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July 1, 2010: Ongoing Investigation of Toyota Recall

Wall Street Journal reports on June 30th that U.S. regulators have yet to find any electronic defects in Toyota Motor Corp., as a scientific panel began studying potential causes of unintended acceleration.  Some members of Congress, consumer advocates and product-liability lawyers have suggested that engine electronics may have played a role in problems that led Toyota to recall more than eight million vehicles globally for sudden-acceleration and gas-pedal problems. Those critics have questioned the efforts by Toyota and regulators to study electronics. Dan Smith of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, speaking before a panel of the National Academy of Sciences said regulators have been able to identify only two causes of the Toyota problems: floor-mat entrapment of the gas pedals and pedals that are slow to return to idle.  The academy is undertaking a comprehensive study of unintended acceleration and will offer recommendations on how regulators should improve standards and identify defects.  Mr. Smith said his agency hasn't ruled out the possibility of electronic defects and that investigations are ongoing. NHTSA is working with NASA engineers to study the Toyota recalls, including possible electronic defects.  NHTSA chief David Strickland told the academy panel that unintended acceleration is a problem that affects all major car manufacturers. Another NHTSA official, Roger Saul, told the panel that the agency has, since Toyota's first recall in October, received complaints of 64 crashes involving 78 deaths, some occurring years ago.  Regulators have been able to verify that only one of those incidents was caused by a vehicle  defect, Mr. Saul said.

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