Acceleration test rigged, Toyota says
Toyota Motor Corp. pushed back against its critics Monday, producing engineers who said a widely publicized experiment by a professor claiming to show unintended acceleration in Toyota vehicles was rigged.
The engineers said professor David Gilbert of Southern Illinois University had rewired the circuitry in a way that would cause uncontrolled acceleration not only in Toyota vehicles but in all the cars they tested.
"Any circuit can be taken and re-engineered and rewired to perform what it is you want it to do," said Matthew Schwall, an engineer at Menlo Park, Calif.-based Exponent, a firm retained by Toyota to examine its vehicles.
Gilbert created a stir on Feb. 23 when he told a U.S. House committee holding hearings on Toyota's recalls that he had discovered an electronic flaw in the acceleration system -- an assertion he had made on an ABC News television program.
Rep. Steve Buyer, R-Ind., raised doubts about Gilbert's experiment, alluding to a notorious, staged crash shown years ago on the TV show "Dateline" in a story about faulty gas tanks exploding on impact.
But Gilbert's testimony stoked concerns that Toyota may not have found all the causes of unintended acceleration.
Toyota's move to challenge Gilbert signaled an aggressive effort by the Japanese automaker to limit the damage from its big recalls -- and persistent concerns about the causes.
Chris Gerdes, a professor of mechanical engineering at Stanford University, said he spoke with Gilbert, who confirmed that he had stripped insulation from wires connecting the pedal to the throttle and connected wires that were normally too far apart to touch in his experiment.
"Dr. Gilbert's demonstration is not evidence of a design flaw or a safety risk," Gerdes said at the news conference webcast from Torrance, Calif. "Dr. Gilbert provides no evidence that his scenario occurs in the real world."
If such damage occurred in the wiring, there would be signs of corrosion, the engineers said.
Kristen Tabar, general manager of electronics systems at the Toyota Technical Center in Ann Arbor, said Toyota had examined many components from vehicles reported to have accelerated uncontrollably, and "we've found no evidence of corrosion." More at Detroit News