It wasn’t too long ago that Congress and much of the media were sure that the unintended acceleration of Toyota vehicles was caused by the cars’ electronics. All were calling for Toyota’s head and Congress initiated an independent study to prove Toyota’s guilt. It didn’t turn out the way this group figured it would.
On Tuesday, the U.S. Transportation Department released the results of its 10-month study completed with the assistance of NASA engineers. It found that electronic flaws were not to blame for the unintended acceleration. It also concluded that the accelerations were the result mechanical issues already corrected by Toyota, as well some drivers hitting the gas instead of the brakes.
While the release of the Transportation Department’s study brings finality to the issue of the reported unintended accelerations, it raises some broader questions. Toyota was improperly maligned by the press and certain politicians based on hysterical and unsubstantiated reports. The fact that this occurred at about the same time that the U.S Government took a majority stake in General Motors is a troubling coincidence.
In addition, the conclusion that Toyota cars were going into uncontrolled acceleration due to electronic/computer issues was nearly universally promoted and accepted before any real scientific study was carried out. That is a troubling trend today with many important issues used to form public policy.