Following a ten month investigation into Toyota crashes involving unintended acceleration, the government has determined a mechanical (and not electrical) problem is to blame. Over the past decade, there have been 89 deaths attributed to sudden and unintended acceleration in Toyota vehicles spurring two recalls, $30 million in government fines, and potential billions in personal injury lawsuits. Toyota has blamed crashes on operator error. One lawsuit against Toyota involves an off duty police officer who died, along with his family, when his vehicle sped uncontrollably before crashing and bursting into flames.
Engineers from NASA studying the problem for the government said that mechanical malfunctions caused the accidents, rather than electrical problems. Specifically, engineers determined that floor map entrapment and sticky pedals are the likely cause of unintended acceleration in Toyota vehicles. Although experiments suggest Toyota' electrical system did not cause the unintended acceleration crashes, NASA engineers acknowledged electrical failure could still cause unwanted acceleration in certain circumstances.
According to CNN, Toyota is now considering a brake override system in all its vehicles, as well as more research on the throttle. The NHTSA will push for legislation mandating brake override systems, limiting keyless ignition, and increasing the number of vehicles with event data recorder. The NHTSA Administrator, David Strickland, said their organization is committed to short-term and long-term research into how to reduce incidents of unintended acceleration and improve electrical control systems. Meanwhile, the families impacted by loved ones injured or killed in Toyota vehicles push forward with their lawsuits seeking justice.