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Toyota Calls Artificial Electronic Throttle Tests 'Unrealistic'

By KBB.com Editors on March 8, 2010 4:26 PM
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In a webcast earlier today, Toyota brought together a panel of its own experts as well a number of outside engineering personnel who unanimously raised doubt about the validity of the results of the sudden acceleration testing conducted by Professor David Gilbert of Southern Illinois University on a Toyota Avalon.

On February 22nd, Gilbert told ABC-TV reporter Brian Ross that he had managed to detect a "dangerous" flaw in the Toyota electronic control system that he alleged could lead to unintended acceleration, a contention he subsequently made one day later in his testimony to the U.S. House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations. After conducting follow-up reviews of Gilbert's testing, and most specifically his calculated manipulation of the system's mechanical elements, Toyota deemed the both the sequence and nature of these artificially generated faults as "unrealistic." It also contends that the public and Congressional committees have been misled by Professor Gilbert's demonstration and the dramatization of it by ABC News.

In addition to Kristen Tabar, general manager of electronics systems, Toyota Technical Center, the automaker called upon Dr. J. Christian Gerdes, associate professor of mechanical engineering at Stanford University and the director of the Center for Automotive Research at Stanford (CARS), to conduct an independent review of Professor Gilbert's testimony and the preliminary report presented to Congress. Several engineers from Exponent, the outside firm that Toyota has retained to evaluate all test findings regarding the operation of its electronic throttle control system, were also involved in a demonstration that recreated Gilbert's methodology on a Toyota Avalon as well as on several other representative vehicles from American, German and Japanese manufacturers.

While not denying that Gilbert was able to cause a full-open throttle condition without triggering any internal error codes, all of the assembled experts were convinced that without introducing these external modifications to the original system -- changes that simply would not occur in the real world -- the feedback circuitry in electronic throttle control system would simply act as designed, and trigger a code that would put it into a 'fail-safe" mode. Tabar also pointed out that "if the artificial condition created by Professor Gilbert had occurred in the real world, it would have left readily detectable fingerprints." Thus far, none have been found. Equally critical, the Exponent test team used Gilbert's process to trigger the exact same kind of "uncommanded acceleration" conditions on the electronic control throttle systems found on all of the other manufacturer's vehicles.

Toyota and Exponent will continue their comprehensive research on all aspects of the electronic throttle issue, and has already provided congress with a copy of this interim study. It also intends to make public the final Exponent findings. But for the moment, it remains adamant that the extensive testing of the system thus far "has not revealed any sign of a malfunction that could lead to unintended acceleration."

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