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Federal Report Rules Out Electronic Throttle Controls in Unintended Acceleration Cases

By February 9, 2011July 18th, 2019Auto Accidents, Product Liability

As a Missouri product liability lawyer, I have been very interested in the reports of unintended acceleration in some late-model Toyota and Lexus vehicles. As I’ve written here in the past, news reports have found an unusually high number of those vehicles involved in incidents when the vehicle seemed to accelerate out of control, often with the driver standing on the brakes to stop it. Multiple deaths are attributed to the problem, including the death of a California Highway Patrol officer trained in handling high-speed emergencies. This eventually led to a recall of millions of Toyota vehicles for retrofits of the pedal and the floor mats – but some safety advocates believed the real problem was the cars’ electronic throttle systems. As the Los Angeles Times reported Feb. 8, a new federal study has case doubt on that theory.
The study was released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, but conducted by engineers on loan from NASA. Those engineers found no problems with the software used in Toyota’s electronic throttle control systems that could lead to unintended acceleration. Toyota gave NASA engineers access to 280,000 lines of software code as well as the circuitry used in the systems, also known as drive-by-wire. The team did find flaws, and conceded that it was possible for two of those flaws to converge in a way that would cause unintended acceleration under some conditions. But it said there was no evidence that this happened in normal use or was especially likely. Regardless, the NHTSA said it planned to propose rules requiring brake override on all vehicles – which is currently offered by Toyota.
These results concern me as a St. Louis car accident attorney. As the Times notes, reports of unintended acceleration went up dramatically after electronic throttles became standard. Another study sponsored by the federal Department of Transportation, this one conducted by the National Academy of Sciences, is expected in the summer and will provide another data point. In the meantime, however, the NASA results are still a victory of a sort for injured Toyota drivers and occupants, because they do validate the idea that Toyota’s gas pedals and floor mats were flawed – adding to the evidence provided by the recalls. Toyota has already paid two fines totaling about 48.8 million for delaying reports and recalls of those problems, and that is likely damning enough to fuel the lawsuits facing the automaker, which number more than 100.

Under the law, auto manufacturers are no different from other types of manufacturers, in that all of them are responsible for making sure their products are free of safety flaws. But when cars have serious safety defects, those defects can cause a serious accident even for the most careful drivers. Carey, Danis & Lowe focuses its practice on holding manufacturers responsible for injuries caused by defective products of all kinds. Our southern Illinois defective product lawyers have been able to recover substantial compensation for people injured by products they thought they could trust. That includes money to pay for medical bills and support families while a wage-earner is out of work, as well as compensation for their physical and emotional pain and any permanent disability or death.
If you were seriously hurt in an accident you believe was caused by a defective vehicle, you should call Carey, Danis & Lowe for help. To set up a free, confidential evaluation of your case, send us a message online or call 1-877-678-3400 today.