Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Attorneys John Bisnar and Brian Chase write the Toyota SUA timeline again in an August 2015 update

John Bisnar

Brian Chase

Toyota Sudden Unintended Acceleration Timeline
Last Updated: August 31, 2015

4. The Truth Comes Out:
In 2010, freelance translator Betsy Benjaminson was assigned to review and translate 1,500 documents from Toyota regarding SUA, when she found that Toyota was hiding information regarding car defects, and even lying about it to the NHTSA regulators and the United States Congress. In 2013, Benjaminson released a personal statement on her facebook page, claiming that she found documents with evidence that "Toyota's press releases [were] bland reassurances obviously meant to help maintain public belief in the safety of Toyota’s cars—despite providing no evidence to support those reassurances." In addition to this, Benjaminson stated that "Toyota’s engineers... were searching for UA’s root causes, but they could not seem to find them", and that they would sometimes admit that the root cause "was the electronic parts, the engine computer, the software, or interference by radio waves." This evidence directly contradicted the statements that Toyota made saying that ther was no defect in the electronic throttle control system (ETCS). Benjaminson's complete personal statement was released in April 2013, and can be found here.

Benjaminson posted her personal statement when she decided to go public with her findings and name herself as the primary whistleblower behind the condemning Toyota internal documents. At the same time, David Hechler interviewed Benjaminson and wrote the article Lost in Translation, which reveals some of the contents of the leaked Toyota documents, including Toyota senior staff saying "I can't completely take care of the pedal problem." There was even a document that showed numerous errors found within the ETCS when testing, although they were assumed to have been errors that were corrected before production. Regardless, it gave proof that the ETCS could fail dramatically, despite Toyota engineers claiming that it wasn't possible.

A Flawed NASA Study

Hechler also wrote about a joint NHTSA and NASA study, which was created to test the ETCS but didn't find any evidence of a defect. The final report was delivered in February 2011, in which the Department of Transportation (DOT) Secretary Ray LaHood said, "The jury is back. The verdict is in. There is no electronic-based cause for unintended high-speed acceleration in Toyotas, period." This statement was widely reported and called for the public to start trusting Toyota again, as the report blamed most of the reported incidents of SUA on driver error. In reality, this test was not without its own set of problems. Hechler writes that "some of the scientists on this team wouldn't sign NASA's final report," due to the unusual nature of study - in which the team was told to ignore electronics failures that did not specifically match criteria set for them. The team was given 10 months to figure out "why certain cars had failed, but they were given no access to those that actually had." Thus, LaHood's blanketing statement of blessing for the ETCS did not sit right with many of the NASA scientists, who objected that NASA's final statement saying that there was "no evidence that a malfunction in electronics caused large unintended accelerations,” did not mean that there was no defects to be found.

The Barr Group, an independent company specializing in auto firmware, was hired to conduct another investigation for the Bookout v Toyota Motor Corp case, which was an unintended acceleration case that settled in late 2013. The result of the investigation was a 800-page document that claimed to find bugs in the Toyota ETCS that could lead to unintended acceleration. Michael Barr, founder of the Barr Group, noted that they "did a few things that NASA apparently did not have time to do," and that they "uncovered gaps and defects in the throttle fail safes." Barr went on to claim that there were many "mistakes in the Toyota analysis that NASA relied on," and that the cars' black boxes "can record false information about the drivers actions in the final seconds before a crash." The Bookout case settled for 3 million dollars in favor of Jean Bookout, who was injured, and the family of Barbara Schwarz, who was killed in the SUA crash.