I have said many times that when it comes to safety, the Department of Transportation will not take a back seat to anyone. As long as I am on the job, the safety of the American public will be my top priority.
Last year, in service of this commitment--and at the request of Congress’ --we launched an unprecedented study into unintended acceleration in Toyota automobiles. We asked a straightforward question: Could electronic systems or electromagnetic interference cause unintended acceleration in Toyota vehicles?
To help answer this question, we enlisted the top engineers at NASA with expertise in computer controlled electronic systems, electromagnetic interference and software integrity. They worked shoulder to shoulder with the best minds in auto safety at the National Traffic Highway Safety Administration (NHTSA) to help get to the bottom of any electronic causes of unintended acceleration.
And today we have heard clearly and affirmatively that NHTSA, America’s traffic safety organization, was right all along.
NASA's team found no electronic flaws in Toyota vehicles capable of producing the large throttle openings required to create dangerous unintended acceleration incidents.
NHTSA has already identified the only two known real-world causes of high-speed unintended acceleration in Toyotas, and Toyota has taken action to correct these defects. The first defect involved a design flaw that allowed drivers’ gas pedals to become entrapped by floor mats while their vehicles were in motion. The second defect, so-called “sticky pedals” made some Toyota accelerators too slow to release.
NASA engineers pored over more than 280,000 lines of software code looking for potential flaws that could initiate an unintended acceleration incident. Alongside NHTSA, they bombarded vehicles with electro-magnetic radiation to see whether it could make electronics systems cause the cars they control to gain speed.
And today, their verdict is in. There is no electronic cause behind dangerous unintended acceleration incidents in Toyotas.
Now, this doesn't mean that we haven't asked Toyota to accept responsibility for known mechanical causes of unintended acceleration. We have.
Toyota has issued recalls and paid for repairs on nearly 8 million cars and trucks for the two defects NHTSA identified. And Toyota paid the maximum civil penalties as the result of NHTSA investigations into whether the company reported these safety defects in a sufficiently timely manner.
I want America to know that NHTSA remains a vigilant safety agency. On the heels of this investigation, we will continue to do what DOT has always done--work around the clock to keep American drivers and passengers safe.
We will research placement and design of vehicle accelerator and brake pedals, as well as driver usage of pedals, to determine whether we can reduce pedal misapplication. We will begin broad research on the reliability and security of electronic control systems.
And, we are considering proposing rules by the end of 2011 requiring brake override systems, standardized keyless ignition systems, and event data recorders in all passenger vehicles.
I am deeply grateful to the dedicated safety professionals at NASA and NHTSA who conducted this study with extraordinary thoroughness, immense skill, unwavering attention, and absolute integrity. It was an enormous task, but they pursued their work with care.