March 30, 2010

NASA To Assist In Toyota Investigation

Officials from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) are being called in to help National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) officials study possible electronic causes of acceleration problems in Toyota vehicles, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced on Monday.

NASA scientists and technology experts will study the electronics in the affected vehicles, attempting to find out whether or not computer hardware or related technical problems can be linked to the acceleration issues that have forced the automotive manufacturer to recall more than eight million cars worldwide.

Furthermore, LaHood announced that the National Academy of Sciences will conduct a separate, independent study of the computerized vehicle controls. The study, which will review acceleration issues and offer safety recommendations to the government, is expected to be completed in early to mid 2011.

In a statement printed by the Associated Press (AP), officials from Toyota welcomed the inquiries.

"These studies are just the kind of science-based examination we have been calling for," the automotive manufacturer said. "Bringing some sunshine to this subject is bound to separate fact from fiction, which will be good for Toyota, the industry and the motoring public."

Toyota has repeatedly denied any link between the recall acceleration issue and any electrical flaws, attributing the problem to sticking gas pedals and floor mats getting stuck underneath the accelerator. The acceleration problem has been linked to 52 deaths nationwide.

LaHood, however, told reporters that Congress believes that "there was more to these problems than just floor mats and sticky pedals"¦ they felt electronics were a part of it."

Critics have accused the NHTSA for being slow to act in response to consumer complaints.

"Carmakers have entered the electronics era, but NHTSA seems stuck in a mechanical mindset," House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman said in February. "We need to make sure the federal safety agency has the tools and resources it needs to ensure the safety of the electronic controls and on-board computers that run today's automobiles."

According to the Transportation Department, the two reviews will carry a price tag of approximately $3 million and receive a peer review by independent scientific experts.


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