NHTSA Press Backgrounder on Electronic Probe, 2-3-10

The Center for Auto Safety is the nation’s premier independent, member driven, non-profit consumer advocacy organization dedicated to improving vehicle safety, quality, and fuel economy on behalf of all drivers, passengers, and pedestrians.

“NHTSA is quite familiar with Electronic Throttle Control (ETC) systems, which are common in the industry.  The agency is also aware that some people contend that electromagnetic interference (EMI) can have a fleeting, hard-to-trace, but detrimental effect on ETC systems that could result in unintended acceleration.   NHTSA has begun a fresh look at both subjects—ETC in general and the possible effects of EMI on those systems.   This is not a defect investigation, because the agency  has no reason at this point to believe there are safety defects in these systems or in their ability to function when exposed to EMI.   Instead, this is a background examination of the underlying technological issues.

NHTSA will meet with manufacturers and suppliers to gain an even fuller understanding of their current ETC systems, measures taken in their design to ensure safety, and particularly measures taken to address any possible EMI effects.    NHTSA will also meet with independent experts and some who have raised the possibility of EMI effects in the media to learn more about the basis of their opinions.   If any of these exchanges demonstrate the need, NHTSA may engage in thorough research testing of a range of vehicles under circumstances that introduce EMI to see whether the electronic systems in those vehicles can be affected by EMI in any way that causes safety problems.    Thus far, NHTSA has done some very limited  testing that has not shown such effects.   Nor has the agency been presented with any evidence that EMI does have effects on vehicle safety or that any particular incident was the result of such effects.  Nevertheless, the agency will take the time to examine the subject further.   If extensive testing becomes necessary, this examination could take at least several months.”