NASA testing Toyota electronics

Tuesday, April 13, 2010 @ 07:04 PM gHale

NASA is getting involved in Toyota’s accelerator mess.

U.S. auto safety regulators want NASA to check Toyota’s electronic throttles to see if they are behind unintended acceleration, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said.

In addition, LaHood said, the National Academy of Sciences will head up a separate study of unintended acceleration across the auto industry.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), a part of the Transportation Department, is reviewing Toyota electronic throttles, which have come under scrutiny following the recall of more than 8.5 million Toyota and Lexus vehicles globally over the past six months.

U.S. safety regulators and Toyota have faced scrutiny about whether either did enough to investigate driver complaints of possible electronic throttle problems and other safety issues over the past few years.

The NHTSA review will wrap up by late summer after which the agency will determine whether they need to go into a formal investigation of Toyota’s throttles.

In addition to all the government testing, Toyota has asked an outside engineering consultant, Exponent, to review its throttles. Preliminary findings of that study have found no problems.

The Transportation Department inspector general is investigating NHTSA’s and Toyota’s handling of investigations into unintended acceleration. LaHood also said the agency watchdog would also determine whether NHTSA has appropriate staffing and expertise to handle sophisticated investigations into areas like vehicle electronics and computers.

Nine NASA scientists would bring expertise in electronics, eletromagnetic interference, software integrity and complex problem solving to the Toyota review, Transportation Department officials said.

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