By on February 8, 2011

After tarring and feathering Toyota for alleged sudden unintended acceleration, after inventing a mass murder of 89 that creates a massive 261,000 hits on Google, after dragging executives in front of tribunals of the Washington Inquisition, after shaking down Toyota for unprecedented $48.8 million in fines, after NASA engineers subjected Toyota cars to torture worse than waterboarding, the NHTSA today announced that they found …

… exactly nothing.

In a press conference today at 2pm in Washington, the DOT presented the results of a 10-month review. It was commissioned by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and conducted by NASA engineers. The engineers who usually busy themselves with Mars and Venus went on the hunt for the ghost in Toyota’s machine.

“A U.S. government investigation showed no link between electronic throttles and unintended acceleration in Toyota Motor Corp vehicles,” writes Reuters, “a victory for the world’s top automaker battered by recalls over runaway vehicles.” The NASA’s scientists found no ghosts, no tin whiskers, no shorts, not a shred of evidence.

Even “hold Toyota’s feet to the fire” Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood  had to concede: “We enlisted the best and brightest engineers to study Toyota’s electronics systems and the verdict is in. There is no electronic-based cause for unintended acceleration in Toyotas,”

However, the punishment of Toyota before found guilty left lasting marks. Hounded by a government that has ownership interest in two car companies that are in direct competition with Toyota, the Japanese carmaker lost a full two percent of market share in the U.S. in 2010. While the market grew 11 percent in the U.S. in 2010, Toyota was treading water. This was the first time in 12 years that Toyota lost ground in the U.S. Interestingly, SUA remained a U.S. phenomenon, as freshly evidenced by Toyota’s strong sales elsewhere.

As Reuters notes: “The recalls, government scrutiny, which included testimony by Chief Executive Akio Toyoda at congressional hearings a year ago, and more than $30 million in fines damaged Toyota’s reputation for quality and reliability.”

Toyota’s troubles in the U.S. are far from over. Toyota has to contend with hundreds of lawsuits, along with an investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission. The wheels of justice grind slowly, but they can grind you down.

Audi had received a similar, but by comparison much milder treatment in the 80s that nonetheless nearly killed the brand in the U.S. Audi was subsequently exonerated by the NHTSA, which concluded that driver error was the cause. At the time, I had witnessed the drama from the inside. Today’s revelation comes as no surprise to me.

Nonetheless, SUA remains a phenomenon that affects all brands. After Toyota had been singled out and painted as SUA incarnate, there is a belated study by the august body of the National Academy of Sciences which looks into unintended acceleration in cars and trucks across the auto industry. Results are expected sometime this fall. Any guesses what they may be?

Despite coming up empty, LaHood said the NHTSA is thinking about new regulations:  Brake override systems on all vehicles, standardizing keyless ignition systems, event data recorders in all new vehicles.

The NHTSA also considers conducting more research on electronic control systems and will look into the placement and design of accelerator and brake pedals. Shades of Audi …

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46 Comments on “Ghost Busters Go Bust: Toyotas Declared Ghost-Free...”


  • avatar
    Philosophil

    I’m pretty sure Ford is one of them.

  • avatar
    highdesertcat

    It is noteworthy that as of this writing only ttac, Bloomberg and FoxNews have reported this news.  Automotive News, The Detroit Free Press and the Detroit News, along with all the other pro-UAW news media have remained strangely silent.  Even Ray LaHood has had to eat crow, but the movers and shakers of the news world have remained deafeningly silent…

    • 0 avatar
      Philosophil

      That’s kind of sad, actually. You may hate Toyota all you want, but give credit where credit is due.

    • 0 avatar
      Russycle

      I’m not sure I’d blame the UAW for this one.  “Out of Control Toyota Kills Family of Four!” is headline news.  “Oops, no problem after all”  is back page snooze.  Happens all the time in our senseation-oriented press.  Automotive News doesn’t get a pass  though, they should be on this.

    • 0 avatar
      HoldenSSVSE

      Ya, that’s it.  It was the UAW that reported the CHP officer killed in an out of control Lexus, complete with planted dramatic 911 call from panicked passenger.  For extra effect, the UAW packed a 1/4 ounce of C4 in the car to make sure it burst into flames, melting the floor mats and damaging the electronics enough to not show any proof of their tampering.

      Their evil plot fully deployed, the UAW controlled media swept in and made it national news, with the full support of the US government.

      Now remember, this plan to bring down Toyota was actually hatched by the Bush Administration all the way back in 2008.  It was the Bush Administration that gave the first round of bailouts to Chrysler and GM.  However the Obama Administration coming in, in January of 2009, when briefed on this evil plot to destroy Toyota and make the UAW all powerful, thought this was genius, because just like the pro-union Bush administration (wink wink) Obama wanted their support too, so he has continued to execute on the Bush plan – this is the first fly in the ointment – but you can bet the lead researcher will be run over by an out of control Toyota Venza being driven by a drunken Toyota dealership owner, with two pounds of pure Columbian white in the glovebox.

      It’s all very simple really.  The voices in my head tell me so.  Where is my tinfoil hat?

    • 0 avatar
      HoldenSSVSE

      Ummm, it is plastered on the front page of freep actually.

  • avatar

    Is Toyota going to ask for their reputation back (along with the lost market share and bogus fines they paid)?

    • 0 avatar
      HoldenSSVSE

      The fines weren’t bogus.  They hid the defect in their floor mats and buried the CTS gas pedal problems.  Their own documentation shows it, including the infamous floormat PowerPoint deck that indicates they saved $100 million by not addressing the problem in the United States, while doing a recall in Japan.  That violated US law.

      The fact that there is no electronic problem does not absolve Toyota of its behavior when dealing with recalls in general, not negates the problems they addressed in millions of cars that their official plan was to fully ignore in the US, while fixing the exact same problems with the exact same cars in other parts of the world.

      The biggest thing Toyota is guilty of, creating this PR nightmare in large part by their actions and inactions almost every step of the way.

    • 0 avatar
      Russycle

      And let’s not forget the “We can’t tell you what the onboard computer says because there’s only one of our proprietary chip readers in North America, and it’s on the fritz” fiasco.  Toyota handled this situation almost as badly as our congress, and that’s saying something.

  • avatar
    bwell

    I assume that Sec’y LaHood will now be summarily fired for importune and ill-advised comments, needlessly damaging a company that contributes significantly to the US manufacturing base, and general stupidity. 

    But I’m not going to hold my breath waiting for it to happen…

  • avatar
    V572625694

    Did anybody here ever doubt that this would be the outcome of a fact-based inquiry?

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    On one hand, Toyota did handle reporting the incident in a boneheaded and, frankly, illegal manner.  They didn’t play by the rules and got fined as a result.  Fair’s fair.
     
    On the other, the Congressional committee dragging out the tearful, lilly-white, God-fearing, middle-aged Christian woman who was saved from fiery death by the Power of Prayer was, for me, the moment this whole thing jumped the shark and went from being about safety to being an exercise in “We gotta do sumfin’!” chest-thumping populism.  It jumped a few more when ABC decided to do it’s own version of “Fill the transmission with compressed air”/”Rig the tanks with explosives”.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      Now it turns out that there was NOTHING to report.  Fair’s fair.
       
      Does Toyota now get its fine-money back?
       
      Fair’s fair.

    • 0 avatar
      trk2

      Highdesertcat, you wouldn’t know it from Bertel’s writing since, in this case, he plays a little loose with the facts and allows readers to reach an incorrect conclusion, but Toyota was fined for their handling of the floor mat recall, not for anything related to electrical gremlins.  The fine was justified and legitimate for an issue that did cause accidents and did warrant a recall.

    • 0 avatar

      Who accuses me of playing it loose needs to have his facts together. I never said what the fines were for. And only one fine was floormat-related.

      Fine 1: Failure to institute a timely recall for defective accelerator pedals. $16.4 million
      Fine 2: Failure to institute a timely recall for gas-pedal entrapment by floormats. $16.4 million
      Fine 3: Failure to recall certain 4Runners and T-100 pickups for defect steering rods. $16.4 million

      The amounts were outrageous. Previously, the largest fine ever levied was $1 million against General Motors Co for failing to promptly recall windshield wipers in 2002-2003 model vehicles.

      All three record fines were levied in the context of the SUA witchhunt. Trumped-up fines for trumped-up charges. They were and are an outrage.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      trk2,  isn’t that like holding Colt or Smith&Wesson responsible if someone maliciously kills with one of their products?  How can Toyota or any other manufacturer be held responsible for the insufficient user IQ of their customers, or in the case of the Lexus ES in San Diego, the criminal stupidity of the dealership in providing that loaner car that was equipped with ill-fitting dealer-installed floor mats?  Should Ferrari or Porsche be held responsibile because some idiot show-off  driver loses control and kills a minivan full of people?

    • 0 avatar
      HoldenSSVSE

      Again @highdesertcat

      Toyota did not fix known defects all the way back to 2007 on their vehicles in the United States while fixing those same defects in other markets.  That is illegal under US regulations.  Toyota even documented this in a rather infamous PowerPoint deck that indicates that they saved over $100 million by not doing the repairs in the United States.

      The government found that the UAI cases were caused by:

      1)  Floor mats
      2)  CTS gas pedals
      3)  Driver errors

      One issue is purely mechanical, and 100% Toyota’s fault – you can’t spin it any other way.  A second issue is either user/operator error or Toyota error, depending on the floor mat, vehicle, and how they were handled.  In the most infamous case, it was the error of the dealer for using the wrong floor mats.  In other cases it is because the floor mat was ill designed whe combined with the pedal in the first place.  This trapment was also clearly shown in a video – and not difficult to reproduce.  The rest is clearly operator error; of which there will always be a degree of in any of these cases.

      But to position this as a 100% repudiation of all allegations and that Toyota did absolutely nothing wrong is pure nonsense.

    • 0 avatar
      timothyogden

      @holdenssve
      You’re wrong about the Powerpoint presentation. It says nothing like what you’ve said it does–as is apparent to anyone who actually reads the slide in question.
      What it says is that Toyota avoided more than $100 million in cost by recalling the 2007 all weather floor mats for the Camry and Lexus ES rather than being forced into recalling throttles or other components. At the time the investigation was launched it was not clear what the root cause was. The role of the regulatory affairs people at Toyota was to present the results of Toyota’s investigation into the cause of the complaints–which they determined to be the use of the AWFM placed on top of the carpeted floor mat and not clipped down. Toyota argued that given that cause, a recall of the AWFM was a sufficient remedy.
      Of course, NHTSA was considering other causes including faults in the vehicle electronics or throttles. If NHTSA had, without evidence, which is in their power to attempt, forced Toyota to recall throttles or ECMs or other components it would have cost the company upwards of $100 million.
      That is what the Powerpoint slide says.

    • 0 avatar
      Bimmer

      Correction:
       
      Fines 2 and 4 were $32.4million or 16.2 million each and not $16.4 million each, otherwise total would have been $49.2 million.

    • 0 avatar
      HoldenSSVSE

      @timothyogden
       
      You mean this deck?
       
      http://www.scribd.com/doc/27271542/Toyota-Yoshi-Inaba-Presentation-Safety-Wins
       
      You mean the Yoshi Inaba presentation deck?
       
      I did see it.  There is zero in there about computers, electronics, or anything else.  The NHTSA wanted Toyota to do a recall to change the floor mats, modify the floor pan and change the gas pedal.  The NHTSA documentation showed they were arguing that the design could potentially trap any floor mat.  Toyota convinced the NHTSA that they only need to do the floor mats – on the Lexus ES alone.  55K vehicles total.
       
      Gee, what did Toyota end up fixing on the Camry/Lexus vehicles they didn’t recall in 2007?  Floor mats, gas pedals, and in some vehicles modified the floor pan.
       
      Unless we’re talking about two different decks I think the public records and attach deck basically speak for themselves.

    • 0 avatar
      timothyogden

      @holdenssve
      the slides you linked to are only parts of the presentation. I was referring to a slide specifically on the Camry/ES recall that was part of that presentation but is not in the deck that you linked to.
      The best I can show you is a quote from the email trail associated with that presentation from Sept 14. 2007. This is from http://www.detnews.com/article/20101002/AUTO01/10020343/1148/Toyota-s-top-lobbyist-retires#ixzz11Cdpegax
      Quote from article: NHTSA, Tinto wrote, “was beginning to look at vehicle design parameters as being a culprit, focusing on the accelerator pedal geometry coupled with the push button ‘off’ switch. We estimate that had the agency instead pushed hard for recall of the throttle assembly (for instance), we would be looking at upwards of $100M+ in unnecessary cost.”
      If you’re interested in digging further I suggest checking out the presentation from David Champion of Consumer Reports to the NASA/NHTSA investigative committee which details questions of pedal clearances and offsets for Toyota and other vehicles. Toyota is on the low end of the industry but by no means unique. None of the other manufacturers who are at the lower end of the spectrum have issued recalls. In fact, Ford has issued a safety advisory that says there is no problem with their vehicles, the problem is with drivers who stack their floor mats. Exactly what Toyota was saying before they were forced into a recall by NHTSA.
      The fact of the matter is that the NHTSA can, using public pressure, force a recall by a manufacturer whether they find a defect or not. That’s what happened in the floor mat recall. Note that NHTSA approved Toyota’s statement in the recall announcement that there is no defect in cars with the floor mats properly installed and clipped down. The entire recall was to cover people who stacked floor mats.

  • avatar
    Motorhead10

    what happens to the $48 mil fines?

  • avatar
    86er

    From the same statement, Lahood says:

    “Our conclusion, that Toyota’s problems were mechanical, not electrical, comes after one of the most exhaustive, thorough and intensive research efforts ever undertaken”

    (emphasis mine)

    What on earth does he mean by that? 

  • avatar
    NormSV650

    So were back to CAD to production with no real world testing like all the “other” recalls that trickled out on Friday’s the last 13 months. Like rusted frames on Tundra, poor electronic stability programming on LX 450, drive shaft yokes that would crack on Tacoma, bad ECM solder on Corollas, Prius braking system needing reprogramming, rusting Tundra brake lines and spare tire…

    • 0 avatar
      Quentin

      It sounds like this news broke your heart, Norm.  Keep on keeping on.  You’ll eventually convince the world that Toyota is the devil.  You just need to keep at it.

    • 0 avatar

      Sorry, we have to fine you for this post. Your fine is to list all recalls by all automakers. Because this was your first time, you only need to list them from August through December 2010.
      http://www-odi.nhtsa.dot.gov/cars/problems/recalls/recallmonthlyreports.cfm

  • avatar
    tparkit

    “…after shaking down Toyota for (an) unprecedented $48.8 million in fines…”

    Let’s also recall that DaHood and the gang shook down Toyota for $250 million of closure costs at the NUMMI plant.

    Stupid, stupid, stupid Toyota for thinking it could buy political protection by shacking up with the UAW at NUMMI. I recall when, many years ago, Toyota was coy about its growth in the US because it didn’t want to attract negative attention from Washington and Washington’s many friends. Toyota’s instincts were right on target regarding the risks posed by our political structure, but as soon as they began to appease they marked themselves as easily intimidated and a soft touch for extortion. Now they have the results to prove it.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      Personally, I would like to see Toyota back out of manufacturing inside the USA and move their production facilities lock, stock and barrel to Mexico.  Toyota’s quality went to hell in a hand basket when they started making their products inside the US and started using American suppliers, i.e. CTS and their mechanically-challenged gas pedal assemblies, the rusting frames supplied by an American manufacturer, badly welded drive shafts and rusting spare-tires straps. etc. When Ford, GM and Chrysler started manufacturing in Mexico their quality went up at least 100%.  Coming to America was bad karma for the foreign manufacturers. If you doubt that, look up the problems experienced by BMW and Mercedes-Benz since opening up shop in America.  Only Hyundai/KIA has excelled, but that is only because they have two Korean QC inspectors for every American assembler and the products get fixed before they get out the door.

    • 0 avatar
      Mike66Chryslers

      @highdesertcat: You are painting with a very wide brush in my opinion.  CTS is a global supplier, with factories all over the world.  They have also supplied accelerator pedal assemblies for Honda, Ford, GM, Chrysler etc.  At least some of the Toyota accelerator pedal assemblies probably came from the CTS plant in Ontario, Canada, which is close to their two Toyota plants and one Hino plant in Ontario.

    • 0 avatar
      OldWingGuy

      @Highdesertcat above.

      I agree with you. Wholeheartedly. My luck (and my families) bear this out. Honda and Toyota’s built in Japan were all fantastic cars. The ones assembled in the US or Ontario not so good. One particular ’90’s Civic made in Ontario was a particular piece of junk. I swore I would only buy another Japanese car that was actually Made in Japan.
      Having been to Japan, I can see why. To me, it seems that their whole society is geared towards quality. Right down to where the trains stop.
      A few years ago I read about McDonald’s opening up in Moscow – how they had to build the whole supply chain infrastructure because it was so crappy in Russia. I suspect that’s what the supply chain looked like to the Japanese transplants.
      Now I have to go smoke a joint and drink a fifth before finishing my shift… (see the discussion on the Chysler plant).

    • 0 avatar
      Canuck129

      tparkit has nailed it on the head.

      Also, the gas pedals were as much to blame as the electronics.  It was a nice little neat and tidy, relatively inexpensive way for Toyota to show they were doing something tangible about a problem that really didn’t exist. 

      Millions of people brought their cars in for a shim, and has any dealer yet found a defective pedal?

  • avatar
    ajla

    Are you troubled by strange noises on the middle of the highway?
    Do you experience feelings of dread whenever you set your cruise control?
    Have you or any of your family ever experienced a stuck throttle or unresponsive brake system?
    If the answer is “yes,” then don’t wait another minute,
    Pick up the phone and call the professionals: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

    We’re ready to believe you!

  • avatar
    mikey

    @ highdesertcat…. Hyundai/KIA Keeps two Korean QC inspectors for every American assembler? Sooo let me get this straight. At the US plants they keep 2000 Koreans for a thousand Americans? Does one have to be a Korean national to keep one these jobs? Where do they live? Do they commute from Korea?

    I’m probably not the brightest of the “best and the brightest” here at TTAC. But I’m having a real hard time buying that one.

    • 0 avatar
      jimmy2x

      I’m with you Mikey.  Just remember this is the internet and people can say any damn fool thing they please.
       
      “On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog”

  • avatar

    After all the noise, all the innuendo from DaHood, and all the lost sales for Toyota… absolutely nothing was wrong in the end. If only it were possible for a foreign company to sue the US government for slander and defamation…

  • avatar
    PeteMoran

    This incident has Toyota decided they have drifted and are determined to get back to (their) first principles. Consumers will win, while their muddle-headed competitors will lose.

  • avatar
    Sandy A

    I’m wondering if TTAC or anyone who has posted in response to this article bothered to even read the full NASA’s report. Unlike political appointees like LaHood, the engineers do not complety rule out electronic problems. In fact they DID find faults. They did find that radiation/EMI did cause behavior that was not intended by the designers and the DID find TIN WHISKERS which caused shorts in the ETC electronics of a vehicle that was reported to have a SUA incident. However, they couldn’t replicate those events. It is very difficult (imposible) to prove a negative, which is what they are trying to do. In fact, the type of things that NASA found actually strengthens the case of the plaintiffs in many SUA cases. There ARE faults in the electronics and software.

    For those of you who would prefer to get the facts instead of the (misleading headlines) the full NASA report is here:

    http://www.nhtsa.gov/UA
    http://www.nhtsa.gov/staticfiles/nvs/pdf/NASA-UA_report.pdf

    One final issue: NASA was NOT given softcopies of Toyota software. Engineers had to go to Toyota facilities to look at the code. They did not test the actual code. Instead they had to model the code that they saw in written form in a controlled (by Toyota) environment. They could not take the code and test it outside of the Toyota facilities.

    Testing of a “model” of the actual code doesn’t prove anything. The conditions underwhich the software was verified didn’t allow NASA to completely test the interaction of all the different modules in the system, or with hardware in-the-loop. Moreover, they didn’t test every version of the software. In fact it appears they tested a 2007 version, not the earlier versions where most of the SUA events alledgedly occured.

    • 0 avatar
      PeteMoran

      @ Sandy A
       
      I have read the report. I think your post is bordering on dishonesty.
       
      You say;
       
      engineers do not complety (sic) rule out electronic problems
       
      Why would they? Do you think the Shuttle is perfect, or does not have failure modes that are known?
       
      You say;
       
      They ….. DID find TIN WHISKERS which caused shorts in the ETC electronics of a vehicle that was reported to have a SUA incident.
       
      You fail to add from the report “(but) in all cases, releasing the accelerator pedal closes the throttle and the brakes are fully operational”.
       
      You say;
       
      It is very difficult (imposible) (sic) to prove a negative, which is what they are trying to do.
       
      Which is true, but in fault and failure mode analysis one must be able to provide a plausible link between events. For example, you can’t prove that a hole in the gas tank causes the CD player to stop working because there is no way to construct a plausible explanation.
       
      You say;
       
      Instead they had to model the code that they saw in written form in a controlled (by Toyota) environment.
       
      You realise that devices like an ECM are not general purpose microprocessors that accept code from Microsoft Visual Studio or Xcode? You realise that devices like an ECM once finalised to manufacture don’t have halt/stop modes for debugging and/or an output port to monitor states/variables? The testing methods applied are perfectly typical of hardware/software design and engineering.
       
      Lastly, you say;
       
      In fact it appears they tested a 2007 version, not the earlier versions where most of the SUA events alledgedly occured.
       
      In fact they tested 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2007 to varying degrees because plausible failure modes could not be found.
       
      The bulk of the report is not terribly interesting for non-process control engineers, but the Findings are easy to read and very clear.

  • avatar
    NormSV650

    CTS was contracted to build a pedal to Toyota’s specifications like they do for Honda and Nissan. Then the peda problems came and CTS made another pedal to Toyota specs. Bottom line is they never tested in the real world for things like corrosion.

  • avatar
    Sandy A

    @ PeteMoran

    <<I think your post is bordering on dishonesty.>>

    I don’t think so. All the headlines, including those on this forum, state that NASA cleared the electronics, when that is not what the full report states. Unlike the NASA engineers, LaHood stated unconditionally that the electronics were not to blame. That IS dishonest. The fact is that NASA did find faults, but they couldn’t duplicate a SUA condition. There is a statement on p. 20 of the full report that clearly indicates that NASA still believes that an electronic-based SUA condition could exist, but that they simply couldn’t find it.

    I didn’t intentionally leave anything out of my post. I thought it was already too long. While you responded point-by-point to my post, you also left out details that support the position that I was advocating. For example, they did verify that there was a condition that could result in a SUA. However, it requires two faults to occur. While that alone would be sufficient for most to discount it, which is what Toyota wants us to do, those two faults do not have to occur simultaneously. In fact they could occur years apart and the ETC wouldn’t report a problem. The tin whiskers they found could result in triggering one of those faults, possibly both. Even the report states that 10-months was not enough time to do all the testing they would have like to have conducted.

    Some on this forum claim that I am advocating that vehicles be 100% safe. That is not at all what I care about. I do care that the manufacturers be honest that they really can’t say with certainty that their systems are 100% safe. That IS dishonest. That is why I have been playing devils advocate. I can not respect anyone or any company that would make such a statement as Toyota has (and now LaHood). At least the non-political part of the report is honest, (not the executive summary (“the findinds” as you put it), which is written for politicians).

    Call me a geek, but I actually found the report to be very interesting. I actually intend to read it much more carefully in the next couple of weeks, including the Appendicies.

    <<The testing methods applied are perfectly typical of hardware/software design and engineering.>>

    Testing code without the actual hardware in the loop is foolish, especially for life-critical systems. Without hardware in the loop testing is only as good as your model of the hardware and your understanding of the logic flow. If your model isn’t accurate, then garbage in, garbage out. NASA was not truly given full access to the code. If they had, they would have been able to take the code back to their own lab and would have tested it with actual hardware in a controlled environment.

  • avatar
    PeteMoran

    @ Sandy A
     
    Testing code without the actual hardware in the loop is foolish, especially for life-critical systems.
     
    Firstly, you’re probably thinking that the ECU hardware as delivered into vehicles is capable of being ‘debugged’. Again, these are not general purpose computers running your favourite flavour of Basic, Pascal, Logo, Fortran, C++. (I believe Toyota actually use some ADA-like software which is why NASA probably were an excellent fit).
     
    Secondly, you’re possibly not familiar with the way such systems are developed; usually you have a ‘rig’ and simulator that works up both the process control logic and hardware before commitment to manufacture. Part of the function of the test-bed is to supply out-of-range inputs to the controllers/logic. Early manufacture components might have the debug/hook-up parts, but they are not retained.
     
    All sorts of complex control systems are developed in this way including Airbus and Boeing (as examples).

    • 0 avatar
      Sandy A

      I know very well how these systems are developed as I direct and manage multiple embedded systems programs, including the development of autonomous ground and air vehicles. [In fact, I have two contracts with NASA.] While our systems do not include humans, we also have to be concerned about retaining control over the vehicles and ensuring that they are not a safety risk. From my point-of-view there is absolutely no excuse for not giving NASA engineers the ability the excersize the code in a hardware-in-the-loop test setup, regardless of whether it is C++, ADA, Verilog, VHDL, or whatever. Everyone of them can be tested with HWIL. I’m not talking about testing an ASIC here. I’m talking about testing the code that was used to generate an ASIC (or the equivalent).

      You are free to interpret the full report as you wish. As someone involved in similar development, I see a lot of holes that were left unexplored (probably due to time and money constraints). To be honest, I did not expect the discovery of tin whiskers. I was shocked when I read that they had. I was equally shocked that they minimized the potential problem as they did. The fact that the system was working properly at the time of testing is actually not surprising. Some whiskers are delicate and can fall off. A serious short could have occured and then closed later due to any number of reasons.

      As I have said before. I don’t expect 100% safe vehicles. But I do expect the manufacturers to be honest about it. BTW: I own two Toyota’s, one manual and another electronic. Neither belong to the class of Toyota’s that had inexplicable statistics (before all the publicity). I will most likely be going elsewhere for my next vehicle simply because I found Toyota’s response to the possibility of an electronic failure completely dishonest (from an engineers perspective). They actually put up engineers in front of cameras to say that with 100% certainty that the problem was not electronic. Right… I would fire such an engineer.

      Even NASA has been known to screw up and estimates that for every 10,000 lines of (verified) code there is one undiscovered bug that can be life threatenning. That implies that there are potentially 28 errors in the 280,000 lines of code that can pop up at any time… Knowing that, I would still purchase a drive-by-wire vehicle because of all the other benefits.


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