ABC News: Expert says electronic design flaw to blame in runaway Toyota models

Southern Illinois University automotive technology professor David Gilbert and ABC News Brian Ross

While the real cause of the Toyota unintended acceleration issues are still under investigation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration ( NHTSA), one news outlet is reporting that they know what's behind it. ABC News tracked down one David Gilbert, an automotive technology professor at Southern Illinois University, who says he knows exactly what it is. According to Gilbert, it's an electronic design flaw in Toyota's 'Fail Safe' system.

Gilbert says the flaw "prevents the car's onboard computer from detecting and stopping certain short circuits that can trigger sudden speed surges." ABC News adds, "he can recreate a short circuit in the electronic throttles of Toyotas that can create a surge of acceleration but can't be detected by Toyota's electronic sensors."

Because the computers won't record an error code in this situation, Gilbert told ABC, "they can't activate the 'fail safe' system designed to shut down the power and put the car in the 'limp home' mode."

John Hanson, a Toyota executive, answered reporters today by saying an electronic cause of the sudden acceleration issues was "extremely unlikely" and that "no actual evidence has been produced" to the contrary.

This report has led safety advocate Sean Kane, of Safety Research & Strategies, to bolster his claims that the electronics are the real culprit. Kane is set to testify before the House Commerce Committee on the Toyota issue on Tuesday. "The system is fallible, in fact, it's got some really troubling design strategies that are employed by Toyota that appear to be outside the norm. And their system clearly has design strategy that has a very slim margin of safety."

And it looks like the House might agree with them. The New York Times is now reporting that leading Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee said Monday that they were disturbed by the fact that, "Toyota had dismissed the notion that computer issues could be at fault for sticking accelerator pedals, relied on a flawed study to draw that conclusion and then made misleading statements on the repairs it said would fix the problem." We'll get you the results of the hearings as they come in tomorrow. Thanks to everyone for the tips!

[Sources: ABC News, New York Times | Image: ABC News]

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