Toyota plays (hard)ball

Today, Toyota had a webcast and press conference to ‘debunk’ Dr. David Gilbert’s demonstration of an Avalon undergoing SUA.   In specific, Toyota pointed out that  (a) Dr. Gilbert had manipulated the vehicle’s electronic system and that (b) the errors Dr. Gilbert injected could not happen in practice.  The whole episode received a lot of attention in the media.  Toyota even had a Stanford University professor speak in support of Toyota.  Exponent filed a report pointing out that they could reproduce the same problem in vehicles from other carmakers.

Let’s look at what Dr. Gilbert actually said in his report and his congressional testimony.  (a) He specifically said that he had manipulated the vehicle’s acceleration pedal position sensor subsystem.  He even gave a detailed diagram showing the interior of the breakout box he used to conduct the experiment.  He further enumerated the list of capabilities the breakout box allowed him to do.   (b) Dr. Gilbert pointed out how moisture, corrosion and wear could lead to the  fault scenario.  He however did not say that this WILL happen or how likely it was for it to happen.  Many including me pointed out the relative impracticality of this scenario.   So, there was absolutely zero news on what Toyota said today.   It seemed like Toyota wanted to do a PR blitz and that was that.

Dr. Gilbert during his demo mentioned that he was unable to repeat the problem in an American car (GM I think but could have been Ford).  Exponent had been able to repeat Dr. Gilbert’s experiments on a Subaru, Honda, BMW, Mercedes and a Chrysler.  In other words, they did not find any problem with Dr. Gilbert’s conclusion.   It’s all about perception management, one is forced to conclude.


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