Ok, so it is Rocket Science after all….


Toyota Congressional Hearings

With all the controversy and lack of resolution in the runaway Toyota probe, further investigations will be calling out the big guns, namely NASA and the National Academy of Science. Automobile technology has certainly advanced since the days when they gave you a few tools that were all you’d ever need to keep your own car running. This episode highlights just how much so.

As reported in the Washington Post on March 30th, the parties involved continue to disagree whether defects in engine electronics have caused some of the incidents of runaway Toyotas, despite four congressional hearings on the sometimes fatal crashes.  Toyota and its hired experts say they have found no problems in the engine electronics. And at least some of the crashes have been attributed to floor mats that entrapped the accelerator.

But some drivers, including one who testified before Congress, say that their cars zoomed out of control, even in instances when the floor mat was not interfering.

Enter NASA. NASA’s knowledge of electronics, computer hardware and software and hazard analysis will ensure a comprehensive review, according to the US Transportation Department.

Tangentially, the National Academy of Sciences’ National Research Council will review industry and government efforts to identify possible sources of unintended acceleration, including electronic vehicle controls, human error, mechanical failure and interference with accelerator systems.

Their experts will look at software, computer hardware design, electromagnetic compatibility and electromagnetic interference. They will make recommendations on how the government agency’sinvestigations could help ensure the safety of vehicle electronic control systems.

All of this activity will run up a tab of about $3 million. Nice to know we can keep some of the country’s scientists and engineers gainfully employed in these tough economic times.


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