the driver who can only call 911 and nothing more.
        • 4 Years Ago
        So we can actually blame Exxon for this? Yes!!!
      • 4 Years Ago
      Wrap the ECU in tinfoil?
      • 4 Years Ago
      This is actually a fairly common problem in newer computers as the amount of ram increases, the chance of this happening increases exponentially.

      Its why ECC memory is making a comeback into consumer computers, its not just for servers anymore.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Not to mention that there should be other similar incidences with other automobile manufacturers? That is, assuming the electronics across most car brands are fairly similar.
      • 4 Years Ago
      One might use the phrase "electromagnetic interference," and focus on potential problems with bad board design, but then one wouldn't be serving the interests of herr overlord Toyota, giver of add revenue.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Cosmic radiation, stuck pedals and sham shim-pedal fixes... it all amounts to the same crappily-engineered cheapness that makes a Toyota a Toyota. No amount of obfuscation or subterfuge on Toyota's part will divert the attention of what the American public now knows -- that their product and support has as much value as a Japanese "apology". Nothing.
      • 4 Years Ago
      All right, Beatrice, there was no alien. The flash of light you saw in the sky was not a UFO. Swamp gas from a weather balloon was trapped in a thermal pocket and reflected the light from Venus.
        • 4 Years Ago
        I'd put those glasses on if I were you, kid.
        • 4 Years Ago
        "Are radioactive cosmic rays to blame for unintended acceleration?"

        Ah yes, cosmic rays...

        Time to harness them with my...tin foil hat!!
        • 4 Years Ago
        It was too many electronic nannies that is causing all this runaway car crap.
        • 4 Years Ago
        SimpleCar: Way to ruin a perfectly good joke thread.

        You don't have an alternate username that would me "mnmlist," do you? Both of you have the same one-track mind, it seems.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Martians! I knew it was them!
      • 4 Years Ago
      Sounds more like science fiction.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I observe several kinds of interference mentioned in the comments above: cosmic rays (AKA heavy ions), radiowave electromagnetic interference, and perhaps not yet mentioned: gamma ray interference (AKA electromagnetic pulse from a nuke).

      For any of these, I find it extremely unlikely that any or all such radiation would affect a particular car in different locations on different days in a similar fashion. Add to that the unlikelihood that only Toyota cars would be affected (or a particular model of Toyota car), and we have entered the realm of probability such that all pigs would sprout wings and go on vacation before this could happen.
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