Toyota vehicles didn't have any electronic flaws that were earlier blamed to have caused sudden acceleration in its vehicles, according to a report from the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT).
The latest findings are considered as a positive sign for the Japanese automaker, which recalled 8 million of its bestselling vehicles in the United States over defective floor mats and accelerator pedals, thereby hammering its reputation.
The DOT released results Tuesday from a ten-month study, which were conducted by National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) along with NASA, to identify potential electronic causes of unintended acceleration in Toyota vehicles that were linked to number of deaths.
The study, which was launched in last spring at the request of Congress, studied whether electronic systems or electromagnetic interference played a role in incidents of unintended acceleration.
NASA engineers found that no electronic flaws in Toyota vehicles capable of producing the large throttle openings, which is required to create dangerous high-speed unintended acceleration incidents.
The probe found that the previously identified sticking accelerator pedals and defective floor mats that enabled accelerator pedals to become trapped by floor mats were the only known causes for these kinds of unsafe unintended acceleration incidents.
... the verdict is in. There is no electronic-based cause for unintended high-speed acceleration in Toyotas, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a statement.
During the investigation, NASA engineers evaluated the electronic circuitry in Toyota vehicles and analyzed more than 280,000 lines of software code for any potential flaws that could trigger an unintended acceleration incident.
NHTSA and NASA engineers have also bombarded Toyota vehicles with electromagnetic radiation to study whether such radiation could cause malfunctions resulting in unintended acceleration.
NASA found no evidence that a malfunction in electronics caused large unintended accelerations, said Michael Kirsch, Principal Engineer at the NASA Engineering and Safety Center (NESC).
In response to the findings, Toyota said: “We believe this rigorous scientific analysis by some of America's foremost engineers should further reinforce confidence in the safety of Toyota and Lexus vehicles. We hope this important study will help put to rest unsupported speculation about Toyota's ETCS-i, which is well-designed and well-tested to ensure that a real world, un-commanded acceleration of the vehicle cannot occur.
In 2009 and 2010, Toyota recalled nearly eight million vehicles as part of the sticky pedal and pedal entrapment recalls. Toyota also paid $48.8 million in civil penalties as the result of NHTSA investigations into the timeliness of several safety recalls last year. Across the industry, automakers voluntarily initiated a record number of safety recalls in 2010.
Meanwhile, regulators said they will consider proposing that all passenger vehicles should have brake override systems, keyless ignition systems, and event data recorders (EDRS). These rules are expected to be proposed by the end of 2011.
NHTSA is researching whether better placement and design of accelerator and brake pedals can reduce pedal misapplication, which occurs in vehicles across the industry, while brake override systems help ensuring that braking can take precedence over the accelerator pedal in emergency situations.
Though, Toyota has been relieved from allegations of electronic flaws in its vehicles, it is still facing the heat of several civil lawsuits lying in federal and state courts that have an estimated liability of more than $5 billion.
Toyota, whose popular models include the Camry, Corolla, Land Cruiser, and luxury Lexus line, reported Tuesday a 39 percent fall in its third quarter profit, hurt by slower domestic sales and a strong yen. However, the company boosted its full-year forecast, citing improving sales outlook in emerging markets.
ADRs of Toyota closed Tuesday's regular trading session up by 4 percent at $88.57. Yesterday, they hit a new 52-Week high of $89.31.