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The Detroit Free Press has a story today that claims the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is investigating whether cosmic rays are the cause of Toyota'ssudden acceleration problems.

According to the story, an anonymous tipster last month wrote NHTSA hypothesizing that, "It is possible that Toyota is using electronic parts that are more susceptible to SEUs [Single Event Upsets] than other manufacturers. Components such as RAM, DRAM, SRAM, FGPAs, ASICs, etc... can all be susceptible."

The tipster says that, "The automotive industry has yet to fully embrace fault-tolerant architectures and software development methods that are used widely by the avionics industry," and that the chips used by Toyota may not be hardened against interference. 

The tipster also writes that, "SEUs have traditionally occurred at high altitudes in aircraft and spacecraft and the avionics industry has successfully countered these events through highly redundant electronics and software."

NHTSA is not commenting on the story, but Toyota is. The company told the Free Press that its systems, "are not the same as typical consumer electronics. The durability, size, susceptibility and specifications of the automotive electronics make them robust against this type of interference."

Testing for the problem, the story says, "would involve putting vehicles in front of a particle accelerator and showering them with radiation, a step that experts said would help resolve the question."

Does anyone have an unused particle accelerator handy to find out?

Send answers to NHTSA.

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Chinese Joint Venture Will Begin Mass-Producing an Autonomous Electric Car

With the Robo-01, Baidu and Chinese carmaker Geely aim for a fully self-driving car

4 min read
A black car sits against a white backdrop decorated with Chinese writing. The car’s doors are open, like a butterfly’s wings. Two charging stations are on the car’s left; two men stand on the right.

The Robo-01 autonomous electric car shows off its butterfly doors at a reveal to the media in Beijing, in June 2022.

Tingshu Wang/Reuters/Alamy

In October, a startup called Jidu Automotive, backed by Chinese AI giant Baidu and Chinese carmaker Geely, officially released an autonomous electric car, the Robo-01 Lunar Edition. In 2023, the car will go on sale.

At roughly US $55,000, the Robo-01 Lunar Edition is a limited edition, cobranded with China’s Lunar Exploration Project. It has two lidars, a 5-millimeter-wave radars, 12 ultrasonic sensors, and 12 high-definition cameras. It is the first vehicle to offer on-board, AI-assisted voice recognition, with voice response speeds within 700 milliseconds, thanks to the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8295 chip.

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