Thursday, February 10, 2011

Toyota's Accelerator Malfunctions...

If you've been paying attention to this story, you already know the outcome: after months (and millions of dollars) spent investigating the media-hyped reports of electronics problems in Toyota's accelerators that allegedly led to hundreds of accidents and dozens of deaths, the official report says: there is no electronic problem.  The problem was drivers mistaking the accelerator pedal for the brake pedal:
A record $48.8 million in fines, nearly eight million vehicle recalls, hundreds of lawsuits and one humiliating set of Congressional grillings later, we finally learned Tuesday that Toyota cars can't magically accelerate on their own. So what happened? "Pedal misapplications."

Now there's a euphemism for the bureaucratic ages. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood couldn't bring himself to say "driver error" and he grew testy with a reporter who dared to put it so bluntly. But that's what the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration study, conducted over 10 months with the help of NASA engineers, concluded. Or to put it in plain English: Drivers, in moments of panic, sometimes mistake the accelerator for the brake.
There's something badly broken about a legal system that allows mistakes like this to occur over and over again.  Billions of dollars of shareholder value (that's mom and pop's pension, folks) were destroyed for no reason whatsoever.  I have no magic answers here; wish I did...

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