Dr. Michael Pecht, director of CALCE at the University of Maryland, with his co-author E. George, published a paper in 2013 documenting the laboratory growth of tin whiskers on tin-finished connectors in a Toyota Tundra ECU (Engine Control Unit, i.e. the car's computer). The paper takes a fascinating look at what can happen when tin is used to finish the connectors inside an automotive ECU. The whiskering creates unpredicability in the performance of the unit.
Summary: For three decades, sudden acceleration (SA) incidents have been
reported, where automobiles accelerate without warning. These incidents
are often diagnosed as No Fault Found (NFF). Investigators who follow
the line of diagnostic reasoning from the 1989 NHTSA SA report tend to
conclude that SAs are caused by driver pedal error. This paper reviews
the diagnostic process in the NHTSA report and finds (1) that it assumes
that an intermittent electronic malfunction should be reproducible
either through in-vehicle or laboratory bench tests without saying why
and (2) that the consequence of this assumption, for which there appears
to be no forensic precedent, is to re-categorize possible intermittent
electronic failures as proven to be non-electronic. Showing that the
supposedly inescapable conclusions of the NHTSA report concerning
electronic malfunctions are without foundation opens the way for the
paper to discuss electronic intermittency as a potential factor in SA
incidents. It then reports a simple practical experiment that shows how
mechanically-induced electrical contact intermittencies can generate
false speed signals that an automobile speed control system may accept
as true and that do not trigger any diagnostic fault codes. Since the
generation of accurate speed signals is essential for the proper
functioning of a number of other automobile safety-critical control
systems, the apparent ease with which false speed signals can be
generated by vibration of a poor electrical contact is obviously a
matter of general concern. Various ways of reducing the likelihood of
SAs are discussed, including electrical contact improvements to reduce
the likelihood of generating false speed signals, improved battery
maintenance, and the incorporation of an independent fail-safe that
reduces engine power in an emergency, such as a kill switch.
"Proctor, a professor of the history of science at Stanford, is one of the world's leading experts in agnotology, a neologism signifying the study of the cultural production of ignorance. It's a rich field, especially today when whole industries devote themselves to sowing public misinformation and doubt about their products and activities."
David Michaels has detailed the corporate tactics in this book. Read it and weep.
Here's a little back-and-forth with a troll today:
No, it doesn't. Those "experts" you cite are frauds payed for by shyster attorneys trying to sue for money. I'll trust the engineers way before the lawyers. The electronics have nothing to do with it. Driver error is the cause as has been repeatedly proven by multiple independent engineering organizations. The same thing happened with Audi in the 80's. Funny how you don't hear claims of unintended acceleration once the settlement money starts flowing...
Disqus Qx, what's your name? I think you are a Toyota troll, but let’s set that aside for now. Can we get down to details? Can you agree not to make broad generalizations that
attempt to discredit Toyota critics as motivated by financial interests? These statements are inherently illogical when Toyota proponents are certainly motivated by financial
interests. Now, to be specific, among the experts who have found the engineering processes to be substandard are, first of all, Toyota's own R&D chief (now retired from that position),Mr. Masatami Takimoto, who wrote quite specifically in several documents that are on my computer here now, that Toyota allowed incompletely developed cars onto
the market. In other words, the way these cars were engineered was below HIS OWN standards for safety and
quality. Second, among those I had in mind when I wrote "experts," there is one expert who has worked for plaintiffs attorneys, his name is Michael Barr, and he said the engineering processes are substandard. His opinion is authoritative and neutral, as shown by the widespread respect for his views among his peers, as he is shortly going to be giving the keynote speech at the top conference of embedded systems engineers, sponsored by EE Times. Toyota had no defense against him in court, and did not rebut him. Other experts who have given their opinions on Toyota’s engineering practices include two university professors, one retired aircraft safety systems engineer, and five independent world-class engineers in various fields, by and large people who do not work for plaintiffs counsel.
Disqus Qx, can you prove your claims “the
electronics have nothing to do with it.” and “Driver
error is the cause as has been repeatedly proven by multiple independent engineering organizations.” I challenge you to prove these claims are actually true. I think they are completely false.
Your statement “the same thing happened with the Audi” also lacks proof. Consumers were angry then, and consumers are angry now, and scared of out-of-control cars. I suppose I concede your point if that is what you meant.
Your statement “Funny how you don't hear claims of
unintended acceleration once the settlement money starts flowing...” is absurd in the extreme, in that you must know as well as the rest of us know that all settlements require silence by plaintiffs.
As for the WSJ article you cited as being more factual, if you would look at the upper left corner, you will see that this
article is clearly noted as “opinion.” Delving into it a little further, you will see that the author works for a think tank called Cato Institute, where his bio proudly proclaims him thus: The Washington Post has dubbed him the “intellectual guru of tort reform.” According to the Washington Post also, “Cato is one of the largest think tanks in Washington, with a $39 million budget in 2011, according to its tax form. It espouses an ideology of limited government and free-market economics. The Koch brothers, owners of the privately-held energy company Koch Industries...are founders.” So, Disqus Qx, talk about agendas! Certainly there is some agenda in the WSJ opinion piece that you mislabel. The Cato Institute has 64 "Policy Scholars." Among them there is not a single face of color. One of their blogs is "Overlawyered." How neutral are they? How representative are they of the interests of ordinary US citizens? It seems to me that the hegemony they represent is nicely cloaked in a veil of libertarianism. Can you agree? It is not objective. If I misread you, please explain your position.
The FBI found that Toyota knowingly and willingly lied to the government
and the public about the defects in its runaway cars that killed and injured
people. This kind of lying is illegal under the US “TREAD Act.”
Toyota was charged with one count of “wire fraud,” intentionally making
money by lying to the public.
The settlement agreement is a “deferred prosecution” against the company
but not against the executives. It means that prosecution will not take place
if Toyota is totally honest for three years. If the government finds more
lying, the crime will be prosecuted.
The agreement has some bad points and has some good points
The bad points:
1.It covers Toyota’s lies that were already
2.No one will go to jail even though there
are a number of documented deaths and catastrophic injuries as a result of
specific conduct of individual executives.
3.The settlement covers only two causes of
unintended acceleration – floor mats and sticky pedal. Of all runaway cars,
these causes are only around 30%. Electronics account for the rest, but the
government cannot prove that yet.
Plaintiffs experts have proved it pretty well.
4.The settlement does not help people with
defective cars to get them fixed
5.The settlement’s impact on Toyota outside
of the U.S. is unclear
6.There are some loopholes in the demands on
The good points:
1.It has to wire $1.2 billion to the US
government by Tuesday!
2.There will be a watchdog – an “Independent
Monitor” for 3 years to watch Toyota’s honesty
3.Employees can report anonymously to the
monitor, who will report to the department of justice.
4.This monitor arrangement can force Toyota
to be honest about its electronics, and may lead to more criminal charges if
they hide anything.
Takeaway for the public:
5.The story is not over, car electronics are
not regulated and not only Toyota but other companies like Ford, Mitsubishi,
KIA, and Honda also have documented problems with runaway cars
6.We must remain vigilant when buying cars
to search out automakers with excellent safety engineering. In general,
Europeans are ahead of the Americans and Asians on this, but it depends on the
7.In Israel we should demand more auto
electronics safety laws based on recognition that the safety is not adequately regulated in the U.S. Our police
should be better trained to find when the car is at fault.
8.Be prepared, be aware, shift to neutral,
use parking brake.
The docs here on this computer are essentially a large overlap with the docs acquired by the FBI/DOJ investigators, based on my reading of what the DOJ knew, from their Statement of Facts.
In addition to the whole trove of docs related to the floor-mat+sticky pedal fraud, I got another set, the "ghostly docs," shall we call them, 230 docs that covered all aspects of engineering bugaboos related to electronics and unpredictable vehicle behavior.