Monthly Archives: February 2012
A recent report released by the National Research Council’s Transportation Research Board concluded the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) acted appropriately in discontinuing its investigation of unintended acceleration claims with Toyota vehicles. The report was prepared in response to a number of consumer complaints claiming that Toyota and Lexus vehicles suddenly accelerated without driver input. In some cases, vehicles allegedly spontaneously accelerated when the driver claimed they were pressing the brake pedal.
Despite previous claims and prior recalls, this issue hit the national stage after a fatal accident in August, 2009, involving an off-duty California Highway Patrol officer driving his family in Lexus ES. Floor-mat entrapment was later determined to be the cause, involving a non-original, all-weather mat.
Several large-scale recalls were issued in the wake of this tragedy to examine potential causes for the unintended acceleration events. Factors considered included floor mat replacement, floor mat anchors, modifications to gas-pedals to reduce the risk of mat entrapment risk, and software updates enabling smart-throttle brake override to prevent unintended acceleration in certain late-model vehicles.
The NHTSA determined mat entrapment, misapplication of the gas pedal, and sticking pedals were the cause of these incidents, and not malfunction of the electronic throttle system. These findings were corroborated by a separate investigation by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).http://news.consumerreports.org/cars/2011/02/nasa-report-blame-floor-mats-and-pedals-toyota-already-addressed-sudden-acceleration-sua-problems.html
The report recommends an advisory committee to the NHTSA be formed to keep the government up to date on current and developing technologies so that the agency can be more proactive in dealing with technology-related safety issues. The report also calls for a review of Office of Defects Investigation (ODI) with the goal of improving the ability to identify and deal with problems related to increasingly complex electronic systems which may leave no physical trace of defect or malfunction.
Another recommendation was to have event data records, a vital aid to investigators, installed on all new vehicles. The Research Council also endorsed further research by the NHTSA regarding pedal layout and keyless ignition designs, and emphasized the importance of human factors in electronic system design.
Whether you are a sports fan or not, when ESPN covers a story, people listen. This is especially true the week before the Super Bowl, so when ESPN chose a special story to air during the week leading up to the big game, you just know it is important and a ‘must see.’ Last week ESPN travelled to Maple Valley, WA to do an interview with Zackery Lystedt and his parents, Victor and Mercedes, as part of a special report for its “SportsCenter” television show. The report focused on “Safety in the NFL,” and the recent and future rule and equipment changes to make the game safer for players at all levels and ages. The change started in Washington and with Zackery Lystedt. Two years ago the NFL Commissioner, Roger Goodell, came to Seattle, WA as an Honorary Chair of the Brain Injury Association of Washington’s Annual Fundraising Gala. Mr. Goodell met Zack, medical specialists, and advocates and credits this visit with changes we are now seeing in the NFL. The 45 minute episode on ESPN contains a 5 minute feature story on the Lystedts, the law named after him, the Brain Injury Association of Washington, and how the NFL is changing the game. Zack’s story is one worthy of your time and one that will warm your heart.