Toyota Stands by Electronics, Denies They Are Source of Acceleration Problems


Toyota Motor (TM) is being bombarded by criticism over its recalls of more than 8 million cars for problems related to sudden unintended acceleration, but it's fighting back to dispute allegations that the vehicles' electronics may be the source of the problem. On Monday, the world's largest automaker hosted a Webcast to refute charges by a Southern Illinois University professor that the electronic throttle control systems on its cars can be easily fooled into accelerating uncontrollably.

The professor, David Gilbert, last month testified before a House committee investigating the problem, and appeared on ABC News to explain how he was able to fool Toyota's throttle systems by manipulating their electronics to recreate the acceleration problem.

In response, Toyota has asked a researcher at Stanford University's Center for Automotive Research to prove that the scenario Gilbert created in his tests would never be experienced in typical driving situations. Toyota said Stanford professor Chris Gerdes will show that the malfunctions Gilbert produced "are completely unrealistic under real-world conditions and can easily be reproduced on a wide range of vehicles made by other manufacturers."

Stanford's Center for Automotive Research is funded by a group of auto companies that includes Toyota.

Lawmakers Still Seek More Answers From Toyota

In his testimony before Congress on Feb. 23, Gilbert said that while he was able to easily fool Toyota's electronic throttle system, his attempts on other vehicles, such as a Buick Lucerne sedan manufactured by General Motors, weren't successful.

Toyota also hired Exponent Inc., a consulting firm, to prove that its electronics weren't the source of the problem. The firm has released an interim report absolving Toyota's electronic throttle system, although in congressional hearings lawmakers criticized the report for having "major flaws." Exponent, of Menlo Park, Calif., has worked with Toyota in the past, in some instances providing defense witnesses to back the automaker in lawsuits.

On Friday, lawmakers sent a letter to Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. President James Lentz seeking further proof that sudden unintended acceleration in Toyota vehicles wasn't caused by electronics. "Despite our repeated requests," the letter said, "the record before the Committee is most notable for what is missing: the absence of documents showing that Toyota has systematically investigated the possibility of electronic defects that could cause sudden unintended acceleration."

Lentz was one of few Toyota officials who acknowledged in his testimony before Congress that the company's electronic throttle control system could be a source of sudden unintended acceleration problems. Executives from Japan who testified before House and Senate committees repeatedly denied that possibility.