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National Academy of Sciences and NASA to Study Unintended Acceleration Issues for DOT

Secretary LaHood launches two “major” investigations on a relatively rare but troublesome and controversial safety issue.

by on Mar.30, 2010

What on earth is going on with those Toyotas?

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood today announced two investigations designed to answer questions surrounding the issue of unintended vehicle acceleration.

LaHood also asked the U.S. Department of Transportation Inspector General to assess whether the NHTSA Office of Defects Investigation conducted an “adequate review” of complaints of alleged unintended acceleration reported to NHTSA from 2002 to the present.

The ongoing controversy of the problem in Toyota and other vehicles have led to numerous charges from critics that NHTSA is underfunded and improperly staffed to deal with safety matters. It appears particularly weak in the area of electronic controls and systems, as automakers continue to expand rapidly their use in all vehicles.

There are also charges that former NHTSA employees working for Toyota  prevented thorough investigations and delayed safety recalls.

The independent National Academy of Sciences will examine the subject of unintended acceleration and electronic vehicle controls across the entire automotive industry. A panel of experts will review industry and government efforts to identify possible sources of unintended acceleration, including electronic vehicle controls, human error, mechanical failure and interference with accelerator systems. The study is expected to take 15 months. See The Case for “Black Box” Electronic Data Recorders

NAS experts will look at software, computer hardware design, electromagnetic compatibility and electromagnetic interference. The panel will make recommendations to NHTSA on how its rulemaking, research and defect investigation activities may help ensure the safety of electronic control systems in motor vehicles.

NASA Specifically on Toyota Issues

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Probes!

Separately, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, DOT’s vehicle safety agency, has enlisted NASA engineers with expertise in areas such as computer controlled electronic systems, electromagnetic interference and software integrity to help tackle the issue of unintended vehicle acceleration in Toyotas.   At least 52 deaths are allegedly the result of  the well-publicized problems and an ongoing series of recalls for Lexus and Toyota models. (more…)

The Case for “Black Box” Electronic Data Recorders

Roadway safety boils down to just two real issues: what caused the crash, and how to correct the problem? EDRs can help.

by on Mar.15, 2010

Auto accident fatalities are heading downward, and EDRs can help move them toward zero.

More than 50 years ago, the director of a Florida police academy told me the entire rationale for police traffic enforcement was supposed to be safety and only safety. Enforcement should be keyed to specific “accident” causes.

Nevertheless, as any motorist can attest, almost universally the object of traffic enforcement at the local level  always has been revenue enhancement, with rare exceptions and sometimes harassment, which takes several forms, including DWB or driving while black.

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Thought Provoking!

This practice flies in the face of the responsibilities of the public safety officials charged with reducing crashes and their resulting injuries and deaths.

At the local level, these are the police accident investigators, whether beat cops or specially trained crash experts.

At the national level since 1970, this has been the mission of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), which is currently enmeshed in a controversy about its effectiveness arising from its handling of Toyota pedal entrapment and unintended acceleration matters, where as many as 60 fatalities are alleged. (Click Here for: Is NHTSA Underfunded?) (more…)