NHTSA and NASA Say Toyota Electronic Throttles Are Just Fine
Today, NHTSA announced that Toyota’s electronic throttles aren’t responsible for any instance of unintended acceleration – at least not any instance that NHTSA could study. According to Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood:
“The jury is back. The verdict is in. There is no electronic-based cause for unintended high-speed acceleration in Toyotas. Period…Our conclusion — that Toyota’s problems were mechanical, not electrical — comes after one of the most exhaustive, thorough and intensive research efforts ever undertaken.” [From Detroit News]
Let me say that one more time: after one of the most exhaustive, thorough, and intensive research efforts ever undertaken, NHTSA couldn’t find one flipping thing wrong with Toyota’s electronic systems.
This news comes as no surprise – in July 2010, early results from the NHTSA investigation were leaked to the New York Times. These early results showed that, in the vast majority of cases, unintended acceleration was caused by “pedal misapplication” (that’s safety-nerd-speak for “foot on the wrong pedal.”
NHTSA’s team of investigators, working with experts from NASA, couldn’t find one single shred of evidence to support accusations of electronic throttle problems.
It turns out that the early analysis offered – over-sized floor mats, improperly placed floor mats, the rare “sticking pedal”, and driver confusion – were indeed the cause of all of these complaints. The questions are, now that this crisis is over:
- What will Toyota do to put this information in front of the public?
- How many people who argued that Toyota was at fault – or at the very least got caught up in all this mindless hysteria – will admit they were wrong?
- How many people will ignore this information because it suits their financial purpose?
Sean Kane, a supposed “auto safety” consultant, continues to say that Toyota’s electronics are at fault (link). This is the same Sean Kane who gets his checks from product liability lawyers suing Toyota for billions…but why is anyone listening to him now that he’s clearly been proven wrong?
LA Times Continues To Hint At Problems
First up on our list of people who clearly got it wrong, we have Ken Bensigner and Ralph Vartabedian of the L.A. Times – the two men who “cracked the case” on Toyota throttle problems in late 2009. Earlier today, they published an article quoting Sean Kane stating that these findings could somehow be incorrect…as if Sean Kane and his legion of litigators could somehow uncover a problem that NASA, NHTSA, MIT, Exponent, Toyota, and a few other entities all missed.
Today, I sent the following email to Bensinger and Vartabedian:
Sean Kane is demonstrably not an expert in automotive safety matters – at least not a competent expert. For more than a year, you have been asking Sean for his opinion on Toyota’s supposed safety problems, yet the following has occurred:
1. Sean Kane has admitted to working for product liability attorneys actively suing Toyota
2. Sean Kane and his team have never produced hard evidence of any Toyota problems
3. Sean Kane’s principal accusations against Toyota have been evaluated and dismissed by dozens of experts
Why, exactly, is he considered a legitimate source?
Also, why haven’t you continued to interview Richard Schmidt? According to one of your articles from November 09′:
“Richard Schmidt, a former UCLA psychology professor and now an auto industry consultant specializing in human motor skills, said the problem almost always lies with drivers who step on the wrong pedal”
He seems to know his business, wouldn’t you say?
In my view, you two are largely responsible for causing the entire Toyota throttle mess. I think your decision to trust Kane was sloppy, and I think your decision to continue to quote Kane despite the fact that he is clearly not a competent source is, at best, negligent.
Your actions and your poor reporting caused a lot of unnecessary problems for Toyota employees and vehicle owners. You should be embarrassed – and ashamed.
While I’m no journalist, I don’t think I’d keep quoting a guy after it became clear he was obviously wrong. But, maybe that’s why I’m no journalist.
Filed Under: Auto News