Toyota Motor Corp.’s vehicle electronics may not be implicated in reports of unintended acceleration of its cars, but, as the world’s biggest automaker, Toyota should take a leading role in ensuring that the growing use of electronics in vehicles doesn’t compromise safety, former U.S. Transportation Secretary Rodney Slater said this week.
Toyota asked Slater in March to head a panel of independent experts to advise the company, which was reeling after damaging recalls, mostly to prevent unintended acceleration.
Toyota says that it has found no evidence of unintended acceleration resulting from defects in its electronic throttle control system.
Most automakers have received complaints of unintended acceleration, though not as many as Toyota has received, and industry experts say the problem is usually driver error, poor pedal design, or a combination of the two.
But experts and academics have suggested at recent meetings of National Academy of Sciences investigators that electronic glitches may not always leave a trace.
Toyota is at the forefront of the issue now, but some of the investigations triggered by its vehicle recalls are taking a broader scope.
“When you look at the electronics industry and the auto industry, you’re talking about the No. 1 and No. 2 goods-producing industries in the world. And as these industries converge more and more, you really have to have leadership that focuses on the interface,” Slater said on a conference call hosted by Toyota on Monday to update reporters on its progress. “There’s a leadership role for Toyota to play on this front.”
Toyota’s work with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and with the National Academy of Sciences, which are assisting the Transportation Department, and its exchanges with other automakers will enable it to play a bigger role, Slater said, “in helping to ensure that more sophisticated vehicles in years to come will be safer vehicles, as well.”