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Engineers debunk suspected Toyota electronic problems

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Feb. 8, 2011 — After an unprecedented 10-month study of potential electronic causes of unintended acceleration in Toyotas, the U.S. Department of Transportation announced Tuesday that no such flaws were found.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) enlisted NASA engineers for the study, which U.S. Congress requested after Toyota recalled millions of vehicles for defects related to unintended acceleration. Sticking accelerator pedals and a floor mat design flaw, issues the NHTSA identified more than a year ago, remain the only confirmed causes of the problem.

“We enlisted the best and brightest engineers to study Toyota’s electronics systems, and the verdict is in,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “There is no electronic-based cause for unintended high-speed acceleration in Toyotas.”

Engineers thoroughly evaluated Toyota circuitry and analyzed more than 280,000 lines of software code during the study. They examined mechanical components and even tested whether electromagnetic radiation could cause an acceleration malfunction.

Though no flaws were found, the NHTSA might propose new rules by the end of the year requiring brake override systems, standardized operation of keyless ignition systems, and the installation of event data recorders in all passenger vehicles. The organization might also begin research on the reliability and security of electronic control systems, and the placement, design and use of accelerator and brake pedals.

“While today marks the end of our study with NASA, our work to protect millions of American drivers continues,” said NHTSA Administrator David Strickland. “The record number of voluntary recalls initiated by automakers last year is also very good news, and shows that we can work cooperatively with industry to protect consumers.”

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