WASHINGTON - A 10-month study by the U.S. Department of Transportation did not find any electronic system flaws in Toyota vehicles capable of producing the large throttle openings required to create dangerous high-speed unintended acceleration incidents, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
“We enlisted the best and brightest engineers to study Toyota’s electronics systems, and the verdict is in. There is no electronic-based cause for unintended high-speed acceleration in Toyotas," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.
NHTSA launched the investigation and conducted the study at the request of Congress and enlisted NASA engineers to find out whether any issues with the electronics in Toyota vehicles played a role.
"NASA found no evidence that a malfunction in electronics caused large unintended accelerations," said Michael Kirsch, Principal Engineer at the NASA Engineering and Safety Center (NESC).
NHTSA stated that the two mechanical safety defects identified by the organization previously, specifically “sticking” accelerator pedals and a design flaw that enabled accelerator pedals to become trapped by floor mats, remain the only known causes for unintended acceleration incidents.
Although NHTSA and NASA engineers did not identify any electronic cause of dangerous unintended acceleration incidents in Toyota vehicles, or any new mechanical causes beyond sticking pedals and accelerator pedal entrapment, NHTSA is considering several actions:
- 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.
NHTSA said that based on objective event data recorder (EDR) readings and crash investigations conducted as part of NHTSA’s report, the organization is researching the placement and design of accelerator and brake pedals to potentially reduce pedal missaplication. NHTSA’s forthcoming rulemaking that will require brake override systems in all passenger vehicles is designed to ensure that braking takes precedence over accelerator pedal application in emergency situations.
In 2009 and 2010, Toyota recalled nearly 8 million vehicles as part of the recalls related to sticking pedals and pedal entrapment. The automaker paid $48.8 million in civil penalties as a result of the NHTSA investigations.
After NHTSA announced the results, Toyota made an official statement in response to the DOT's findings: