Toyota report absolves electronics in accelerations

Toyota, using results of
testing it commissioned, will seek to rebut allegations that its cars’ electronics
are at fault for unwanted acceleration.

A professor’s experiment, demonstrated in an ABC News report and described
in congressional testimony, alleged that Toyota Avalon’s electronic controls
were vulnerable to short circuits. Toyota’s report today says the experiment’s
“highly artificial conditions” would not occur in real use.

The embattled automaker also faces a demand from unsatisfied House
Democrats that it provide this week engineers or managers with “personal
knowledge” of its efforts regarding unintended acceleration.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee, in a letter to Toyota’s U.S.
sales chief, said that there is “an absence of documents” to show
Toyota has thoroughly investigated whether electronics are causing unintended
acceleration. The panel held a hearing about Toyota on Feb. 23. Toyota
President Akio Toyoda told a different House committee Feb. 24 he is
“absolutely confident” there is no electronics problem.

Adding pressure, however, is that the government said Thursday that it
has “more than 60” reports from Toyota owners about unintended
acceleration in cars recalled and repaired by Toyota for what it says could
cause the problem: 2.3 million vehicles in the U.S. to fix gas pedals that
could stick and 5.3 million over floor mats that might jam pedals.

USA TODAY found at least 14 new acceleration complaints filed Friday and
Saturday from owners who had already had their vehicles fixed under the recall.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is vowing to order Toyota
to make more repairs if the automaker’s current remedies are found lacking. In
an unusual move, NHTSA says it is contacting each individual who’s made a new
complaint after a dealer made recall repairs.

Among new complaints: An owner from Meridian, Miss., told NHTSA Saturday
that since the recall repairs were made last month on the person’s 2006 Toyota
Avalon “now my vehicle acceleration malfunctions every time I drive
it.” The owner (NHTSA does not reveal names) reported nearly hitting
another car at a stop sign because of the problem.

Toyota today will present the technical report it commissioned by
testing firm Exponent in a Web briefing for journalists intended to refute allegations
that its electronic controls can go haywire. The report deals with an
experiment by David Gilbert, an associate professor at Southern Illinois
University, that showed the wiring in a Toyota Avalon could malfunction in a
way that creates unintended acceleration.


Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda, left, and Yoshimi Inaba, president and COO of Toyota Motor North America, Inc. testify at a House Oversight and Gov-ernment Reform Commit-tee hearing on Toyota’s recent incidents of sudden unintended acceleration on Capitol Hill in Washing-ton on February 24, 2010.
UPI/Alexis C. Glenn