Toyota's unintended acceleration: driver error or electronics flaw?

January 18, 2012 12:00 AM

Toyota's unintended acceleration scandal dominated the auto industry headlines for a long time, as it was alleged that safety flaws in the vehicle caused numerous fatal accidents. In the end, the only evidence that could be found pointed to driver error as the cause of sudden acceleration, and Toyota was largely cleared.

Both NASA and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration studies arrived at this conclusion, but a study by the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences has introduced some new doubt. Although the group did not find evidence of electronic issues causing the acceleration, it did reason that didn't mean the problem was solely driver error, according to The Detroit Free Press.

"Some failures of software and other faults in electronics systems do not leave physical evidence of their occurrence, which can complicate assessment of the causes of unusual behaviors in the modern, electronics-intensive automobile," the study stated. "Reminded of the adage 'the absence of evidence is not evidence of absence,' the committee regularly discussed the potential for such untraceable faults to underlie reports of unsafe vehicle behaviors such as episodes of unintended acceleration."

Drivers can improve the safety in their own vehicle by keeping up with auto maintenance. Brake service and repair or a set of new tires can go a long way toward making a vehicle safer in traffic.

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