Patt Morrison for February 8, 2011

It’s not the electronics & it’s not in your head… so what did cause Toyota’s unintended sudden acceleration?

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Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

The 2010 Toyota Prius was on the recall list "to update software in the vehicle’s antilock brake system"

The incidents captured the attention of a nation that lives & dies with its cars—several popular models made by Toyota, which at the time was the world’s biggest automaker, were involved in scary incidents of unintended sudden acceleration, leading to several crashes, a few deaths and hundreds of thousands of recalls. Critics of Toyota wondered about a bigger, more insidious problem behind the accelerations involving the cars’ electronic and computer-controlled systems, while Toyota blamed faulty floor mats—and some blame was put on the drivers themselves, who might be imagining or embellishing that their cars suddenly took off on their own. After a 10-month study by the Transportation Department, aided by engineers from NASA, government investigators have concluded that no electronic flaws account for unintentional acceleration, and the only known cause are mechanical defects that have been addressed by previous recalls. So if it wasn’t the electronic systems and it wasn’t in your head—and you don’t trust Toyota that it was the floor mats—then what exactly was responsible for sending your car hurling out of control?

Guests:

Sean Kane, founder & president of Safety Research & Strategies; testified before the House Energy & Commerce Oversight & Investigations Subcommittee hearing on the “Response by Toyota and NHTSA to Incidents of Sudden Unintended Acceleration” on February 23, 2010

Mike Allen, senior automotive editor at Popular Mechanics; written about Toyota’s problems over the past year and about the mechanics of modern automotive computing systems


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