Toyota's Off the Hook: Unintended Acceleration Saga Ends

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky
toyotas off the hook unintended acceleration saga ends

On Thursday, a U.S. judge dismissed the criminal charges against Toyota Motor Corp after the automaker completed a mandated three years of probationary monitoring. As part of its $1.2 billion settlement, where it admitted to intentionally misleading the public over dangerous unintended acceleration and building vehicles with faulty parts, Toyota was assigned former U.S. attorney David Kelley as an independent safety monitor.

“It is a long road ahead,” he said upon his appointment in 2014. “If you look at the deferred prosecution agreement there is a lot of ground to cover.”

The agreement gave Kelley sweeping powers to hire staff and review all of Toyota’s policies and operating procedures for communicating safety issues internally and to regulators. Kelley and his staff were required to be payed standard consulting fees and rates by Toyota, but this will be their last week on the job.

Adhering to the settlement terms, the Justice Department agreed to move for dismissal of any further criminal charges. U.S. District Judge William Pauley in New York concurred with the motion and ruled to close the case entirely.

Toyota spokesman Scott Vazin told Reuters the company was pleased the court accepted the recommendation. “Over the past three years, we have worked hard in the spirit of continuous improvement to make Toyota a stronger company that serves its customers better,” he said.

While not all civil claims have been settled, Toyota spent an estimated additional $1.63 billion in lawsuits related to the case. It also invested in itself to make significant changes to its safety practices and policies following a recall crisis so vast that it was temporarily forced to suspend sales of half its fleet in 2010.

“Regrettably, the payment of a $1.2 billion fine and the appointment of a monitor appear to have concluded the government’s investigation into this tragic episode,” Judge Pauley said on Thursday.

[Image: Toyota]

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  • Ce he sin Ce he sin on Oct 06, 2017

    Wasn't one of the odd things about this sorry saga that even if the throttle is fully open the brakes are still powerful enough to bring the car to a halt without too much difficulty - which would suggest that pressing the wrong pedal is the most likely explanation?

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    • NormSV650 NormSV650 on Oct 09, 2017

      rudiger, Toyota memo brags about limited floor mat recall savings.

  • Stuart Stuart on Oct 09, 2017

    While I'm not a Toyota fanboi, I was very sympathetic to Toyota at be beginning of this fiasco. Yes, there were floormat problems. Yes, the cars could've been stopped by holding down the start button, or standing on (not pumping) the brakes. But I personally thought that the lawsuits were bogus, just like the lawsuits filed against Audi. However. In one privately-funded lawsuit against Toyota, some embedded-software experts studied Toyota's software for 18 months. They documented that Toyota's software was un-maintainable "spaghetti code", and that Toyota did not use a source-control system. And they identified a critical task they called "Task X" in court testimony. According to their analysis, if Task X died, the car would accelerate with no input from the accelerator pedal. The prosecution installed an ICE (In-Circuit Emulator) in two of the afflicted Toyotas, set the cars running on a dynamometer, and used the ICE to clobber some global variable with a bad value. Task X died as a result. With the car running almost 70MPH on the dyno, they pressed Resume on the cruise control, and, with Task X dead, the car accelerated beyond 90MPH with no accelerator. In this scenario, the brake pedal would still disengage the cruise control, and they did so, as 90+MPH on a dyno sounds pretty scary to me. But they proved their points: a) Task X could be killed with some trivial memory corruption, and b) when Task X died, the car would likely accelerate with no driver input. After the above loss, Toyota settled all the remaining unintended-acceleration cases:

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  • Zerog Isn't this the car that the self anointed AutoExtremist said would finally shut down Tesla AND the Prius?Just like his father - that Detroit bubble does him no good
  • Zerog When will the media admit that Mary Barra has simply been a disaster of a CEO, and "Dan the Man" Akerson is to blame?
  • Tassos When the Volt was on sale, it cost twice as much as the (better looking!) Chevy Cruze on which it was based. The interior of the Volt did not match that lofty price either. I like plug-in vehicles with a good Electric only range and no range anxiety. People with a 40 mile commute each way, if they were allowed to free charge at the office especially, could save some $ with the Volt, but not as much as to justify its lofty price.The 2nd gen VOlt was less nerdy looking than the 1st, but also even more similar to the new Cruze and indeed the Civic, which cost almost HALF. Then the geniuses at GM made a 2-door Caddy out of the Volt, the ELR, which was much smaller inside than the already cramped Volt, and... asked for... 4 times the price of the CRUZE. Don't remember the failed Caddy Cimarron? Neither did those morons.So a good idea in principle was screwed beyond recognition. GM Bled billions despite the lofty price, sold a bunch of VOlts, and finally had to cry "UNCLE". The end.I am not at all attracted by the VOlt's lousy interior. Its gas only MPG is also lousy compared to the ICE competition. A prius was 50% cheaper and far more sophisticated mechanically and got a stellar 50 MPG overall, and could be had in plugin with 10-20 mile range (the current one will double that again).
  • Buickman GM marketing killed many a car.