Tuesday, March 30, 2010

NASA and NAS to investigate Prius throttle

Reuters notes that SecTran LaHood has called upon both NASA and the NAS/NRC to investigate the electronic throttle of the Toyota Prius, with Reuters noting the possible inadequacy of past review:

Both U.S. safety regulators and Toyota have faced scrutiny about whether either did enough to investigate driver complaints of possible electronic throttle problems and other safety issues in recent years. (...)

The Transportation Department inspector general is investigating NHTSA's and Toyota's handling of investigations into unintended acceleration. LaHood also said the agency watchdog would also determine whether NHTSA has appropriate staffing and expertise to handle sophisticated investigations into areas like vehicle electronics and computers.

Nine NASA scientists would bring expertise in electronics, eletromagnetic interference, software integrity and complex problem solving to the Toyota review, Transportation Department officials said.

LaHood has maintained that NHTSA could handle the analysis itself but said suggestions from lawmakers at congressional hearings prompted him to consider outside help. (...)

The broader industry review of unintended acceleration by the National Academy of Sciences' National Research Council is expected to take about 18 months and is separate from the NASA analysis.

The move by LaHood undercuts some previous blog analysis, See

Incomplete account of Sikes' Prius event

IPBiz notes that the question about --appropriate staffing and expertise to handle sophisticated investigations -- is one that has arisen with the United States Patent Office in recent history. With the USPTO, fee diversion has taken its toll. The principal objective in "patent reform" should be to see that the USPTO has appropriate staffing and expertise to handle sophisticated investigations. The stuff that is in S.515 is eyewash.

**On the Prius, from How a pit bull is like a Prius

Information cascades sweep away journalistic skepticism. As I wrote on Forbes.com on March 12, virtually everything California driver James Sikes told the media about his allegedly runaway Prius was absurd, contradictory, or impossible. He said he was afraid to take his hands off the wheel to shift into neutral, yet he had a cell phone in one hand almost the entire time! Moreover, the 2008 Prius is rare in that it enables shifting with both hands on the wheel.


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