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Questions Raised on Claims about Toyota's Electronics

Posted: Mar 08, 2010 11:20 a.m.

After some claims that incidences of unintended acceleration were due to the electronic systems in come Toyotas, not sticking throttles, Toyota is fighting back.

The Associated Press reports, "Toyota Motor Corp. plans to try to undercut suggestions that its electronics systems caused the sudden acceleration problems that led to the recall of more than 8 million vehicles."

USA Today explains, "A professor's experiment, demonstrated in an ABC News report and described in congressional testimony, alleged that Toyota Avalon's electronic controls were vulnerable to short circuits. Toyota's report today says the experiment's ‘highly artificial conditions’ would not occur in real use." The experiments were conducted by David Gilbert.

Kicking Tires adds that in tests conducted by Exponent, a firm hired by Toyota, "The test had the same effect on other manufacturers’ vehicles,” and, in order to replicate the effect, engineers “had to cut into two separate insulated wires. Exponent tested five vehicles, including a Honda Accord and BMW 325i."

That's not the only problem being raised about various investigations into Toyotas, and the company's handling of the recalls.

Gawker took issue with how an ABC News report portrayed unintended acceleration in a Toyota Avalon. Gawker writes, "Brian Ross . . . has been credited with owning the Toyota recall story, including one memorable report with Ross behind the wheel of an out-of-control car. He did it by splicing in staged footage to make it look scarier."

Autoblog says, "It appears that an editor or producer at ABC felt they could pull a fast one on the audience and used some B-roll in the report showing the tachometer needle sweeping rapidly from near idle to over 6,000 rpm. That clip was injected at the precise moment when David Gilbert triggered his simulated sudden acceleration. . . .the shot of the tachometer clearly shows the warning lights for the parking brake on, the doors open and the transmission indicator in park. The camera operator shot this segment separately so it could be used to illustrate a point in the report, and ABC claims that getting a steady shot during the test would've been both difficult and dangerous."

Gawker adds, "ABC News spokesman Jeffrey Schneider confirmed to Gawker that the tachometer shot was indeed taken from the parked car and spliced into Ross' death ride. But he says the shot wasn't just taken while someone stepped on the gas pedal—it was filmed while Gilbert performed the same test that caused the acceleration while Ross was driving."

Autoblog comments, "The B-roll shot doesn't indicate anything conclusive one way or the other about the validity of the test and certainly doesn't stand as proof of anything being rigged. However, the lack of transparency by ABC and Mr. Gilbert regarding the specific procedure doesn't add to the credibility of either the claims or the report, and the lack of clarity by Toyota in its response to Gilbert's assertions doesn't do the automaker any favors, either."

Check out the latest Toyota recall news and information, including how the company's recent troubles affect our rankings. If you're in the market for a new car, check out the U.S. News rankings of this year's best cars as well as this month's best car deals.