The NTHSA-NASA report vindicating the electronic systems of Toyota vehicles for sudden acceleration is good news for the wider electrical industry that relies on similar electronic control systems.

 NASA was asked to examine the software code of Toyota vehicles and could not produce a fault that could lead to the sudden acceleration reported by owners.  When the vehicle’s electronic system detects a problem it will switch to one of five fail-safe modes: which range from reducing the throttle openings to switching off the engine.  Despite all of NASA’s tests the electronic control would always default to one of the fail-safe modes.

 Similar electronic controls are used throughout the electrical industry.  The process for designing safety into the product requires ensuring any failure results in a safe mode of operation.  For NEMA’s Residential and Commerical Control manufacturers an example would be gas and oil burner control systems where failure of the control system could flood a home in an explosive gas atmosphere. Functional safety is a keystone of the development of standards for these products. NEMA members work on standards such as IEC 61508 and UL 1998 which provide designers of electrical equipment the tools to build and test products that guarantee a safe default outcome.  

The inquiries into Toyota vehicle sudden acceleration are likely to continue; however the fact that NASA was unable to coax the electronics system into anything but a safe mode demonstrates the robust safety built into modern electronic control systems.


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