Called This One

Via the NY Times, no flaws found with Toyota accelerators

The Obama administration's investigation intoToyota safety problems found no electronic flaws to account for reports of sudden, unintentional acceleration and other safety problems. Government investigators said Tuesday the only known cause of the problems are mechanical defects that were fixed in previous recalls.

The Transportation Department, assisted by engineers withNASA, said its 10-month study of Toyota vehicles concluded there was no electronic cause of unintended high-speed acceleration in Toyotas. The study, which was launched at the request of Congress, responded to consumer complaints that flawed electronics could be the culprit behind Toyota's spate of recalls.

"We feel that Toyota vehicles are safe to drive," said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.

Officials with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said they reviewed consumer complaints and warranty data in detail and found that many of the complaints involved cases in which the vehicle accelerated after it was stationary or at very low speeds.

NHTSA Deputy Administrator Ron Medford said that in many cases when a driver complained that the brakes were ineffective, the most likely cause was "pedal misapplication," in which the driver stepped on the accelerator instead of the brakes.

As Walter Olson writes of the original overblown brouhaha

Did it make a difference that the federal government has taken a proprietor's interest in major Toyota competitors GM and Chrysler, or that a former trial lawyer lobbyist heads the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration?

I had more back in July (and here, where I observe that scientific data on breast implant safety did nothing to stop the torts, and is unlikely to do so in this case).  I questioned the US Government's conflict of interest in this matter way back in January of 2010.

By the way, anyone want to reopen the case on that guy in LA with the runaway Prius -- I thought it was concocted at the time (I called him balloon boy in a Prius) and am doubly sure now.  How is what he did, in retrospect, and different from leading the police on a high-speed chase?


  1. Reformed Republican:

    The Transportation Department, assisted by engineers with NASA,

    Didn't we just observe the 25th anniversary of one of the most remembered results of NASA's engineering?

  2. DrTorch:

    Even the LSM called out the guy in the runaway Prius. You don't get sole credit for that one.

  3. Steve:

    UR just a stooge for fat cat corporations, next you'll be claiming that vaccines are safe! /sarc

  4. DCSpotter:

    Unfortunately I have to disagree with you on this one. Thinking that the US Government’s conflict of interest has something to do with it would give the impression that the US Government would have some business sense (whether honest or not) and in all honesty, I don't think they do

  5. Michael Stack:

    I'm inclined to agree with the study, but you're really going to take the government's word for it? Had they reached the opposite conclusion and demanded Toyota pay all kinds of settlement money to Toyota car owners, how seriously would you have taken it?

    I suppose you could argue that the forces of politics create an incentive to align against Toyota, so this type of proof is even *more* compelling than it would be absent politics.

  6. Neo:

    A year ago, David Gilbert, who teaches automotive technology at Southern Illinois University, told Henry Waxman that he found a problem with the electronics in 3 hours. Now the NHTSA says no.

  7. marco73:

    Who couldn't see that coming?
    I can safely make a prediction about how the class action lawsuits will turn out. Sometime in the next year, a settlement will be announced.
    A pile of lawyers will receive several millions in "fees" for all the work they did. Any owner of an "affected" Toyota will receive a coupon for $500 off of purchasing a new Toyota vehicle. And the media will be off in search of the next big scare story.
    Fish, meet barrel.

  8. IgotBupkis, President, United Anarchist Society:

    > where I observe that scientific data on breast implant safety did nothing to stop the torts, and is unlikely to do so in this case).

    ...Which itself shows one of the main things wrong with our court system. A preponderance of the evidence suggesting "No problem" should require a higher standard by the litigant to establish a valid cause for action in a court. Failing that, the judge should be unwilling to grant that standing exists for any suit to proceed.

    That judges don't do this puts the "criminal" into our criminal///// sorry, "civil" court system.

  9. Jeff:

    Megan McArdle over at the Atlantic pointed out the real root cause of the Toyota "unintended acceleration" issue. It's demographics.

    If you plot the driver age in reported incidents, it skews heavily to drivers over 55. If there was a electrical/mechanical cause, it would be a random distribution. Older drivers are more likely to misapply the wrong pedal.

    So why Toyota vs some other car company? Toyota has the oldest demographic of any Japanese automaker. They've been trying to appeal to younger drivers for decades (Scion anyone?), and can't seem to crack the problem.

  10. bob sykes:

    Several years ago, one of the luxury German car companies (Audi?) had a similar problem. The claim then as now was driver error, and the car company stated there were no design flaws.

    However, at least one human factors engineer pointed out that the brake and accelerator pedals in the suspect cars were closer together than in other cars, and that it was possible to step on both simultaneously, especially in an emergency.

    Ergonomics is a major part of engineering design, especially were humans are central to control and operation. Bad ergonomics is bad, defective engineering.

  11. Sam L.:

    I had an incident of unintended acceleration in my Camry--when I had my foot firmly on the brake pedal. Wasn't electronic, nor a mechanical flaw--I was rear-ended.

  12. Hasdrubal:

    Forget the Prius guy, remember that the guy who killed a family with his '96 Camry had his sentence vacated long before this research came out:

    Now, naturally, he's suing Toyota. Bad form, though, he's "join[ing] the existing lawsuit against Toyota filed by a survivor and family members of the victims." Regardless of whether it was his fault or his car's, it just seems wrong to join the victim's family in the lawsuit instead of starting a separate one.