Toyota and its critics are deeply divided over the root cause of unintended acceleration problems. Toyota claims that the problems are mechanical, and has issued numerous recalls on the basis of mechanical problems, like the most recent recall of 2.3 million Toyotas for sticking gas pedals. Critics, however, cite problems with the electronics and claim that Toyota is concealing these problems. For its part, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has largely supported Toyota’s claims, but some have charged that the agency lacks adequate technical knowledge to investigate the potential for defects in Toyota’s sophisticated electronics. In response, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has recruited electronics experts from National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to help track down the problem. The NASA scientists will use their experience designing and troubleshooting electronics subjected to a variety of electromagnetic conditions to help the NHTSA study the potential link between defective electronics and the cars’ sudden acceleration problems.

In addition, LaHood as enlisted the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) to conduct a detailed review of electronic vehicle controls in all cars to determine if a systematic or widespread problem exists. The NAS review is intended to provide an in-depth analysis of the possibility for widespread problems in the use of electronic throttle controls in cars.

The claim that the electronic throttle control is to blame in unexplained acceleration events has been forwarded primarily by product liability lawyers representing people injured in car accidents caused by defective vehicles. They have enlisted experts who claim to have overridden the Toyota’s safety systems, which, they say, are less strict than those used on other cars. The claim is that once the safety systems have failed there is a possibility that any external stimulus, like a transient magnetic field from the radio or other nearby electronic components, could cause a spontaneous acceleration event. Currently, neither the NHTSA nor Toyota has been able to reproduce spontaneous acceleration using electromagnetic fields.

Hopefully, the addition of outside experts can clear up this ongoing controversy and either confirm Toyota’s claims or identify the true source of problems so that we can all feel safer on the road.

If you have been hurt by a car accident due to a defective vehicle, please call or email Robert W. Kerpsack, CO, LPA today for a free case evaluation.