Home Page About Us Contribute




Escort, Inc.

Tweets by @CrittendenAuto










By accessing/using The Crittenden Automotive Library/CarsAndRacingStuff.com, you signify your agreement with the Terms of Use on our Legal Information page. Our Privacy Policy is also available there.

Denial of Motor Vehicle Defect Petition

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

American Government Topics:  Toyota Corolla

Denial of Motor Vehicle Defect Petition

Frank S. Borris, II
General Services Administration
May 14, 2015


[Federal Register Volume 80, Number 93 (Thursday, May 14, 2015)]
[Notices]
[Pages 27835-27844]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2015-11632]



[[Page 27835]]

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration


Denial of Motor Vehicle Defect Petition

AGENCY: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, (NHTSA), 
Department of Transportation.

ACTION: Denial of a petition for a defect investigation.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

SUMMARY: This notice sets forth the reasons for denying a petition 
(DP14-003) submitted to NHTSA 49 U.S.C. 30162, 49 CFR part 552, 
requesting that the agency open ``an investigation into low-speed 
surging in the 2006-2010 Toyota Corolla [vehicles] with ETCS-i, in 
which the brakes fail to stop the vehicle in time to prevent a crash.''

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Mr. Stephen McHenry, Vehicle Control 
Division, Office of Defects Investigation, NHTSA, 1200 New Jersey 
Avenue SE., Washington, DC 20590. Telephone 202-366-4883. Email 
stephen.mchenry@dot.gov.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: 

1.0 Introduction

    Interested persons may petition NHTSA requesting that the agency 
initiate an investigation to determine whether a motor vehicle or item 
of replacement equipment does not comply with an applicable motor 
vehicle safety standard or contains a defect that relates to motor 
vehicle safety. 49 U.S.C. 30162(a)(2); 49 CFR 552.1. Upon receipt of a 
properly filed petition the agency conducts a technical review of the 
petition, material submitted with the petition, and any additional 
information. 49 U.S.C. 30162(c); 49 CFR 552.6. After considering the 
technical review and taking into account appropriate factors, which may 
include, among others, allocation of agency resources, agency 
priorities, and the likelihood of success in litigation that might 
arise from a determination of a noncompliance or a defect related to 
motor vehicle safety, the agency will grant or deny the petition. 49 
U.S.C. 30162(d); 49 CFR 552.8.

2.0 Petition Background Information

    In a letter dated September 11, 2014, Mr. Robert Ruginis requested 
that NHTSA open ``an investigation into low-speed surging in the 2006-
2010 Toyota Corolla [vehicles] with ETCS-i, in which the brakes fail to 
stop the vehicle in time to prevent a crash.'' Mr. Ruginis based his 
request upon multiple low-speed ``surge events'' allegedly experienced 
by his wife in their model year (MY) 2010 Toyota Corolla, the latest of 
which resulting in a crash into a parked vehicle on June 8, 2014. Mr. 
Ruginis makes the following claims in support of his petition: (1) The 
Event Data Recorder (EDR) readout of his wife's crash supports her 
account of vehicle acceleration after she applied the brake; (2) NHTSA 
has never investigated surges in low-speed crashes in Toyota vehicles; 
(3) a software expert has identified vulnerabilities in Toyota's ETCS-i 
source code; (4) there are other similar incidents of ``surge at low 
speed or no speed'' in Toyota Corolla vehicles in NHTSA's consumer 
complaint database; and (5) surges in low-speed parking scenarios are a 
safety problem.
    NHTSA has reviewed the material cited by the petitioner. The 
results of this review and our analysis of the petition's merits are 
set forth in the DP14-003 Petition Analysis Report, published in its 
entirety as an appendix to this notice.
    For the reasons presented in the petition analysis report after a 
thorough assessment of the potential risks to safety, it is unlikely 
that an order concerning the notification and remedy of a safety-
related defect would be issued as a result of granting Mr. Ruginis's 
petition. After full consideration of the potential for finding a 
safety related defect in the vehicle and in view of the need to 
allocate and prioritize NHTSA's limited resources to best accomplish 
the agency's mission, the petition is respectfully denied.

Appendix--Petition Analysis--DP14-003

1.0 Introduction

    On September 12, 2014, the National Highway Traffic Safety 
Administration (NHTSA) received a September 11, 2014, letter from Mr. 
Robert Ruginis petitioning the agency ``for an investigation into low-
speed surging in the 2006-2010 Toyota Corolla [vehicles] with ETCS-i, 
in which the brakes fail to stop the vehicle in time to prevent a 
crash.'' The letter provides the following basis for the request:

    This request is based on first-hand experience in which multiple 
low-speed surge events that occurred while driving our 2010 Corolla. 
The latest incident resulted in a crash on June 8, 2014. In addition 
to the evidence from our crash incident, we are providing evidence 
that many other Corolla owners are experiencing similarly unsafe 
scenarios that are leading to crashes.

    The petition letter provides information regarding the June 8, 
2014, crash incident, including the petitioner's interpretation of pre-
crash data downloaded from the vehicle Event Data Recorder (EDR) by 
Toyota field inspectors:

    The EDR investigation report clearly showed that at the moment 
the airbag module made the decision whether to deploy (about the 
time of impact), the voltage to the accelerator pedal was .78 (at 
idle), the brake was engaged, yet both the speed of the vehicle and 
engine RPM's had doubled in less than 2 seconds.

    Mr. Ruginis provided copies of the police report for the accident, 
the EDR report, and a list of ODI complaints (VOQs) that he considered 
similar to his wife's experience in the crash and in prior driving 
experience. He provided the following five reasons supporting an ODI 
investigation of the alleged defect in the MY 2006 through 2010 Toyota 
Corolla vehicles:
    1. The EDR results suggest that unsafe and unexpected surges can 
occur even when the driver's action is to apply the brake;
    2. NHTSA has never investigated surges in low-speed crashes in 
Toyotas;
    3. The observations of software expert Michael Barr suggest that 
Toyota's electronic architecture has many vulnerabilities;
    4. Unintended surges in low-speed parking scenarios are common; and
    5. Surges in low-speed parking scenarios are a safety problem.
    In evaluating the petitioner's allegations and preparing a 
response, ODI:
     Reviewed the petition request and submitted appendices, 
interviewed the petitioner and his wife--who was the primary driver and 
who was driving when the crash occurred.
     Provided the 163 VOQs submitted by the petitioner to 
Toyota, formally requested Toyota to provide full warranty claim 
histories for throttle and braking systems on the subject vehicles, as 
well as copies of all reports made to Toyota by the complainants or by 
dealership or Toyota technical personnel related to the complaints, 
field inspection data, and all related EDR download data obtained by 
Toyota collected from vehicles identified in incidents reported in the 
subject vehicle VOQs.
     Requested technical and engineering information from 
Toyota related to the alleged defect as submitted by the petitioner.
     Analyzed the information provided by Toyota in response to 
our specific requests for information.
     Reviewed previous analysis and investigative work into 
unintended acceleration done by NHTSA, the National Aeronautics and 
Space

[[Page 27836]]

Administration, and the National Academy of Sciences as well as papers 
from the Society of Automotive Engineers related to EDR download data 
interpretation and limitations.
     Interviewed complainants who had submitted the 163 VOQs 
noted by the petitioner. Gathered, when possible, law enforcement crash 
reports, insurance reports, repair facility invoices, photographs of 
crash sites, security camera surveillance video, and any other relevant 
information related to the reported incidents.
     Acquired the petitioner's vehicle and transported it to 
the Vehicle Research Test Center (VRTC) in East Liberty, Ohio, for 
evaluation.

2.0 Background

2.1 Definitions

    The term ``unintended acceleration'' (UA) is often used to 
generally describe any unintended speed increase in a motor vehicle. 
This is an extremely broad definition that includes some aspects of 
normal vehicle performance (e.g., idle speed control and transmission 
control), as well as many forms of abnormal performance of those 
systems that represent little to no hazards to highway safety (i.e., 
issues generally described as ``driveability'' issues).\1\ Within the 
universe of unintended acceleration issues that do involve potentially 
serious safety hazards, ``sudden acceleration'' (SA) incidents are the 
most common and are defined as allegations of ``unintended, unexpected, 
high-power acceleration from a stationary position or a very low 
initial speed accompanied by an apparent loss of braking 
effectiveness.'' \2\ This definition was developed in the 1980's, when 
ODI first began investigating the subject in a large cross-section of 
passenger car makes and models sold in the U.S., including Audi 5000 
sedans.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \1\ ODI's analysis of warranty data for MY 2002-2010 Toyota 
Camry vehicles submitted by Toyota as part of RQ10-003, determined 
that approximately 80 percent of the claims were related to engine 
or transmission recalibrations to address a number of vehicle 
driveability concerns (e.g., improving shift feel) as described in a 
series of technical service bulletins, each related to separate 
conditions and vehicle subpopulations. Claim rates were negligible 
(less than 0.03%) in vehicles with no such TSB's (e.g., MY 2002-2006 
Camry L4 with 2AZ-FE engines).
    \2\ The definition has been broadened in recent years to include 
incidents occurring in certain on-road driving maneuvers that 
require braking, such as approaching controlled intersections or 
highway exit ramps, but the majority of incidents continue to be 
reported in low-speed parking maneuvers.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    The foregoing definition purposefully excludes ``stuck throttle'' 
type incident symptoms, which involve failure of the throttle to return 
to idle when the accelerator pedal is released by the driver. Stuck 
throttle defects generally follow patterns including relatively high 
initiation speeds, large accelerator pedal applications and other 
driving conditions specific to each defect condition. For example, 
floor mat entrapments tend to occur after the driver has intentionally 
pressed the accelerator pedal to the floor to pass vehicles on the 
highway, merge with highway traffic or accelerate up hills. Unintended 
accelerations resulting from pedal entrapment involve maximum engine 
power and often include degraded brake effectiveness if the driver 
pumps out the reserve vacuum in the brake booster, resulting in loss of 
power assist to the brakes. If the driver is unable to bring the 
vehicle to a complete stop within the first couple of miles, the brakes 
will continue to lose effectiveness due to brake fade or heat 
degradation of the friction materials.

2.2 Sudden Acceleration Background

    ODI's first investigation of sudden acceleration, EA78-110, opened 
almost 40 years ago, covered approximately 60 million MY 1973 through 
1986 General Motors passenger cars. That investigation established that 
sustained, unintended, ``high-power acceleration'' could only be caused 
by failure mechanisms that produced large throttle openings. This 
finding reduced the potential failure modes to defects affecting 
throttle linkages and cruise control components. Ninety percent of the 
accident vehicles in EA78-110 were not equipped with cruise control, 
thus eliminating the only potential electronic mechanism capable of 
opening the throttle in that investigation.\3\ The investigation was 
closed in 1986 after eight years of testing and studies, concluding 
that:
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \3\ Reinhart, W. 1996. Engineering Analysis Closing Report, 
EA78-110. Washington, DC: NHTSA, (11).

    Inadvertent and unknowing driver application of the accelerator 
pedal when the driver intended to apply the brake [``pedal 
misapplication''] appears to be the cause of many of the reported 
sudden acceleration related accidents, even though many of the 
drivers continue to believe that they had been pushing on the brake 
pedal.\4\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \4\ Reinhart, W. 1996. Engineering Analysis Closing Report, 
EA78-110. Washington, DC: NHTSA, (18).

    In October 1987, a little over a year after EA78-110 was closed; 
NHTSA's Administrator ordered an independent review of SA (the 
``Study''). While the phenomena affected all automatic transmission-
equipped cars sold in the U.S., some had notably higher occurrence 
rates, raising questions about vehicle design factors that may be 
contributing to the problem. The Study re-examined potential causes of 
SA, as well as design factors that may contribute to higher rates of 
pedal misapplication. The results of the Study were released in March 
1989, in a report titled ``An Examination of Sudden Acceleration.'' \5\ 
With respect to the cause of SA incidents, the Study concluded that, 
absent evidence of a throttle, cruise control or brake malfunction, 
``the inescapable conclusion is that these definitely involve the 
driver inadvertently pressing the accelerator instead of, or in 
addition to, the brake pedal.''
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \5\ Pollard, J., and E.D. Sussman. 1989. An Examination of 
Sudden Acceleration. Report DOT-HS-807-367. Transportation Systems 
Center, U.S. Department of Transportation.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Because the majority of incidents were associated with 
accelerations that began after the vehicle was started and shifted from 
Park to Drive or Reverse gear, the most effective countermeasure for 
pedal error related SA incidents was the incorporation of brake-shift 
interlocks to prevent shifting from Park when the brake pedal is not 
depressed. Shift interlocks were voluntarily implemented by most 
manufacturers in the late-1980's and early-1990's and early studies 
showed reductions in the number of SA complaints during this time 
period, with the trend driven by the drop in events occurring 
immediately after shift from Park.\6\ Brake shift interlocks have no 
effect on mitigating pedal errors later in the drive cycle (e.g., 
parking).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \6\ Reinhart, W. 1994. The Effect of Countermeasures to Reduce 
the Incidence of Unintended Acceleration Accidents. Paper 94 S5 O 
07. Proc., 14th International Technical Conference on Enhanced 
Safety of Vehicles, Washington, DC, Vol. 1, (821-845).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

2.3 Toyota Investigations and NHTSA/NASA Study

    From 2003 through 2009, ODI examined unintended acceleration issues 
in Toyota vehicles equipped with ETCS-i in 3 defect investigations and 
5 defect petition evaluations. These activities prompted 4 safety 
recalls addressing floor mat entrapment, a ``sticky pedal'' condition, 
and an accelerator pedal interference condition. Publicity surrounding 
a fatal crash in August 2009, that was determined to have been caused 
by floor mat entrapment, the ensuing floor mat recall by Toyota and the 
``sticky pedal'' recall led to intense media coverage of Toyota 
unintended acceleration issues and possible electronic defects.
    Much of the interest focused on low-speed SA incidents in Toyotas 
not included in the floor mat recalls or in recalled vehicles that had 
clearly not

[[Page 27837]]

experienced either mat entrapment or ``sticking accelerator pedals.'' 
NHTSA responded by conducting an in-depth examination of Toyota's 
electronic throttle control systems in partnership with NASA's 
Engineering and Safety Center. NHTSA and NASA released reports 
detailing the results of this study in early 2011, concluding that 
incidents alleging low-speed surges during brake application were most 
likely related to driver pedal misapplication and were not associated 
with an electronic or software defect in Toyota's ETCS-i system.

2.4 National Research Council Special Report 308

    In 2012, the National Academy of Sciences released a report that 
included a review of NHTSA's defects investigations of low-speed 
surging in Toyota vehicles and the results of the joint study with 
NASA. The report, titled ``The Safety Promise and Challenge of 
Automotive Electronics, Insights from Unintended Acceleration,'' 
concluded that NHTSA's decision to close its investigations of Toyota's 
ETC were justified based on the initial investigations, complaint 
analyses, field investigations using EDR data and NASA's examination of 
the Toyota ETC. With regard to allegations of low-speed surging with 
ineffective brakes, the report stated:

    Reports of braking ineffectiveness in controlling a vehicle 
experiencing the onset of unintended acceleration from a stopped 
position or when moving slowly require an explanation for the 
ineffectiveness, such as physical evidence of damage to the brake 
system. Under these circumstances, investigating for phenomena other 
than pedal misapplication absent an explanation for the 
ineffectiveness of the brakes, which are independent of the throttle 
control system and are designed to dominate engine torque, is not 
likely to be useful.\7\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \7\ NRC. 2011. TRB Special Report 308: The Safety Challenge and 
Promise of Automotive Electronics: Insights from Unintended 
Acceleration. Washington, DC: National Academies Press, (164).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

3.0 Petition Analysis
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TN14MY15.008

3.1 Petitioner's Vehicle

3.1.1 Petitioner's Accident
    The petition was prompted by a collision with a parked vehicle 
during an attempted curbside parking maneuver in a residential 
neighborhood on June 8, 2014. In the police report, the driver states 
that she stopped at an intersection with the intention of turning right 
and parking along the curb behind a parked vehicle.
Figure 1. Pre-Crash Data for Petitioner's Accident (Image From Bosch 
CDR Report)
    During a subsequent vehicle inspection on June 24, 2014, Toyota 
downloaded data from the vehicle EDR (Figure 1).
3.1.2 EDR Data Analysis
    Although the EDR data shown in Figure 1 appears to show that engine 
speed doubled on or about the same time that the brake switch shows 
brake pedal application, examination of this data as well as the ways 
in which the EDR collects, transmits and records it, does not support 
the petitioner's conclusion that the vehicle accelerated when the brake 
was applied. Interpretation of EDR pre-crash data should be done within 
the context of the incident reconstruction, including a detailed 
statement from the driver, and must take into account the limitations 
of the system as documented on the Bosch Crash Data Retrieval (CDR) 
report. The limitations include the resolution of each data element, 
the asynchronous refresh rates of the data elements, and the rate at 
which the EDR samples and records the data. Toyota provided the 
following EDR design information for the 2010 Corolla in response to a 
formal request by ODI:

    The Vehicle Speed is based on the front wheel speed sensors and 
recorded in 2 kph increments and nominally updated every 500 ms. The 
Brake Switch, based on the stop lamp switch status, is either ON or 
OFF, and is updated instantly. The service brake pedal must be 
depressed minimally for the stop lamp to activate. The accelerator 
pedal position is recorded in 0.039 volt increments, and the value 
is nominally updated every 524 ms. This measurement is taken 
directly at the operator's accelerator pedal. The Engine RPM is 
measured in 400 RPM increments and is nominally updated every 524 
ms.\8\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \8\ As indicated in the Bosch CDR report, the Vehicle Speed and 
Engine RPM values are both rounded down in the given increments.

    ODI interviewed the driver to obtain her description of the 
incident. She indicated that her normal braking style when parking is 
to apply light, gradual pressure to the brake pedal, rather than a 
sudden, hard stop. She indicated that as she applied the brakes during 
the incident, the car responded by accelerating. She stated that it did 
not slow down, and it continued to increase in speed until it hit the 
back of the parked vehicle. The petitioner provided a similar 
description in a call to Toyota's customer relations department three 
days after the incident, alleging simultaneous failures of both the 
engine/accelerator and brakes that resulted in full throttle 
acceleration into a parked vehicle.
    The EDR data for the petitioner's incident shows no recorded 
service brake application until the airbag module trigger point (t = 
0s).\9\ This indicates that the brake switch was ON immediately after 
impact, but does not indicate the degree or duration of brake 
application. The fact that the EDR showed a nominal 3.8 mph increase in 
vehicle speed in the last 1.8 seconds of recording, and subsequent 
vehicle testing found the brakes to be fully functional, indicates that 
no meaningful braking occurred prior to impact. Based on the vehicle 
speeds recorded just prior to impact (t = -0.8 s), the Corolla was less 
than a car length from the parked vehicle and traveling 7 to 9 feet per 
second with no indication of service brake application. Based on the 
vehicle

[[Page 27838]]

speed and the driver's stated braking habits, initiation of braking 
would be expected when the vehicle is about a full car length or more 
from the intended stopping point. Based upon all of these factors, ODI 
does not believe that the brake switch data recorded by the EDR is 
consistent with the petitioner's statement that the vehicle accelerated 
with the brake applied and vehicle testing demonstrated that 
acceleration would not occur if the brake pedal had been applied with 
any meaningful force.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \9\ Airbag deployment software is triggered within 1ms of the 
airbag module sensing a longitudinal deceleration of about 2 g's 
(``algorithm enable''). The time interval between impact and airbag 
algorithm enable is very short, with the precise time depending upon 
specific crash dynamics.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    In addition, although the EDR does not show any increase in 
accelerator pedal voltage in the final 2.8 seconds prior to impact, 
this does not mean that the accelerator pedal was not depressed during 
that time period. According to Toyota, ``The increase in the vehicle 
speed and engine speed prior to impact is consistent with an 
accelerator pedal being depressed between the recorded data points but 
not recorded by the EDR.'' VRTC testing confirmed that a short and 
rapid application of the accelerator could: (1) Fail to be recorded by 
the EDR based on the asynchronous update rates of the CAN bus signals 
and the relatively slow sampling rate used by the EDR; and (2) produce 
the engine and vehicle speed changes recorded by the EDR at t = 0.0 s.
3.1.3 VRTC Vehicle Evaluation/Testing
    Following detailed instructions provided by the petitioner 
regarding the conditions of the surging during the parking maneuvers, 
VRTC performed over 2,000 miles of test driving while evaluating the 
petitioner's accident and the vehicle itself. The testing did not 
produce any unusual performance of the throttle or transmission 
systems. In addition, testing of the incident vehicle brake system 
found that it functioned normally and could hold the vehicle stationary 
with the engine at 2,000 RPM with less than 15 lb of pedal pressure 
applied to the brakes. The brakes could also hold the vehicle 
stationary at full throttle with less than 20 lb of force applied to 
the brake pedal. Testing also showed the vehicle's brakes could bring 
it to a full stop in less than three feet at the speeds provided in the 
petitioner's account of the crash.
    The petitioner also alleged that uncommanded, short-duration 
throttle surges occurred in the Corolla during certain decelerations 
from highway speed. VRTC also conducted testing to try to reproduce 
this phenomenon but did not observe any unusual performance or symptoms 
associated with harsh downshifting or changes in torque converter 
clutch status. Drivers that use light braking during coasting 
decelerations are likely to be more sensitive to certain transmission 
shift transients that are triggered by brake application (e.g., torque 
converter un-lock), that may not be noticed by drivers who use more 
brake pedal force. However, such transients have very brief durations, 
involve minor changes in vehicle deceleration and are normal operating 
characteristics of automatic transmission vehicles that do not 
represent an unreasonable risk to motor vehicle safety. Furthermore, 
ODI does not consider the coast down condition reported by the 
petitioner to be related to the surging alleged in the accident, which 
did not involve transmission shifting.

3.2 NHTSA Investigations of Low-Speed Surges

    The petitioner claims that NHTSA has never investigated low-speed 
surges in Toyota vehicles. This is incorrect. NHTSA has investigated 
complaints alleging low-speed surges in Toyota vehicles equipped with 
ETCS-i for over 10 years, starting with a defect petition (DP03-003) in 
2003. Altogether, ODI completed 5 defect petition evaluations and 1 
investigation (PE04-021) related to allegations of low-speed surging in 
Toyota vehicles equipped with ETCS-i prior to the joint study of the 
issue initiated by NHTSA and NASA in 2010.\10\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \10\ DP03-003, DP04-003, PE04-021, DP05-002, DP06-003 and DP08-
001 all included examination of alleged vehicle accelerations from 
low-speeds.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Low-speed surges were the primary focus of the study by NHTSA and 
NASA in 2010. As clearly stated in the Executive Summary of NHTSA's 
February 2011 report from this study:

    Both [NHTSA and NASA] also noted that the vast majority of 
complaints involved incidents that originated when the vehicle was 
stationary or at very low speeds and contained allegations of very 
wide throttle openings, often with allegations that brakes were not 
effective. NHTSA's analysis indicated that these types of complaints 
generally do not appear to involve vehicle-based causes and that, 
where the complaint included allegations that the brakes were not 
effective or that the incident began with a brake application, 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.)
    The results of NHTSA's field inspections of vehicles involved in 
alleged UA incidents during 2010 supported this analysis. Those 
vehicle inspections, which included objective evidence from event 
data recorders, indicated that drivers were applying the accelerator 
and not applying the brake (or not applying it until the last second 
or so).'' \11\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \11\ NHTSA. 2011. Technical Assessment of Toyota Electronic 
Throttle Control (ETC) Systems. (viii). http://www.nhtsa.gov/PR/DOT-16-11.

    A review of the NHTSA and NASA reports from the Toyota ETCS-i study 
show that the petitioner's incident and the other similar incidents 
presented by the petitioner fall within the scope of the prior work, 
which concluded that allegations of sudden acceleration from a stop or 
low-speed with ineffective brakes are most likely caused by pedal error 
by the driver and not indicative of a vehicle-based defect (unless 
potential faults are identified in pedal design or in shift-interlock 
safeguards--for incidents occurring after a shift from Park).

3.3 Software Theories

    The petition states that ``the observations of software expert 
Michael Barr suggest that Toyota's electronic architecture has many 
vulnerabilities'' and concludes that these observations suggest that 
``floor mats and sticky accelerator pedals are not the only causes of 
unintended low-speed surges in Toyota vehicles.''
    Before responding to the petitioner's statement regarding recent 
software theories, ODI first notes that floor mats and sticky pedals 
have never been considered likely ``causes of unintended low-speed 
surges in Toyota vehicles.'' Incidents of pedal entrapment by improper 
or out-of-position floor mats are a severe form of a stuck throttle 
condition, as they occur after the pedal has intentionally been fully 
depressed to wide-open throttle (WOT) by the driver, generally during 
attempted passing maneuvers, accelerations on highway entrance ramps to 
merge with highway traffic or attempts to maintain speed or accelerate 
up hills. When the driver releases pressure from the accelerator, the 
pedal remains stuck at WOT resulting in an incident of high-speed 
unintended acceleration.
    The ``sticky pedal'' condition was associated with excessive 
friction in the accelerator pedal assembly which could develop after 
the vehicle had been parked overnight in certain environmental 
conditions (e.g., high relative humidity and cool ambient temperature). 
A pedal with excessive friction may be slow to return to idle when 
released by the driver and, in some cases, may stick after being held 
at a constant position for an extended period of time. This would 
typically occur during steady-state highway driving (i.e., pedal held 
at constant position for some period of time)

[[Page 27839]]

following a morning cold-start and the pedal could ordinarily be 
returned to idle simply by tapping the accelerator pedal to free the 
sticking condition. Although ODI is not aware of any crashes or 
injuries resulting from sticking pedals, the condition has been 
mistaken for evidence of electronic UA in at least one instance.\12\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \12\ Testing conducted by Toyota and observed by NHTSA engineers 
reproduced the sticking pedal condition in the pedal assembly 
removed from a MY 2007 Toyota Avalon involved in an incident in 
January 2010 that was reported by some as evidence of electronic UA 
(VOQ 10300210).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    With regard to Mr. Barr, ODI is aware that he and other consultants 
have raised certain software design and electrical architecture issues 
in the course of civil litigation regarding Toyota ETCS-i vehicles. The 
petition does not cite, and ODI is unaware of, any instance where Barr 
or any other consultant postulating that the ETCS-i software is 
defective has reproduced unintended acceleration in a Toyota ETCS-i 
vehicle under real-world driving conditions.
    The petitioner submitted a presentation prepared by Barr regarding 
his analysis of the software in a 2005 Toyota Camry and cites several 
opinions contained in that document, but does not identify any specific 
condition or theory that could result in SA in the subject 
vehicles.\13\ The Barr presentation summarizes his review of Toyota's 
ETCS-i source code and a case review of a defect theory he developed as 
part of a lawsuit relating to a fatal accident in a 2005 Toyota Camry 
with a 4-cylinder engine. Barr's defect theory involved the suspension 
of a specific operating system task that performs multiple throttle 
control and failsafe functions in the Toyota ETCS-i source code (Task X 
death). Task X death would result in the throttle remaining stuck at 
the last computed throttle command, but would be terminated by any 
transition in brake switch status.\14\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \13\ For example, the petitioner cited Barr's opinions that 
``Toyota's ETCS source code is of unreasonable quality'' and 
``Toyota's source code is defective and contains bugs, including 
bugs that can cause unintended acceleration.''
    \14\ Any transition in brake switch status would result in a 
discrepancy between brake status recognized by the Main CPU, which 
would be frozen by the task death, and the Sub-CPU which would 
continue to receive actual brake status voltage from the stop lamp 
switch (``brake echo check''). This would trigger failsafe operation 
with throttle opening limited to less than 10 degrees and set a 
fault code.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    We note that the Corolla vehicles that are the subject of this 
petition are equipped with engine control modules (ECM's) supplied by 
Delphi, while Barr's task death theory applies to Toyota Camry vehicles 
equipped with Denso modules. The Delphi modules contain different 
source code with different task and stack monitoring functionality than 
the Denso modules and, hence, do not contain substantially similar 
software. It is therefore reasonable to conclude that the theories and 
mechanisms advanced by Mr. Barr in regard to the software employed in 
the Denso throttle controls are inapplicable to the petitioner's 
vehicle.
    Nonetheless, since the low-speed surge incidents that are the 
subject of the petition are similar to the SA crash incidents reported 
in other Toyota vehicles, regardless of throttle control technology or 
ECM supplier, ODI offers the following assessment of the Barr task 
death theory submitted by the petitioner:
     No specific defect identified--Barr identifies a number of 
issues with Toyota's ETCS-i software and electrical architecture, 
including several potential failure mechanisms that he speculates could 
result in task death.\15\ However, as stated in his ``Case Specific 
Opinions'' slide [54], he ``cannot identify with 100% certainty the 
specific software defects'' responsible for the UA incident. ODI sees 
no factual basis for assigning any level of probability to his 
theories.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \15\ For example, Barr speculated that memory corruptions 
resulting from stack overflow or unidentified software bugs could 
result in task death and other negative effects.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

     Not reproduced--Barr does not identify any specific 
software states or vehicle operating conditions necessary for any of 
the failure mechanisms to occur and has not reproduced a task death or 
any other software failure resulting in SA in real world driving 
conditions.\16\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \16\ Barr's only testing of Task X death involved a fault 
injection method, performed with Toyota's assistance, to 
artificially induce task deaths to study system and failsafe 
performance. There is no evidence of any scenario in which the 
``brake echo check'' failed to cut power to the throttle after brake 
switch transition during this testing.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

     Untestable--Rather than identifying the specific 
conditions necessary for theoretical software failures to occur, Barr 
and other proponents of the theory have suggested that such failures 
cannot be reproduced because ``the test space is effectively infinite'' 
resulting in ``too many possible tests.'' \17\ This precludes any 
scientific evaluation of the validity of such theories.\18\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \17\ In ODI's investigations of defects involving embedded 
control system faults, either VRTC, the manufacturer, or the 
supplier have been able to: (1) Identify the specific operating 
conditions necessary to produce the fault through field data 
analysis, system review and testing; and (2) reproduce the 
conditions to duplicate the faults in vehicle testing.
    \18\ Theories of electromagnetic interference (EMI) effects on 
ETC or cruise control systems as causes of SA incidents have 
included similar claims regarding testability. No EMI theories have 
ever been duplicated in a vehicle and no specific source or path for 
the interference has been identified.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

     Fault injection did not produce SA--When Task X deaths 
were reproduced by fault injection, they did not result in sudden 
increases in throttle opening or any loss of brake effectiveness. 
Incidents that begin when the brake is not applied result in loss of 
power to the throttle when the brake is applied and incidents that 
begin with the brake already applied would, necessarily, involve low 
severity because the engine would be frozen at idle.\19\ Table 1 
describes throttle and brake responses for each of the initial 
condition pedal state scenarios associated with Task X death. The risk 
of uncontrolled acceleration, crash or injury would be low and 
complaints associated with such incidents would be more likely to cite 
loss of power or stalling than uncontrolled engine power.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \19\ With regard to the potential for more severe failure modes 
associated with Task X death, Barr further speculates that one 
memory corruption event ``can cause task death and open [the] 
throttle'' and that the brake echo check may not always cut power to 
the throttle. He states that ``memory corruptions are like 
ricocheting bullets'' that may result in more severe effects. 
However, these theories have never been demonstrated in any testing 
nor were they observed during fault injection tests conducted to 
observe system performance with artificially induced task death.

                     Table 1--Task X Death Scenarios
------------------------------------------------------------------------
           Initial conditions              Throttle and brake symptoms
------------------------------------------------------------------------
Foot on the accelerator pedal..........   Throttle stuck at last
                                          computed throttle command.
                                          Brake application cuts
                                          power to the throttle.
Foot on the brake pedal................   Throttle is initially
                                          stuck at idle.
                                          Normal braking (brake
                                          release cuts power to the
                                          throttle).
Foot on neither pedal..................   Throttle is initially
                                          stuck at idle.

[[Page 27840]]

 
                                          Brake application cuts
                                          power to the throttle.
------------------------------------------------------------------------

     No evidence in field data--The fault injection testing did 
not reproduce an SA, but it did demonstrate that failures related to 
Task X death would result in a very specific set of symptoms that can 
be used to identify potentially relevant incidents in field data, such 
as: (1) Allegations of unresponsive accelerator pedals that do not 
increase or decrease engine power when the driver presses or releases 
the pedal; (2) allegations of vehicles suddenly losing power when the 
brake is applied; and (3) fault codes associated with ``brake echo 
check'' failsafe operation. ODI's analyses of complaints and warranty 
data have not revealed any sign of these symptoms in any Toyota ETCS-i 
vehicles.
     Not consistent with reported SA--Incidents of sudden 
acceleration also involve very specific symptom patterns, including: 
(1) Primarily occurring in low-speed driving maneuvers in parking lots 
and driveways, as well as other driving maneuvers associated with 
required brake application (see Table 3); (2) reports of sudden 
increases in engine power allegedly initiated by application of the 
brake; and (3) the allegations of brake ineffectiveness in the same 
complaints. None of the software task death theories postulated by Barr 
fit or otherwise explain these patterns. The same patterns and vehicle 
dynamics are evident in the large volume of crashes in which pedal 
misapplication has been identified as the undisputed cause (see section 
3.5, Low-speed surge hazards). ODI has observed these patterns in SA 
complaints in investigations and research covering nearly 40 years and 
involving vehicles with all forms of throttle control, both mechanical 
and electronic.
     Brake effectiveness--None of the electronic theories 
reviewed by ODI explain how pressing on the ``brake'' would result in a 
sudden increase in engine power as alleged in SA complaints, nor do 
they explain why the brakes would suddenly lose effectiveness at the 
same time as the engine power surge.\20\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \20\ Pressing the brake pedal with a nominal force of 40 lbs or 
less would produce sufficient braking torque to overcome full/
maximum drivetrain torque in all vehicles that have been evaluated 
by ODI to date.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

     Different software--As noted above, the Corolla vehicles 
at issue in this petition are equipped with ECM's supplied by Delphi, 
while Barr's task death theory applies to certain Toyota Camry vehicles 
equipped with Denso modules. The Delphi modules contain different 
system monitoring functionality than the Denso modules and, hence, do 
not contain substantially similar software.
     Pedal error not excluded--As Barr indicated in a slide 
titled ``Other Similar Incident Criteria [55],'' evidence contradicting 
correct use of pedals is one factor that would exclude his theories 
from consideration. As outlined in Section 3.4 of this report, Other 
Similar Incidents, the available EDR data for the subject vehicles does 
provide evidence contradicting the correct use of pedals.

3.4 Other Similar Incidents

    The petitioner states: ``I reviewed the complaints made to NHTSA by 
owners of 2006-2010 Toyota Corollas [and] found 163 reports in which 
the driver experienced a surge at low speed or no speed; 99 drivers 
mentioned that the brakes were already depressed when the surge 
occurred or the surge occurred when the brakes were depressed; 83 
incidents resulted in crashes.'' ODI provided copies of the 163 VOQs 
noted by the petitioner to Toyota and requested complaint, warranty, 
inspection and EDR information about each vehicle (``subject 
vehicles'').
    Using information supplied by Toyota, the VOQ text, and any 
supporting or additional information (e.g., law enforcement crash 
reports, repair orders from dealers or independent repair facilities, 
photographs, interviews with complainants and/or complainants' 
families,\21\ witness statements, letters to elected representatives, 
letters to NHTSA, etc.) ODI analyzed the petitioner's incident and the 
163 VOQs reporting similar incidents as alleged by the petitioner. Six 
of the VOQs are duplicate submissions, resulting in a total of 158 
unique vehicles. ODI's analysis of these complaints is summarized in 
Table 2, which groups the complaints in three major categories.\22\ The 
categories are based on ODI's analysis of all available information and 
not solely on the initial VOQ complaint text.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \21\ Three complainants were now deceased and in some cases the 
complainant was not the driver at the time of the incident.
    \22\ An itemization of VOQ number by Category is provided in the 
closing resume for this investigation, which can be obtained at 
www.safercar.gov.

                               Table 2--ODI Analysis of Petitioner Selected VOQ's
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                                                   Supported by
              Category                 Description of category    Number of VOQs     Number of     EDR pre-crash
                                                                                      crashes          data
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
A..................................  There is an alleged                     105              93              17
                                      increase in engine power
                                      in which the brakes are
                                      allegedly unable to
                                      control: Incidents are
                                      caused by pedal
                                      misapplication or by a
                                      late braking effort of the
                                      driver.
B..................................  Dual pedal application: The              28               2               0
                                      driver inadvertently
                                      applied both the brake and
                                      the accelerator
                                      simultaneously during the
                                      event.
C..................................  Incidents that do not fit                25              10               0
                                      the alleged defect of
                                      ``engine surge in which
                                      the brakes fail to stop
                                      the vehicle in time to
                                      prevent a crash.''.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Category A: Category A complaints are those alleging simultaneous 
failures of the vehicle's braking ability and a sudden increase in 
engine power that the driver did not request by pressing on the 
accelerator pedal, with no evidence

[[Page 27841]]

of brake system malfunction observed in post-incident inspections/
testing. These complaints fit the definition of ``sudden acceleration'' 
incident allegations as described in the background section of this 
report and fall within the scope of the petitioner's allegations. As 
discussed in previously in this report, these incidents fit the profile 
of pedal misapplications. Again quoting from the from the 2012 TRB 
report reviewing ODI's processes for investigating unintended 
acceleration: ``investigating for phenomena other than pedal 
misapplication absent an explanation for the ineffectiveness of the 
brakes, which are independent of the throttle control system and are 
designed to dominate engine torque, is not likely to be useful. [164]''
    As further confirmation of this assessment, some of the VOQs 
submitted by the petitioner had pre-crash EDR data available that show 
brake status, accelerator pedal voltage, engine speed and vehicle speed 
in the 5 seconds prior to the time of the collision trigger (if it was 
on a model year 2009 or later Corolla). This information, together with 
other relevant facts (e.g., law enforcement reports, accident 
reconstruction, witness interviews), can be compared to the driver's 
statement regarding the use of foot controls and their alleged 
effectiveness prior to the collision.

                              Table 3--Summary of Incidents with Pre-Crash EDR Data
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                               ODI brake
                                                                             category A--
          Case No.                VOQ No.       Incident       T-5 speed     misapply B--     Summary of driver
                                                  date           (mph)      late apply C--       allegation
                                                                               no apply
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
1...........................        10534094  Sep-11......              45              B   Driving at night in
                                                                                             rain, released
                                                                                             accelerator,
                                                                                             departed road,
                                                                                             crashed into tree.
2...........................        10334936  May-10......              31              A   Approaching stop
                                                                                             sign, applied
                                                                                             brake, accelerated
                                                                                             into fence.
3...........................        10363685  Oct-10......              31               C  Approaching stop
                                                                                             sign, applied
                                                                                             brake, accelerated
                                                                                             into utility pole.
4...........................        10523677  May-13......              20              A   Approaching
                                                                                             intersection,
                                                                                             applied brake,
                                                                                             accelerated into
                                                                                             tree.
5...........................        10352668  Mar-09......              11              A   Entering parking
                                                                                             space, applied
                                                                                             brake, accelerated
                                                                                             into parked
                                                                                             vehicle.
6...........................        10479582  Oct-12......              10              A   Entering parking
                                                                                             space, applied
                                                                                             brake, accelerated
                                                                                             into building.
7...........................        10369494  Nov-10......               8            A/B   Entering parking
                                                                                             space, applied
                                                                                             brake, accelerated
                                                                                             into concrete post.
8...........................        10344874  Jul-10......               6              A   Entering driveway,
                                                                                             applied brake,
                                                                                             accelerated into
                                                                                             iron fence.
9...........................        10363886  Sep-10......               6            A/B   Entering parking
                                                                                             space, applied
                                                                                             brake, accelerated
                                                                                             into building.
10..........................        10520195  Jun-13......               6            A/B   Entering parking
                                                                                             space, applied
                                                                                             brake, accelerated
                                                                                             over two curbs.
11..........................        10551478  Oct-13......               5              A   Entering parking
                                                                                             space, applied
                                                                                             brake, accelerated
                                                                                             into dumpster.
12..........................        10597296  May-14......               4              A   Entering parking
                                                                                             space, applied
                                                                                             brake, accelerated
                                                                                             into parked
                                                                                             vehicle.
13 *........................        10637908  Jun-14......               4            A/B   Entering parking
                                                                                             space, applied
                                                                                             brake, accelerated
                                                                                             into parked
                                                                                             vehicle.
14..........................        10507434  Apr-13......               2              A   Entering parking
                                                                                             space, applied
                                                                                             brake, accelerated
                                                                                             into building.
15..........................        10552563  Oct-13......               1              A   Entering parking
                                                                                             space, applied
                                                                                             brake, accelerated
                                                                                             into parked
                                                                                             vehicle.
16..........................        10578871  Apr-14......               1              A   Backing from parking
                                                                                             space, lightly
                                                                                             pressed
                                                                                             accelerator,
                                                                                             accelerated into
                                                                                             vehicle.
17..........................        10447756  Jan-12......               0              A   Exiting parking
                                                                                             space, applied
                                                                                             brake, accelerated
                                                                                             into brick wall.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
* petition incident.


                                                                                           Table 4--Summary of Brake and Accelerator Pedal Use in Incidents With Pre-Crash EDR Data.23
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                   T-5                                          Brake switch status by EDR time interval                                                                       Accelerator pedal apply status by EDR time interval
            Case No.              speed  ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                  (mph)           -5                  -4                  -3                  -2                  -1                 0                  -5                 -4                 -3                 -2                 -1                 0
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2..............................       31  Off...............  Off...............  Off...............  Off...............  Off..............  Off..............  High.............  High.............  High.............  High.............  High.............  High
6..............................       10  Off...............  Off...............  Off...............  Off...............  Off..............  Off..............  Low..............  High.............  High.............  High.............  High.............  High
4..............................       20  Off...............  Off...............  Off...............  Off...............  Off..............  Off..............  Low..............  Off..............  Low..............  High.............  High.............  High
16.............................        1  Off...............  Off...............  Off...............  Off...............  Off..............  Off..............  Low..............  Low..............  Low..............  Med..............  High.............  High
14.............................        2  Off...............  Off...............  Off...............  Off...............  Off..............  Off..............  Low..............  Low..............  Low..............  Low..............  High.............  High
8..............................        6  Off...............  Off...............  Off...............  Off...............  Off..............  Off..............  Off..............  Off..............  Off..............  Off..............  High.............  High
12.............................        4  Off...............  Off...............  Off...............  Off...............  Off..............  Off..............  Low..............  Low..............  Low..............  Low..............  High.............  Off
15.............................        1  Off...............  Off...............  Off...............  Off...............  Off..............  Off..............  Off..............  Off..............  Low..............  Low..............  Low..............  High
10.............................        6  Off...............  Off...............  Off...............  Off...............  Off..............  On...............  Low..............  Low..............  Off..............  Low..............  High.............  Off
11.............................        5  Off...............  Off...............  Off...............  Off...............  Off..............  Off..............  Off..............  Off..............  Off..............  Off..............  Off..............  High
5..............................       11  Off...............  Off...............  Off...............  Off...............  Off..............  Off..............  Med..............  Med..............  Med..............  Med..............  Med..............  Med
17.............................        0  Off...............  Off...............  Off...............  Off...............  Off..............  Off..............  Low..............  Low..............  Low..............  Low..............  Low..............  Med
7..............................        8  Off...............  Off...............  Off...............  Off...............  Off..............  On...............  Low..............  Low..............  Low..............  Low..............  Med..............  Off
1..............................       45  Off...............  Off...............  Off...............  Off...............  On...............  On...............  Low..............  Low..............  Low..............  Low..............  Off..............  Off
9..............................        6  Off...............  Off...............  Off...............  Off...............  Off..............  On...............  Off..............  Off..............  Off..............  Off..............  Low..............  Off
13 *...........................        4  Off...............  Off...............  Off...............  Off...............  Off..............  On...............  Off..............  Off..............  Low..............  Off..............  Off..............  Off

[[Page 27842]]

 
3..............................       31  Off...............  Off...............  Off...............  Off...............  Off..............  Off..............  Off..............  Off..............  Off..............  Off..............  Off..............  Off
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
* petition incident.

    Summaries of the 17 crash incidents in which pre-crash EDR was 
available are provided in Tables 3 and 4. Table 3 provides a summary of 
the speeds the vehicles were traveling approximately 5 seconds prior to 
the collision events, ODI's assessment of the causes, and the incident 
driver's allegation of the sequence of events leading to the collision. 
Thirteen (13) of the incidents involved vehicles travelling at low-
speeds in parking lot maneuvers, including 11 that occurred while 
parking the vehicle. Fifteen (15) of the incidents alleged that the 
acceleration began after the brake was applied.\24\ These data are 
consistent with EDR data collected during the prior Toyota study in 
2010, which included 39 incidents assessed as pedal misapplications due 
to no brake application or late braking, including 29 that initiated in 
parking lots or at low speeds.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \23\ EDR reports with accelerator pedal data shown as voltage 
readings from 0.78 to 3.70V were converted as follows: Off = 0.78V; 
Low = 0.79 to 1.75V; Medium = 1.76 to 2.72V; and High = 2.73V and 
above.
    \24\ See supplemental report in the public file for this 
investigation (www.safercar.gov) for a discussion of some of the EDR 
downloads and associated VOQs, Supplemental Report, DP14-003, EDR 
Examples.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    ODI's assessments were based on the EDR download data and all 
available supporting information, as to the cause of the unintended 
acceleration event, i.e., a pedal misapplication, a braking that 
occurred too late to in the event to effectively stop the vehicle in 
time (driver error), a combination of both, and in one case no 
application of accelerator or brake. Table 4 provides the EDR download 
information for brake and accelerator pedal information for the 
individual incidents. Twelve incidents showed no evidence of braking 
during the crash event, 4 do not show braking until the airbag trigger 
point, t = 0, and the final incident involved late transition from 
accelerator to brake for a vehicle travelling over 40 mph (Case #1).
    These incidents are a representative sampling of the incidents 
alleging low-speed surging with ineffective brakes and demonstrate that 
driver statements regarding pedal use in such incidents are not 
reliable. It should be emphasized that in order for these 105 VOQs to 
be included in this category there must have been an alleged concurrent 
failure or weakness of the throttle and braking systems. No mechanism 
has been identified that could cause a sudden failure of both systems. 
No evidence of throttle or brake system faults were found in post-
incident inspections of these vehicles and there is no indication of 
faults in those systems in the available service histories before and 
after the events. Based on this analysis, ODI does not believe there is 
evidence of a vehicle based defect in this category of complaints.
    Category B: Category B complaints are incidents involving 
allegations of engine racing or surging during brake application. These 
incidents do not allege brake ineffectiveness and are therefore not 
within the scope of the petitioner's alleged defect. The common 
explanation for complaints alleging engine racing or surging during 
brake application is that the driver is inadvertently applying both the 
brake and accelerator pedals when intending to only apply the brake. 
This is particularly evident in complaints that indicate that engine 
races faster when the brake is pressed harder.\25\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \25\ These complaints further demonstrate the effectiveness of 
the brakes in overcoming engine power.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Several drivers recognized that inadvertently stepping on both 
pedals was the cause of the engine surging they reported, either in the 
initial complaint or in subsequent interviews with ODI. For example, in 
a follow-up interview one owner (VOQ 10363529) noted that after a few 
incidents, ``I realized in that case that my foot was on both the brake 
and the accelerator. This may have been carelessness on my part. 
However, it being a compact car, the brake is very close to the 
accelerator. Perhaps closer that the other cars that I drive or have 
driven. No one else in our family has reported unintended acceleration 
with this car.''
    A variation of dual application that increases the potential 
severity of such incidents involves unsecured floor mats that slide 
forward into a position where they can impede brake application. ODI 
identified two crashes involving drivers who had floor mats that had 
moved forward over the accelerator pedal and under the brake pedal such 
that when the brake pedal was applied the force was transferred through 
the floor mat to the accelerator pedal (in one case it was an 
aftermarket floor mat plus a bathroom rug).
    Category C: Category C complaints are incidents that do not fit the 
alleged defect of ``engine surge in which the brakes fail to stop the 
vehicle in time to prevent a crash.'' Examples are instances of high 
idle at initial startup, transmission shift flares or delays in coast 
down idle. Two of the crashes in this category were due to vehicles 
being struck by following traffic which then propelled the vehicles 
forward uncontrollably. Four of the crashes were due to a lack of brake 
effectiveness, such as a soft brake pedal, without any corresponding 
engine surge, three of the crashes were due to the driver applying the 
accelerator pedal too aggressively without any brake application, and 
one crash was due to a medical condition experienced by the driver.

3.5 Low-Speed Surge Hazards

    ODI agrees that uncontrolled vehicle accelerations in parking lot 
environments represent a clear safety hazard to surrounding traffic, 
pedestrians and even building occupants, as vehicles often accelerate 
inside of businesses with facing parking spaces where they have caused 
serious and sometimes fatal injuries. However, investigations have 
shown that these incidents are not isolated to any particular makes or 
models of vehicles and rarely have any vehicle based defects been 
identified in the throttle or brake systems in post-incident 
inspections.
    As background, to put ODI complaints of low-speed surging during 
brake application in context, separate research conducted for NHTSA by 
the Highway Safety Research Center to examine the prevalence of crashes 
caused by pedal application errors found that they occur more 
frequently than is generally known and exhibit many of the same 
characteristics as the SA complaints received by ODI, although in much 
greater numbers. The study included a review of North Carolina state 
crash database records, which identified 2,411

[[Page 27843]]

self-reported pedal misapplication crashes between 2004 and 2008, an 
average of approximately 480 per year.\26\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \26\ Lococo, K., Staplin, L., Martell, C., and Sifrit, K. 2012. 
Pedal Application Errors. Report DOT-HS-811-597. TransAnalytics, LLC 
and Highway Safety Research Center, U.S. Department of 
Transportation. www.nhtsa.gov/staticfiles/nti/pdf/811597.pdf.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Projected nationally, the North Carolina data predict over 16,000 
pedal error crashes per year, or about 44 incidents per day. These 
pedal error crash counts are likely conservative, since they are 
limited to self-reported incidents that were documented in law 
enforcement accident reports. The total number of pedal error 
incidents, including those in which the driver is not aware of the 
error (such as the petitioner's incident) are unknown and the there is 
no systematic process or database in the United States for tracking 
such events. An April 2012 summary of the study notes that 57 percent 
of pedal error crashes identified in the study occurred in parking lots 
or driveways, which projects to over 9,000 incidents per year in those 
driving environments nationwide.\27\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \27\ NHTSA. 2012. Pedal Error Crashes. Report DOT-HS-811-605. 
Traffic Tech. U.S. Department of Transportation. (1). www.nhtsa.gov/staticfiles/traffic_tech/811605.pdf.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    In addition, the Storefront Safety Council, an independent private 
organization focused on safety hazards associated with vehicle into 
building crashes, estimates that over 20,000 such crashes occur 
annually in the U.S. (60 per day), resulting in over 4,000 injuries and 
as many as 500 deaths.\28\ The Storefront Safety Council identifies 
pedal error as the number one cause of these crashes at 35 percent 
(other causes include other types of operator error, such as confusing 
Drive and Reverse, impaired driving, medical conditions and deliberate 
building intrusions).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \28\ Storefront Safety Council--working to end vehicle into 
building crashes. http://www.storefrontsafety.org/.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    These data indicate that pedal error crashes are much more common 
than previously known, even well after the implementation of brake 
shift interlocks. The patterns associated with these incidents are 
similar to complaints to ODI and manufacturers alleging SA incidents 
when analyzed by: (1) Location; (2) vehicle dynamics; (3) driver 
demographics; and (4) vehicle design. Both occur predominantly in 
parking lots and driveways; both involve sudden increases in engine 
power, unchecked by braking, and coinciding with intended application 
of the brake; both disproportionately involve younger and older 
drivers; and both have occurred in vehicles with all forms of throttle 
and cruise control systems. As previously noted, the incidents were 
initially observed by ODI in vehicles with purely mechanical throttle 
control and no cruise control in the earliest years of NHTSA's safety 
defect enforcement program (EA78-010).
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TN14MY15.009

    Complaints to ODI alleging SA related crashes are far less common. 
In the same period from 2004 through 2008 that the pedal error study 
identified over 2,400 pedal error related crashes in North Carolina 
police reports, ODI received less than 40 complaints alleging SA 
crashes in North Carolina in all light vehicles--or less than 2 percent 
of the number of crash incidents identified in the pedal error study. 
However, publicity can significantly increase ODI complaint volumes, as 
is evident for Toyota Corolla vehicles equipped with ETCS-i, which saw 
a 7,900% increase in speed control complaints alleging crashes and a 
12,800% increase in total speed control complaints from the first 
quarter of 2009 to the first quarter of 2010, after news media coverage 
of Toyota's pedal entrapment and sticky pedal recalls (Figure 2). Each 
of these factors, as well as the incident characteristics used for 
identifying complaints likely to be related to a common cause (see 
Section 2.1, Definitions), must be considered before conducting any 
analysis of, or drawing any conclusions regarding, SA rates or trends 
based strictly upon ODI complaint data.
    These data support the petitioner's claim that uncontrolled vehicle 
accelerations in parking environments are a public safety issue but are 
not evidence of a motor vehicle defect and, therefore, do not support 
the opening of a defect investigation.

4.0 Conclusion

    In our view, a defects investigation is unlikely to result in a 
finding that a defect related to motor vehicle safety

[[Page 27844]]

exists or a NHTSA order for the notification and remedy of a safety-
related defect as alleged by the petitioner at the conclusion of the 
requested investigation. Therefore, given a thorough analysis of the 
potential for finding a safety related defect in the vehicle and in 
view of the need to allocate and prioritize NHTSA's limited resources 
to best accomplish the agency's safety mission and mitigate risk, the 
petition is respectfully denied. This action does not constitute a 
finding by NHTSA that a safety-related defect does not exist. The 
agency will take further action if warranted by future circumstances.

    Authority:  49 U.S.C. 30162(d); delegations of authority at 49 
CFR 1.50 and 501.8.

Frank S. Borris, II,
Acting Associate Administrator for Enforcement.
[FR Doc. 2015-11632 Filed 5-13-15; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4910-59-P

Connect with The Crittenden Automotive Library

The Crittenden Automotive Library at Google+ The Crittenden Automotive Library on Facebook The Crittenden Automotive Library on Instagram The Crittenden Automotive Library at The Internet Archive The Crittenden Automotive Library on Pinterest The Crittenden Automotive Library on Twitter The Crittenden Automotive Library on Tumblr  
 
 


The Crittenden Automotive Library

Home Page    About Us    Contribute