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NHTSA concludes that Toyota acceleration problems did not result from electronic error

More than 85 deaths have been blamed on sudden acceleration problems in Toyota and Lexus automobiles.  It was early on determined that  sticky accelerator pedals and improperly designed floor mats played a role and 11 million vehicles  were eventually recalled.  Nevertheless, a question remained with regard to whether a glitch in the company's electronics also played a role.  NHTSA had taken flack for failing to investigate this issue when it early-on concluded that there was no electronic failure.  Today, NHTSA and the NASA engineers it belatedly consulted to address the question  weighed in with their opinion:  electronics were not at fault; sticky pedals, bad mats, poor pedal design and misapplication of pedals (i.e., driver error) were the causes of the collisions investigated.

Engineers consulted injured and deceased motorists and their families argued that  the conclusion does not take into account the potential for errors caused by intermittent cable connections or incorrectly torqued ground connections.  These engineers argue that Toyota's own documents demonstrate that Toyota was able to replicate electronic problems.

One of the problems with this entire investigation has been Toyota's refusal to install electronic data recorders and its historic refusal to  share its data and coding with outside engineers conducting accident investigation.  Even law enforcement efforts have occasionally been stymied by Toyota's reported refusal to share downloaded electronic data from serious collisions.  It did finally share this data with the NASA engineers involved in the latest  investigation.  American manufacturers commonly record this data on vehicles and make the coding for the data widely available to investigators.

Another problem has beenNHSTA's limited, 18 million dollar budget.  It simply doesn't have the resources to police or investigate a major issue involving one of the large automobile manufacturers.  A recent attempt to bolster auto safety, the Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 2010, was blocked by Senate Republicans led by arch conservative Tom Coburn of Oklahoma.

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