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Not Much New in Yesterday's Congressional Hearings on Toyota & Runaway Cars

US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Says It Has Two EEs Working For It

2 min read
Not Much New in Yesterday's Congressional Hearings on Toyota & Runaway Cars

Yesterday marked the end for this week, anyway, of Toyota's testimony in front of a US congressional committee. Next week, Toyota representatives will testify in front of the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation where many expect it will receive a more "cordial" welcome, if testifying in front of any government investigative committee can be deemed cordial. The Senate committee looks like it will be focusing more on the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's (NHTSA) role in the recall, and has sent a letter to the NHTSA inspector general to look into how NHTSA handles recalls in general.

Yesterday's US House Committee on Energy and Commerce hearings didn't produce much more insightful information on the cause of complaints of sudden unintended acceleration in Toyota vehicles. Toyota President Akio Toyoda apologized and promised to listen more to Toyota customer complaints, including setting up teams to investigate unintended acceleration complaints within 24 hours. He still insisted that there was no defect in Toyota's electronic throttle design, although he did not contradict the testimony on Tuesday that something other than floor mat or sticky pedals might be the cause of runaway cars. President Toyoda also said that he was not fully aware of the complaints about unintended acceleration until recently.

Secretary of U. S. Department of Transportation Ray LaHood said once again that Toyota cars that were being recalled and not yet fixed were "not safe" although, like last time, he backed off that claim when pressed. He also clarified that of the 125 engineers who worked for NHTSA, two were electrical engineers. However, he did not specify their roles at NHTSA nor did he mention any software engineers on NHTSA's engineering staff.

A good "blow by blow" review of the day's hearing can be found here at the Washington Post.

What is most likely to happen next given the two hearings so far and what is expected to happen at next week's hearing is that the US Congress will demand NHTSA conduct a review of electronics and software use in vehicles and determine whether more rigorous governmental safety standards are needed; a congressional demand will be made for all vehicles to contain comprehensive black boxes; and there will likely be demands for lower triggers for mandatory vehicle recalls.

Each would create additional costs for car manufacturers and ultimately to consumers, so it will be interesting to see what actually ends up making it into law after the risk/reward negotiations/debates take place among consumer advocates, politicians, regulators, car manufacturers and their suppliers.

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An IBM Quantum Computer Will Soon Pass the 1,000-Qubit Mark

The Condor processor is just one quantum-computing advance slated for 2023

4 min read
This photo shows a woman working on a piece of apparatus that is suspended from the ceiling of the laboratory.

A researcher at IBM’s Thomas J. Watson Research Center examines some of the quantum hardware being constructed there.

Connie Zhou/IBM

IBM’s Condor, the world’s first universal quantum computer with more than 1,000 qubits, is set to debut in 2023. The year is also expected to see IBM launch Heron, the first of a new flock of modular quantum processors that the company says may help it produce quantum computers with more than 4,000 qubits by 2025.

This article is part of our special report Top Tech 2023.

While quantum computers can, in theory, quickly find answers to problems that classical computers would take eons to solve, today’s quantum hardware is still short on qubits, limiting its usefulness. Entanglement and other quantum states necessary for quantum computation are infamously fragile, being susceptible to heat and other disturbances, which makes scaling up the number of qubits a huge technical challenge.

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