reporter writes "The latest defect in Toyota cars is quickly developing into the scandal of the 21st century. The problem started when customers of Toyota vehicles began experiencing sudden unexplained acceleration; these incidents began appearing in 2002. Over time, Toyota management claimed that the problem is the floor mat. So, the management issued a recall to replace all the floor mats.
Then, after further studying the problem, the management claimed that the throttle's pedal sometimes becomes stuck due to weather conditions. This new claim lead to the massive global recall of many vehicles sold over the past 3 years.
However, none of these explanations for the sudden acceleration has been satisfactory. Independent investigations leading to an explosion of lawsuits have determined that the problem is the electronic throttle control (ETC) — the so-called drive-by-wire mechanism that links the pedal via some cables to the fuel controller. According to a report by "Businessweek" and another report by the "Wall Street Journal", Toyota is now the defendant in 3 separate class-action lawsuits. The plaintiffs claim that the ETC is defective.
According to a report by the "New York Times" (NYT), "a few years ago, the company sent out a technical bulletin saying some cars accelerate on their own between 38 and 42 mph, and it reprogrammed the electronics with new software codes".
The NYT notes, "John Heywood, director of the Sloan Automotive Lab at MIT, said because Toyota is the only automaker having this problem, it could be something specific to its design, such as the location and integration of the electronics relay sensor."
Further, the Toyota ETC lacks an important safety mechanism: if the customer presses both the throttle pedal and the brake pedal, then the ETC should give priority to the brake. The Toyota ETC gives priority to the throttle. How can Toyota engineers commit such a gross design mistake? Common sense tells us that the brake should receive priority."
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