• Faulty Toyota Electronics Can Lead to Sudden Acceleration, Reports Safety Research & Strategies
  • May 26, 2011
  • Law Firm: Lieff Cabraser Heimann Bernstein LLP - San Francisco Office
  • In a lengthy report, researchers at Safety Research & Strategies, Inc. ("SRS"), an organization that provides research, investigation, analysis, strategies, and advocacy on safety matters, published a review of the findings of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the NASA Engineering and Safety Center (NESC) on Toyota Unintended Acceleration. SRS concluded that:

    • NASA identified numerous failures in Toyota electronics that could lead to unwanted acceleration.
    • The report was heavily influenced by Toyota and its experts, including Exponent.
    • The reports were narrowly construed examinations of limited vehicles and components.
    • Much of the reports remain shrouded in secrecy.

    SRS's analysis of the NESC report showed "there are several scenarios in which engine speed can be increased, RPMs can surge, and the throttle can be opened to various degrees in contradiction to the driver’s command, and not set a Diagnostic Trouble Code (DTC). Among those causes of electronic malfunction in some Toyota vehicles the investigators found were tin whiskers in the Accelerator Pedal Position Sensor (APPS) of potentiometer-type pedals. Tin whiskers are hair-like structures that can cause electrical shorts. The team found the presence of this well-known electronics phenomenon in virtually every potentiometer accelerator pedal assembly inspected - including a vehicle whose pedal was replaced by Toyota following acceleration problems."

    Further, according to SRS, the NESC and NHTSA teams did not engage independent engineers with expertise in vehicle engine management design, validation and testing to assist them in evaluating Toyota’s system. Rather, they allowed Toyota to guide this research.

    "These studies were far from independent. They are the products of Toyota’s involvement and that of the company’s litigation defense experts who provided the statistical analysis that the agencies used to dismiss the physical evidence that showed flaws in Toyota’s electronics," says SRS President Sean Kane. "Contrary to Secretary Ray LaHood’s pronouncements, the investigations actually showed numerous ways that Toyotas can experience unintended acceleration without alerting the fault detection system. They were simply dismissed as unlikely."