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Toyota Disputes Electronic Defect Claims

March 11, 2010

Toyota Motor Corp. assembled a group of automotive experts Monday for a press conference to dispute claims that faulty electronics are to blame for episodes of sudden acceleration, the Associated Press reported.

The presentation, held at Toyota's North American headquarters in Torrance, Calif., sought to discredit the research conclusions of Southern Illinois University-Carbondale Professor David Gilbert.

Gilbert has claimed publicly that by connecting two wires in the electronic throttle system of a Toyota car, he was able to create a small short and produce unintended acceleration. He said he accomplished this without producing any trouble codes in the car's computer system or sending the car's computer into a fail-safe mode that allows the brakes to override the gas pedal.

During Congressional testimony, Gilbert called into question Toyota's explanation that sudden-acceleration episodes in the automaker's vehicles have resulted from floor mat entrapment and sticking gas pedals - mechanical rather than electronic issues.

During the Toyota presentation Monday, the automotive experts on hand argued that Gilbert's experiments couldn't be recreated on a real road in the real world. They said the professor had shaved away insulation on wiring and connected wires that wouldn't touch. 

Chris Gerdes, director of the Center for Automotive Research at Stanford University, concluded that Gilbert's findings contain "no evidence that I've seen to indicate that this situation is happening at all in the real world."

Matthew Schwall, an engineer from automotive research firm Exponent Inc., called Gilbert's research "unrealistic manipulation." Exponent prepared a 43-page study that serves as a rebuttal to Gilbert's research.

To illustrate their argument, Toyota representatives revved the engines of competitors' cars by connecting a circuit rigged up to the wiring of the gas pedals. 

Advocates of both sides of the controversy - those who blame mechanical issues and those who blame the electronics - have accused each other of conducting biased research. Through a university spokesman, Gilbert told the Los Angeles Times he stands by his research.

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