NHTSA Coming Under Fire Thanks to Sudden Acceleration Study (Again)

By Trevor Dorchies | January 19, 2012
Since its inception in 1970, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has handled the task of mandating regulations for highway and road safety. Over the years the NHTSA has been responsible for mandating the use of seatbelts, electronic stability control, and the installation of frontal airbags to name a few. Over the years technology has evolved and has found its way into almost all vehicles on the road today and the NHTSA is still responsible to regulate said technology. However a recent government study concludes the NHTSA may not be properly equipped to ensure driver and vehicle safety as technology continually evolves. The report calls the NHTSA's shortcomings "troubling" and calls for an advisory panel to explore the technical capabilities, or lack thereof, plaguing the government agency. The committee would focus on features like adaptive cruise control and GPS navigation, as both are beginning to appear more often in new vehicles. There has also been talk of the NHTSA requiring auto makers to install electronic data recorders, also known as "black boxes," that record the vehicles technical data in all new cars. The reconfiguring of certain ignition systems along with the design of pedals may also come into question by the new committee. The study, as concluded upon by the National Research Council in its 139-page report released yesterday, would help the NHTSA "ascertain the causes of unexpected vehicle behaviors." These safety precautions would more specifically target unexplained problems like unintended acceleration that plagued Toyota in 2010. Toyota had to recall over 14 million vehicles because of an unintended acceleration issue and pay more than $32 million in fines to regulatory agencies. The Japanese auto maker is also readying itself for court as it gears up to square off with hundreds of state and federal lawsuits expected to get underway next year.
With the Toyota recalls creating unrest in the automotive industry and the consumers that purchase the products, the NHTSA asked the National Research Council to explore the issue further. NASA was also called upon to explore the unintended acceleration issue but neither could find conclusive evidence pointing to an electronic component failure. The report, named "The Safety Promise and Challenge of Automotive Electronics: Insights from Unintended Acceleration" highlights the shortcomings of the NHTSA but found no evidence of electronic failure leading to an uncontrolled acceleration seen in many of Toyota's vehicles. “Neither the automotive industry, NHTSA, nor motorists can afford a recurrence of something like the unintended acceleration controversy,” said Louis Lanzerotti, chairman of the committee that authored the report and a physics professor at the New Jersey Institute of Technology. Source: Los Angeles Times