One of the most important lessons to come out of the last two days of congressional hearings on the Toyota recalls is that blaming individuals for unintended acceleration is too tough a task for our elected representatives. And yet the more we learn, the more necessary it seems to take human error into account when dealing with unintended acceleration. Nothing illustrates this quite like the case of the very first witness to give testimony before congress. Rhonda Smith of Sevierville, Tn told the House Energy Committee, under oath, that her Lexus ES350 became “possessed” and that its brakes and transmission failed to respond at precisely the moment that the car accelerated out of control. “Shame on you, Toyota, for being so greedy,” she said, wiping tears from her eyes. But it turns out that the shame belongs almost entirely with Ms Smith.
The Wall Street Journal [sub] [via Jalopnik] reports that, despite her traumatic and inexplicable experience, Ms Smith sold her dangerous, out-of-control ES350 to another family, which has since put 27,000 trouble-free miles on the vehicle (according to just-auto [sub], Toyota has since taken possession of the vehicle). Which means she either lied under oath, or displayed a disregard for the safety of others that puts Toyota’s missteps into stunning context. Or both. In any case, her behavior adds to our growing suspicion that the vacuous, disingenuous, and self-serving congressional hearings have been the best thing to happen to Toyota PR since the recalls began. Shame on you, Rhonda Smith, shame on you.