NASA Scientists Join Toyota Unintended Acceleration Probe

NASA has been recruited to help analyze Toyota electronic throttles to see if they could be behind problems with sudden, unintended acceleration. According to a Reuters report, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administratio (NHTSA) has worked with NASA in the past on studies of electronic stability control and airbags.

Since last fall, Toyota has recalled more than 8 million vehicles worldwide for problems involving sudden acceleration. Toyota and the NHTSA have blamed the speed control issues on defective floor mats and faulty accelerator pedals, but some experts suspect that problems with the vehicles’ electronic throttle control system could really be behind the problems. Such suspicions have increased recently, as dozens of Toyota owners whose vehicles underwent recall repairs have recently complained that their vehicles are still experiencing problems with unintended acceleration.

In the U.S., five deaths have occurred in auto accidents involving the unintended acceleration of a Toyota or Lexus vehicle. Last August, a California Highway Patrol trooper and three members of his family were killed in such a crash in San Diego County, just south of Orange. At least 47 other fatalities over the past decade alleged to be the result of Toyota unintended acceleration crashes are currently being investigated by the NHTSA.

The NHTSA is just beginning its probe of Toyota electronic throttles. Officials with the NHTSA said nine NASA scientists would bring expertise in electronics, eletromagnetic interference, software integrity and complex problem solving to the Toyota review. The agency expects the review to be completed by late summer, Reuters said. After that, the agency would then determine whether a formal investigation of Toyota throttles is warranted. If that happens, a recall could ultimately be issued.

The NHTSA has also tapped the National Academy of Sciences’ National Research Council to lead a study of unintended acceleration across the auto industry. That review is expected to take 18 months.

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