After examining data recorders (black boxes), the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration concluded that drivers of Toyota vehicles didn't apply the brakes in at least 35 of 58 crashes blamed on unintended acceleration. In this report to lawmakers, the US auto-safety regulators also said that there was no evidence of electronics-related causes.
These initial findings support Toyota's claims about the lack of evidence of defects in the electronic controls on its vehicles and that in some cases, motorists confused the accelerator and brake pedals.
Toyota spokesman Brian Lyons admits though that Toyota's black boxes have "limited capability" since they usually produce data only when the airbag is activated.
In an e-mail sent to Automotive News, Lyons said that these data need to be independently corroborated though physical evidence or other research. Lyons clarified that Toyota's black boxes are fitted into the airbag sensor and usually start recording only when the airbag is deployed.
Since November, Toyota has recalled 9.4 million vehicles globally, with 7.5 million in the US, due to acceleration problems involving floor mats and sticky pedals.
In the briefing given to the Washington lawmakers, the NHTSA said that at this early point in its probe, its officials have made no conclusions about additional causes of unintended acceleration in Toyotas aside from the two defects already known -- pedal entrapment and sticking gas pedals.
The agency said that 60% of the cases were of brakes that weren't used while there were incidents where the brakes were partially applied or the data recorder didn't work.