Feds Find No Defects in Toyota’s Electronic Throttles

By Chris Haak

So, it was about the floormats and pedals after all.

More than a year after Toyota’s reputation for quality and safety was damaged by a tsunami of recalls (18 million vehicles worldwide) to repair sticking accelerator pedals, and after a cloud of suspicion that Toyota’s electronic throttles were somehow at least partially to blame for the runaway Priuses and Camrys featured on the six o’clock news, it turns out that there apparently aren’t any electronic gremlins causing the problems.  At least, that’s the findings after a 10-month study done by the US Department of Transportation, with the help of NASA engineers.

NASA looked at nine specific Toyotas that were suspected of experiencing sudden-acceleration events, and bombarded the cars with electromagnetic pulses to try to trick their electronic throttles into sending the wrong signal to the accelerator.  A wrong signal could cause unintended acceleration, but no such issues emerged.  A review of the vehicles’ software codes showed there to be no faults.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a statement today, “There is no electronic-based cause for unintended high-speed acceleration in Toyotas.”

Toyota has not completely recovered, having lost market share in spite of increasing incentive spending during 2010.  However, the company did have the most models in the recent IntelliChoice Overall Value awards.  Toyota/Lexus vehicles won 11 of the 21 possible categories, where the award is based largely on resale value.

Other good may come from the study.  The DOT plans to launch a long-term study into the placement and design of pedals in vehicles to see if pedal placement can be standardized and improved in order to reduce accidents. More safety requirements are also on the horizon:  the DOT plans to consider requiring mandatory brake override systems, standardized keyless ignition systems and mandatory data event recorders in future vehicles, though those are only proposals at this stage.

Though it would appear that the government study results put the Toyota sudden acceleration article to bed for good, don’t think that plaintiff’s attorneys are going to just give up on their attempts to win settlements with Toyota, in or out of court.  They have to convince a jury of their peers, not some rocket scientists, after all.

Author: Chris Haak

Chris is Autosavant's Managing Editor. He has a lifelong love of everything automotive, having grown up as the son of a car dealer. A married father of two sons, Chris is also in the process of indoctrinating them into the world of cars and trucks.

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6 Comments

  1. So what we’ve really found out, after spending lots of government investigational dollars, is that people who drive Camrys and Corollas really aren’t very good drivers; they’re people who get confused about which pedal to use.

    I could have told you that before the whole “throttlegate” scandal broke last year!

  2. But still, none of those 18 million recalls were for the electronics anyway.

    What we really found out here is that Toyota doesn’t have some kind of huge overall quality advantage over the competition. They have the same kind of problems as all the other automakers.

  3. True – perhaps the biggest casualty for Toyota in all this was a realization by it and its potential customers that it’s not infallible, and is now “just another car company.”

  4. Shades of Audi in the ‘80s. Don’t tell me that being investigated by the very federal agency that has been in bed with Toyota should make us all forget that people have reported getting shin splints tryin to stop the cars. I remember the government and Audi declaring their late ‘80s sudden acceleration problems were driver error, when American cars that had the same problems in the late ‘70s to early ’80s worked on all things including the automatic transmission gates to try to get a handle on the problem. I would never buy a vehicle from an automaker whose motto is to blame the customer rather than admit that they might be having problems getting a handle on an issue. All we’ve heard from Toyota is cheer leading, grand standing and harking to how great their cars have been over the years. As for the inured parties, I hope you sue to the furthest extent o the law.

    You’ll never see me in an Audi or Toyota showroom.

  5. Blame the owner.. What a bunch of crap!!!! Must be a left leg on the right side or is it the right leg on the left side or maybe we just did’t make the design correctly or maybe we paid somebody off or no it has to be the customers fault Ya..

  6. and I’m supposed to believe the government? …yeah right :p

    Imho it’s a combo of software & electronics, both poorly designed & tested – one of the hardest faults to identify and fix.

    Eventually someone famous enough will be killed or permanently incapcitated by TM’s negligence. Then…WATCH OUT!

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