After almost a year since regulators closed Toyota’s unintended acceleration investigation, independent auto-safety firm Safety Research and Strategies announced Tuesday that a lawsuit has been filed in federal court requesting for the government to release internal records of said investigation.
According to Safety Research and Strategies, there is reason to believe that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration withheld documents and videos that suggest unintended acceleration incidents were caused by electronics systems rather than floor mats or driver error.
Concerned that evidence of electrical defects in Toyota vehicles have been ignored or concealed, the lawsuit demands all transcripts, recordings, photographs, and videotapes generated from two federal investigators that went to visit the home of senior government official, Joseph H. McClelland, who has experienced unintended acceleration in his 2003 Toyota Prius hybrid.
According to a sworn statement from Mr. McClelland, investigators came to visit his home on May 17th, and documented evidence of sudden acceleration during an accompanied test drive. Mr. McClelland claimed the car over-accelerated in three distinct occasions as electronic displays began to blink wildly. The investigators videotaped the events and inspected floormats to determine the cause. After the drive, the two investigators even connected a computer to the car to read software codes.
Mr. McClelland said, “[The investigators] generally seemed excited. They said they hadn’t seen a vehicle display this type of behavior before, capturing the information in real time, and they said this could be an important vehicle for the sudden accelerations and it might help put some pieces together.”
Ultimately, NHTSA did not follow up with the investigation since the agency believes it’s possible the vehicle’s age and high mileage (280,000 miles) could have been the cause of any number of issues.
Upon learning about McClelland’s incident and inquiry, Safety Research and Strategies co-founder Sean Kane requested for the documents pertaining the McClelland investigation. However, photos and videos were denied and Sean Kane only received six pages of the 22 page case file.
In regards to the lawsuit, Sean Kane explained, “This is all about transparency. This is an agency that selectively releases data that fits its narrative that electronics are not at fault in sudden acceleration.”
NHTSA responded that the agency had already carefully reviewed more than 40,000 complaints each year. There are no plans to reopen the unintended acceleration investigation.
[Source: The New York Times]