Washington: The government has said it had
not uncovered any electronic problems in runaway Toyotas as a
scientific panel started work on an extensive study to
determine what prompts some vehicles to suddenly accelerate.
A National Academy of Sciences panel held its first
meeting to review the potential causes of unintended
acceleration in vehicles across the entire auto industry. The
12-member panel is expected to report its findings in the fall
With more computers, new cars and trucks are vastly
more complicated than their predecessors. Congress has
criticised the government`s auto safety agency for lacking the
expertise to understand the role that electronics play in
vehicles, an issue at the heart of the mystery of Toyota`s
David Strickland, the head of the National Highway
Traffic Safety Administration, told the panel that his
agency`s Toyota investigation was ongoing but had not
determined any electronic connection to the problems.
Toyota has recalled more than 8.5 million vehicles
because of problems with sticking gas pedals and accelerators
that can become entrapped in floor mats.
NHTSA engineers have been conducting a separate review
of Toyota`s electronics, working with NASA scientists to try
to determine what caused the acceleration issues. The teams
hope to complete the study by late August.
NHTSA officials said unintended acceleration in
Toyotas may have been involved in the deaths of 93 people over
the past decade. It was a slight upgrade in the number of
deaths linked to the problem -- in May, the government tied 89
deaths to the issue.
The agency has received about 3,000 complaints of
sudden acceleration in Toyotas. Most of the complaints involve
vehicles being driven at speeds of 15 mph (24 kph) or less.
But Strickland said complaints of unwanted
acceleration was not solely a Toyota problem and asked the
panel to review potential issues with electronic throttle
controls and other vehicle electronics.
Toyota paid a record $16.4 million fine for its slow
response to an accelerator pedal recall and is facing hundreds
of state and federal lawsuits.
In the aftermath of the recalls, Congress is
considering an upgrade to auto safety laws to toughen
potential penalties against automakers, give the government
more powers to demand a recall and push car companies to meet
new safety standards.