Bombarded with complaints from consumer advocates that its investigators lacked electronics expertise, the National Academy of Sciences is expanding its panel that is probing cases of unintended acceleration in Toyotas and other vehicles. In a letter to consumer groups dated July 8, Academy President Ralph Cicerone said that the proposed 12-member panel will add some still-to-be-named nominees.
US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood had requested for the creation of this panel over the controversy stemming from Toyota's massive recalls. According further to the letter, the Academy came to the conclusion that it would be "beneficial to supplement the expertise of the committee."
New Jersey Institute of Technology physics professor Louis Lanzerotti is the proposed chairman for this panel, which is tasked to review the likely electronic causes of unintended acceleration following 89 reported deaths from Toyota vehicles. The panel is expected to announce its recommendations to improve electronic throttle controls and other control functions next June.
The complaint from consumer advocates is centered on the fact that the proposed panel didn't include a single member with expertise in "intermittent failure mechanisms" that may affect vehicles' electronic controls.
According to the letter from Public Citizen's Joan Claybrook, the Center for Auto Safety's Clarence Ditlow and other consumer advocates, the present panel members do not have the "electronic sophistication or objectivity" to come up with a study that's at a level expected by the Congress and the public.