Early Tests Show Some Runaway Toyotas Caused By Driver Error

The Wall Street Journal reported earlier this week that, according to an anonymous source, preliminary analysis at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) shows that most unintended acceleration incidents involving now-recalled Toyota vehicles were due to driver error.

Is Toyota now totally blameless? Not exactly. According to Toyota’s own tests, the cars’ data recorders show that driver error was to blame in some accidents–specifically, the ones where drivers claimed that they tried to brake, but the car only accelerated.

The problem, of course, is that the information in the data recorder comes from the very computer system that may be responsible for the failures in the first place.

“You can’t ignore the fact that when they move to an electronic throttle control you basically see a fourfold increase in complaints,” [a safety consultant to Toyota] said. He also said the event data recorders rely “on the same sensing system that is unable to detect the failure to begin with,” and is therefore not “an independent witness.”

Tests and data analysis will continue. The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) and NASA are now part of the federal government’s investigation, because this issue clearly requires actual rocket scientists.

Analysis finds drivers did not apply brakes in runaway Toyotas [Consumer Reports]
Early Tests Pin Toyota Accidents on Drivers [Wall Street Journal]
Toyota Concedes 2 Flaws Caused Loss of Control [New York Times]