NASA will join NHTSA in researching Toyota's unintended acceleration woes

Forming a unique and diverse team, NASA and the National Academy of Sciences will be joining NHTSA and Toyota in a joint effort to determine possible causes for unintended acceleration in Toyota vehicles. NHTSA hopes to tap into NASA's expertise in electronics to determine possible electronics-based causes of unintended acceleration.

NASA scientists with special expertise in electronics will be working side-by-side with scientists from NHTSA in an effort to study the electronics in Toyota vehicles, and whether or not they may play a role in some cases of unintended acceleration, according to transportation secretary Ray Lahood.

"We haven't been able to find anything wrong with the electronics, but I've made a commitment to Congress, Toyota and other car owners that we would find the very best experts we could to look into this," LaHood told the Free Press.

In addition to NASA teaming up with NHTSA, the National Academy of Sciences will examine vehicles from the entire automotive industry while studying vehicle controls for sources of unintended acceleration, according to LaHood. The study will take approximately 15 months to complete and will use the results to determine how the government can ensure the safety of vehicle electronic control systems, according to the Associated Press.

"We believe their outside expertise, fresh eyes and fresh research perhaps can tell us if electronics have played a role in these accelerations," LaHood said.

The move by NHTSA to involve both NASA and the National Academy of Sciences likely stems from the lack of resources at NHTSA when it comes to evaluating advanced vehicle electronics. During congressional hearings NHTSA faced criticism after revealing that it lacked the proper expertise to evaluate vehicle electronics.

"Carmakers have entered the electronics era, but NHTSA seems stuck in a mechanical mindset," House Energy and Commerce Committee chairman Henry Waxman, said last month. "We need to make sure the federal safety agency has the tools and resources it needs to ensure the safety of the electronic controls and on-board computers that run today's automobiles."

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