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Sen. Grassley Presses NHTSA to Revisit Toyota Accelerator Issue

Source: Toyota Headquarters in Toyota City, Japan/ Wikipedia

Last week, Sen. Chuck Grassley sent a letter to the National Highway Traffic Safety Association, asking the organization to take another look about Toyota Motor Corp.’s unintentional acceleration issue.

The “Tin Whiskers” Phenomenon

Prior to this, CNN.com reported about the “tin whiskers” phenomenon on Toyota cars. These are crystalline structures of tin that could cause the vehicles to suddenly take off. A number of vehicular accidents that occurred last year were linked in the unintended acceleration mechanism that was allegedly found on some of Toyota’s top-selling model.

However, the US Department of Transportation said that the electric system and electromagnetic interference of the vehicles didn’t play a role in Toyota Motor Corp.’s tin whiskers issue.

NHTSA and NASA initiated an investigation about the issue ten months earlier, and found no proof of sudden acceleration on Toyota units. As stated by the automaker’s Chief Quality Officer for North America:

We hope this important study will help put to rest unsupported speculation about Toyota’s electronic throttle control system. We believe this rigorous scientific analysis by some of America’s foremost engineers should further reinforce confidence in the safety of Toyota and Lexus vehicles.

“Too Narrow” Investigation

On the other hand, Sen. Grassley cited documents that were provided by the whistle-blowers, with regards to NHTSA and NASA’s previous investigation about the automaker’s acceleration issue.

He wrote that the provided information raised concerns about whether the organization’s investigation was “too narrow” in scope. He also added that NHTSA’s response to require brake-override throttle leaves unanswered questions about the causes of unintended acceleration. According to one reported:

Because proof that the (electronic throttle-control systems) caused the reported (unintended accelerations) was not found does not mean it could not occur.

Brake-throttle Override System Mandate

Since the recall, regulators have been keen on addressing the issue. In fact, NHTSA has been looking for a brake-throttle override system mandate since 2010.

In relation to this, the organization has proposed last April to require all vehicles to have an override mechanism that would allow drivers to stop a car or truck in case the accelerator pedal gets stuck.

However, NHTSA didn’t offer any estimate on how much it would cost car manufacturers to add the said override mechanism. What they said is that it could be done “without significant difficult or cost.”

Meanwhile, NHTSA confirmed that they received the letter and they are already reviewing it, but declined to give a comment. Sen. Grassley asked the organization to provide a response by July 26.

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