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DOJ on Toyota Software Problem: No Comment

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Susan Rambo
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DOJ Dodge
Susan Rambo   3/29/2014 2:55:43 PM
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Interesting. I wonder why DoJ avoided software issue? Thanks for sharing the letter and DoJ's response. 

AerospaceEngr
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Rookie
Re: DOJ Dodge
AerospaceEngr   3/29/2014 7:44:10 PM
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Mr Barr did not "prove" that the truly fatal flaw that "caused" unintended acceleration in the affected Toyotas lay in the software that had been designed into the vehicles' computer systems. He postulated a diabolical combination of multiple failures that could possibly cause unintended acceleration. There is no data indicating that those failures have actually occurred in the real world.

junko.yoshida
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Re: DOJ Dodge
junko.yoshida   3/29/2014 10:48:07 PM
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@AeropsaceEngr, respectfully, I disagree. If What Mr. Barr did was merely "postulating a combination of multiple failures," Toyota hasn't actually proven that the sticky pedals or floor mat actually occrred in the real world, either.

But I digress.

You may want to read what B. Benjaminson wrote here in a separate thread:

http://www.eetimes.com/messages.asp?piddl_msgthreadid=44469&piddl_msgid=295299#msg_295299

The reason why DoJ didn't use the Oklahoma case in their judgement against Toyota now appears that they weren't simply aware of the case in Oklahoma, not because they were suspicious of Mr. Barr.

That, in my mind, is almost criminal.

B. Benjaminson
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Re: DOJ Dodge
B. Benjaminson   3/30/2014 1:30:30 AM
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@Aerospace, If I understand Barr's work correctly, he found a single-point failure mode, not multi-point failures as you claim.

Barr's conclusion that Toyota's software is defective is actually less important, in my view, than his conclusion that their engineering processes are defective. This validates the strong impression I and others have had in reviewing the 230 electronics-related internal Toyota engineering documents. The docs reveal a kind of seat-of-the-pants engineering, where engineering processes allowed designs in which Toyota engineers had to do detective work to find out why vehicles behaved unexpectedly, both during development (which may be acceptable for design processes of non-safety critical systems, but not for safety critical), and when receiving reports of vehicle behavior on the road, in the real world. I think you engineers can agree that a safety-critical machine must be absolutely predictable in its behavior, and the Toyota engineers recognized that the vehicles they were making were unpredictable. At times they used the word "ghost" to describe performance changes that they observed. Is this normal? Is it safe?

Barr's view of the substandard engineering practices that produced substandard designs has been supported in various ways by his colleague Dr. Koopman, as well as by engineers Gilbert, Leidecker, Barrance, Anderson, Rajkumar, Belt, Kirk, Hubing, Pecht, Armstrong, among others, both in the laboratory and in theory, the theory being primarily a comparison between proper safety-critical engineering practices and the practices that become evident in vehicle examinations and document review. The views of all of these respected engineers, taken together, substantiate Barr's conclusion about the engineering.

There is data that these failures occurred in the real world. The data exists but has not yet been published.

It is also plainly obvious that the hundreds of serious lawsuits against Toyota show that actual vehicle performance reveals engineering flaws. These vehicles are unpredictable on the road. That is a defect. As attorney Cole Portis pointed out in his interview on Israel's Channel 2, none of these lawsuits would have even been filed by law firms for plaintiffs if the facts could easily lead to blaming the driver for the death or catastrophic injury.

I will be very interested to learn why the DOJ ignored the electronics.

 

 

Parris Boyd
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Freelancer
DOJ feigns ignorance
Parris Boyd   3/30/2014 12:01:56 PM
One fine article, all the more so since it's based on David's firsthand experience. Government unjustifiably protecting corporations is a recurring theme in my blog, Beware of Toyota. Their next victim may be YOU..., and I referenced this article in today's post, "Mainstream media hints at bugs in Toyota's electronic throttle control" http://uc2.blogspot.com/2014/03/mainstream-media-hints-at-bugs-in.html

Toyota whistleblower Betsy Benjaminson had an experience similar to David's when she telephoned the DOJ, brought up Michael Barr's findings, and was asked to spell his name. Betsy discussed what happened in a comment (3/29/2014 3:21:47 AM) regarding Jessica Lipsky's article, "Toyota Pays $1.2B to Settle DOJ Probe" http://www.eetimes.com/document.asp?doc_id=1321525

EE Times is doing a superb job of exposing the facts and taking on the tough issues about Toyota's problems with sudden unintended acceleration. Despite the government's well-orchestrated efforts to keep the public unaware of compelling evidence of electronic issues - I don't for one split second believe the DOJ has been ignorant of Mr. Barr's findings - word has leaked out, and continues to spread. This is the focus of today's post on my blog. 

Sad state of affairs when government agencies become mouthpieces for the businesses they are supposed to regulate.

Bert22306
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CEO
Re: DOJ Dodge
Bert22306   3/30/2014 6:33:05 PM
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I think it's almost immaterial that Barr didn't prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that the mechanism he uncovered was the cause of a particular unintended acceleration event. The fact that this failure mechanism (apparently) exists, had gone unaddressed, and that these cars have a higher incidence of UA than any other, should be reason enough to address the problem. Matter of fact, the carpet problem may just be another contributing cause of UA. Certainly, the one doesn't rule out the other.

It could also be that what Barr demonstrated is impossible to occur in practice. If that's the case, it's incumbent upon Toyota to explain why. Speaking as an engineer and not a lawyer or a CEO, I would certainly take that approach, in Toyota's shoes. As hyper-relieved as Toyota must be, with this recent DOJ dodge, I'd still be investing time and effort to either fix the problem or to definitively show that it isn't a problem.

cookiejar
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Manager
Justice is technically illiterate
cookiejar   3/31/2014 9:34:09 AM
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All this judgement illustrates is the technical illiteracy of the justice department and general technical illiteracy of the population in general.

 

In addition to the software issue is the NASA paper analyzing a failed accelerator sensor showing whiskers growing from the lead free solder shorting out the pot, indicating a full throttle command.  Interestingly the link http://edn.com/article/520531-Toyota accelerations revisited hanging by a tin whisker.php?cid=NL EE+Times is now dead. Using a pot, subject to the type of noise we hear with a noisy volume control pot, is another technically questionable practice.

 

But floor-mats is something the average lawyer/justice employee/public can understand.  Though one would expect that floor-mats would be a universal problem with vehicles.  But then again, perhaps it was intended as an out for an appeal.

Politics is involved in every human decision.  Like they say, "Justice is blind."

C VanDorne
User Rank
CEO
Re: DOJ feigns ignorance
C VanDorne   3/31/2014 11:03:04 AM
The losers on this one are the informed, but sadly this is a win-win for both parties directly involved.  The DOJ gets cash and the opportunity to toot its own horn in front of low-information voters about a sum of money (probably poll-tested) that seems like they've really socked it to the man.  (Replay BP)  Toyota gets to evade a dissaster that could have costs them much, much more.

I predict "case closed, no comment, nothing to see here, move along-move along, these are not the droids you are looking for" from both parties for a long-long time.

B. Benjaminson
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Manager
Other possible reasons for lack of attention on the electronics
B. Benjaminson   3/31/2014 12:19:58 PM
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I was reminded, not long ago, of the ferocity and integrity of the prosecutors in the Southern District of New York, by a former federal prosecutor...just when I was also inclined to think that something improper may be happening there.

So if I pretend to be a lawyer, I can imagine that there may well be some perfectly proper legal reasons why the DOJ could not go for the electronics. Speculation alert!! Anyway, one reason could be that the government agency that got the ball rolling for this investigation (possibly DOT or possibly Congress, or who knows who else) did not have sufficient proof of the electronics defects to be able to ask DOJ to investigate the cover-up of those defects. Another reason could be that even if DOJ was tasked to investigate any and every cover-up, they did not amass evidence to a level of "beyond a reasonable doubt" that they need to have in order to prosecute for a crime related to an electronics defects cover-up. Come to think of it, they did make public that there were some issues with evidence being overseas, evidence insuffient for charging individuals, etc., if you recall. And the Bookout plaintiffs attorneys did comment during the trial that the standard of evidence that the law required for bringing punitive damages,--a "preponderance of the evidence," was far lower than the level required for a criminal case, "beyond a reasonable doubt."

So...that may have made the difference between what was effective evidence in the  Bookout trial court and what was effective evidence in the DOJ.

David Benjamin, does this make sense to you?

But, even if these speculative reasons are true, they don't change the outcome, and I still feel very concerned about the DOJ settlement's implications for the American public and for auto safety.

Betsy.

Bruzzer
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Freelancer
Was it sabotage?
Bruzzer   3/31/2014 12:20:37 PM
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I have little doubt no one in this industry believed the sticky gas pedal, and interferring floor mats with gas pedal, pursuant to long term investigation of the matter. 

Certainly validation of the system design; mechanically, compute system hardware and software, always seemed the likely place to look. Were there design errors and validation errors.

One aspect of this investigation, that the industry and DOJ in related criminal matters seems to shuffle under the rug, in every instance, raises this question.

Was this an example of design sabotage intent to do harm?  It may be that the industry needs to get serious about this seriously known issue.

Mike Bruzzone, Camp Marketing

      

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