NASA engineers join Toyota investigation

NASA helping with unintended acceleration evaluation

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood is bringing in a team of nine NASA engineers who specialize in computer-controlled electronic systems, electromagnetic interference, software integrity and hardware to help his department investigate alleged unintended vehicle acceleration in Toyota vehicles.

Transportation also is commissioning a separate investigation from the National Academy of Sciences, according to a news release of March 30.  “For the safety of the American driving public, we must do everything possible to understand what is happening. And that is why we are tapping the best minds around, LaHood said.”

The National Academy of Sciences will examine the broad subject of unintended acceleration and electronic vehicle controls across the entire automotive industry. The investigation is expected to take 15 months.

The academy’s panel of experts will examine possible causes of the unintended acceleration, including electronic vehicle controls, human error, mechanical failure and interference with accelerator systems. Systems to be examined include software, computer hardware design, electromagnetic compatibility and electromagnetic interference. The panel will make recommendations on how its regulations may improve safety in electronic control systems.

The cost of the two studies is approximately $3 million, including the cost of purchasing affected cars to be studied, the news release said.

LaHood has also asked Transportation's inspector general to review whether the department has conducted adequate reviews of unintended acceleration complaints since 2002.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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