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Sen. Chuck Grassley: Whisleblowers Dispute NHTSA's Toyota Sudden Acceleration Report

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Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) wants answers to key questions remaining after investigations by NHTSA and NASA into Toyota's sudden acceleration problem. Specifically, Sen. Grassley wants more information about "tin whiskers" – microscopic metallic "whiskers" that can form from solder on electronic devices – that were found inside Toyota's gas pedal assemblies and other electronic components. These "tin whiskers" can change the flow of electrical current and cause glitches.

Information from whistle blowers, Grassley said, "raises concerns that the scope of the NHTSA and NASA investigation may have been too narrow."

Not surprisingly, Toyota dismissed Sen. Grassley's concerns.

I written before about what the NHTSA/NASA reports did say and what the reports did not say.

What the NHTSA/NASA Toyota Sudden Acceleration Report Did Say

  • "NASA's study confirmed that there is a theoretical possibility that two faults could combine under very specific conditions to affect the ETC systems as to create an unintended UA." (Full Report, p. vii)
  • "Our detailed study can't say it's impossible…. Due to system complexity … and the many possible electronic software and hardware systems interactions, it is not realistic to prove that the ETCSi cannot cause UAs … Therefore, absence of proof that the ETCSi caused a UA does not vindicate the system. (NASA Report, p. 20)
  • Failures that mimic valid accelerator signals can be induced to produce large throttle openings. (Full Report, p. 63)
  • "[C]ertain resistive faults can result from the presence of tin whiskers within the accelerator pedal position sensor." (Full Report, p. 63)

What the NHTSA/NASA Toyota Sudden Acceleration Report Did Not Say

In far too many places, the report said nothing at all. Instead, we got heavily redacted pages that look like this:

And this:

In January 2012, safety experts at Safety Research & Strategies discovered that NHTSA scientists identified and documented an electronic cause of Toyota sudden acceleration, but apparently hid the information and failed to include that event in its findings. Safety Research & Strategies has sued NHTSA in order to see the data the agency has been hiding.

According to safety expert, Sean Kane, "NHTSA continues to brush aside incident and data that don't fit their narrative. We have seen the agency ignore data, deliberately mischaracterize data and hide data. This is unacceptable behavior for a 'data-driven' safety and public health agency."

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(c) Copyright 2012 Brett A. Emison

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