A 10-month federal study found no signs of electronic flaws in Toyota vehicles capable of producing dangerous unintended acceleration. The U.S. Department of Transportation released results of the study, launched by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Feb. 8.
Prompted by a request from Congress, the study enlisted NASA engineers to conduct research into whether the vehicles' electronic systems or electromagnetic interference played a role in incidents of unintended acceleration.
The only known causes for the incidents are two mechanical safety defects identified by federal traffic safety officials more than a year ago--"sticky" accelerator pedals and a design flaw that allowed the accelerator pedals to become trapped by floor mats.
Toyota recalled almost 8 million vehicles in the United States to fix those defects. Toyota also paid $48.8 million in civil penalties as the result of federal investigations into the timeliness of several safety recalls last year. Across the industry, automakers voluntarily initiated a record number of safety recalls in 2010.
New auto safety rules may be proposed
Although the study found no sign of electronic flaws, federal officials are considering proposing rules that would require manufacturers to install brake override systems, standardize operation of keyless ignition systems, and install event data recorders in all passenger vehicles. Officials also may launch broad research on the reliability and security of electronic control systems, as well as research on whether the design and placement of accelerator and brake pedals can be improved.
Vehicle safety is among factors insurance companies use to determine car insurance rates. Other factors include location of where a vehicles is garaged, number of miles driven, vehicle value, and driver's age, gender and driving record.