NHTSA Shuts the Door on Toyota Electronics in High Speed SUA – NASA, Not so Much

In his characteristically colorful way, Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood told reporters today: “We enlisted the best and brightest engineers to study Toyota’s electronics system, and the verdict is in. There is no electronic-based cause for unintended, high-speed acceleration in Toyotas.”

LaHood issued this scientific proclamation based on the National Aeronautics and Space Administration “rigorous” examination of nine Toyotas in which the drivers complained about Sudden Unintended Acceleration.

Well, case closed.

We don’t think the story’s over – not by a long shot. First, we might argue that engaging engineers whose expertise is not automotive engine controls does not constitute “the best and brightest” minds in this particular instance. Second, no scientist worth his or her boots would make such a claim. In fact, NASA didn’t. That agency said:

“Due to system complexity which will be described and the many possible electronic software and hardware systems interactions it is not realistic to prove that the ETCSi cannot cause UAs. Today’s vehicles are sufficiently complex that no reasonable amount of analysis or testing can prove electronics and software have no errors. Therefore, absence of proof that the ETCSi caused a UA does not vindicate the system.”

We will be providing more analysis of the NHTSA-NASA report after we’ve had a chance to digest its findings. Stay tuned.