It Turns Out Toyotas Aren't Auto-Accelerating Death Machines, After All

Remember last spring, when the nation was seized by the fear that every late-model Toyota was on the verge of surging forward on an uncontrollable terror-drive? Well, NASA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration looked into it, and it turns out people were probably just accidentally pressing the gas instead of the brake. Sorry!

The going theory last year among dubious hype-chasers like ABC News' Brian Ross was that Toyota's electronic throttle control system was somehow out of whack, causing random cars to accelerate without warning. Why else would sketchy bankrupt swingers drive their Priuses erratically on the highway and then bask in all the publicity?

Well the NHTSA enlisted NASA to get to the bottom of it, and it turns out there's no there there:

NASA engineers found no electronic flaws in Toyota vehicles capable of producing the large throttle openings required to create dangerous high-speed unintended acceleration incidents.

Huh. So what could account for all those Toyota death rides we were hearing about? Well there were the floormats that were trapping the accelerator down, and some sticky accelerator pedals. But the mats were recalled in 2007, and sticky gas pedals wouldn't account for the jumps in acceleration that people were reporting. So what was it?


NHTSA's analysis indicated that these types of complaints generally do not appear to involve vehicle-based causes and that, where the complainant indicated that brakes were ineffective...the most likely cause of the acceleration was actually pedal misapplication (i.e., the driver's unintended application of the accelerator rather than, or in addition to, the brake).

As is the case with most panics, this one was caused by idiots.

[Photo via Shutterstock]