Noriko Uno was killed in 2009 when her 2006 Toyota Camry sudenly accelerated to 100 MPH, resulting in her leaving the roadway and hitting a telephone pole and a tree in the median. Today, jury selection begins in a California lawsuit filed by her survivors.
The lack of a brake-override system on her Camry, a device that Toyota has since implemented, is expected to be a major issue raised by the plaintiffs. Brake-override systems deactivate the throttle when the brake pedal is pressed. While it is not clear if any car sold today has brakes that cannot stop the car even when the engine is at full throttle, car companies, government safety agencies and consumers have embraced brake-overrides to prevent unintended acceleration, or at least make consumers feel safer. The Uno is considered to be a bellwether as it is the first unintended acceleration case filed against Toyota to go to trial. A previous case, involving two fatalities in a 2008 Camry was settled out of court. Last week, Toyota agreed to a billion dollar settlement over economic losses to owners of Toyota cars, losses supposedly caused by the recalls Toyota initiated to address the unintended acceleration issue.