In 2010, amid enormous public scrutiny, Toyota Motors recalled millions of vehicles due to several fatal car accidents stemming from "unintended acceleration". Driver reports listed problems ranging from "sticky gas pedals" to ill-fitting floor mats, and from flawed brakes to suspected electrical problems.
Since then, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has been working with engineers from NASA to run a full diagnostic of what went wrong. The report was released this week and the investigation showed that electrical problems were not the cause of any of the accidents.
According to the DOT, the Toyota car crashes resulting from "unintended acceleration" were caused by mechanical problems -- not electrical failure. The report indicates that the problems resulted from "sticking" and "slow-responding" gas pedals, poorly designed floor mats which snagged those pedals, and possible driver error.
The federal government is now considering proposing rules for a number of automotive industry-wide safety design modifications, such as brake override systems and improved pedal design requirements.