Questions Arise Over Toyota Black Box Study

Edward Niedermeyer
by Edward Niedermeyer

Carquestions noticed a troubling issue with the latest Wall Street Journal report on the investigation of Toyota’s black-box data: the report cites its anonymous source as saying that “black box” event data recorders (EDRs) can lose their data if disconnected from the battery. Carquestions points out that this is not the case, cites the appropriate regulations and concludes that it sounds like this source doesn’t know what he or she is talking about. Meanwhile, Jalopnik is running with the story that Toyota planted the story… but then, why would Toyota imply that its own black boxes don’t meet regulatory standards? Especially when Toyota’s official comment is that it has yet to draw any conclusions from the investigation. For a story with such a logical conclusion (yes, most people are bad drivers) this is all getting a bit complicated.

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  • Windswords Windswords on Jul 15, 2010

    From Autoblog, which has some pretty good coverage of this: UPDATE: A NHTSA spokesperson has confirmed that the agency hasn't released any information to the WSJ, but declined to comment if Toyota has gained advanced access to the agency's findings. UPDATE 2: A report by the Detroit Free Press quotes NHTSA Administrator David Strickland as saying that the agency has "several more months of work" to complete before it can definitively come to a conclusion on the cause of unintended acceleration. UPDATE 3: We've asked Toyota's National Manager for Environmental, Quality, and Safety Communications, John Hanson, if NHTSA has been supplying information to Toyota on its investigation. His response: "It's been a one-way valve [to NHTSA]. We've been supplying information and sending it to NHTSA. We are not aware of any study. We are not aware of any report. We've been compiling our own field reports on unintended acceleration and as we investigate them, we send them to NHTSA. The WSJ report was news to us." ============ Enough of this! My head is starting to hurt! Seriously, *IF* the planting of the story is true (see, I don't jump to conclusions - it must be electronic gremlins! No, it's stupid old drivers!) then it only makes Toyota look guilty to be over-zealously pushing a favorable news story before it's officially released, and raises further questions their integrity. Well I don't know which it is, but this latest news is not good for Toyota.

  • Mikey Mikey on Jul 15, 2010

    Oh what a tangled web we weave.

  • Picard234 Picard234 on Jul 15, 2010

    I work on instrument clusters, which do not serve as the "black box" we're thinking of. We are required to store the trip odometer - yes, the one you reset with the push of a button - in Non-Volatile Memory (NVM). Meaning, if you disconnect your battery, the cluster will "remember" your trip odometer. If you disconnect your battery, I won't speak for every car maker, but most of your radios will lose their presets and you will have to reprogram them. Now if something as silly as your trip odo is required to be stored in NVM, wouldn't your "black box" data? The WSJ report that your "black box" would lose its data upon battery disconnect is simply ridiculous.

    • See 1 previous
    • Tced2 Tced2 on Jul 16, 2010

      There is an issue of the life cycle of the non volatile memory - it will only work for a number of cycles. For a black box recording values - the memory could be storing for a number of cycles exceeding its life (think of how many changes of speed, brake application, throttle application occur during the lifetime of an automobile). This problem can be solved but it is an issue that has to be dealt with in the design. Some devices (radios) can retain their settings by using capacitors to supply power for periods of time to volatile memory when the primary power source is disconnected.

  • Vamaja123 Vamaja123 on Jul 21, 2010

    My name is Diana and I would like to share my story. On June 30th 2010 I had a very scary thing happen to me. The accelerator on my van was stuck. No matter how hard I tried, the van wouldn't stop, until it plowed into our garage and house. I have contacted Toyota and they have informed me that there is no recall on any of the 2007 Toyota Siennas. This really upsets me to think that there are many families that are driving these vehicles whose very life could be in great danger. This problem came on suddenly and without any warning. Please review my story so that no other family has to go through this terrible trauma. I do have pictures of the damage and the vehicle is still crammed into the house and garage. Please contact me if you have any questions or would like to come out and take a look at all the damage the van did to our house. I am not looking for any publicity for myself or my family. I just want other family’s to be aware of the situation.