Late last week, it was announced that the lawsuit between Toyota and the relatives of the Saylor family has been settled. As you may remember, 19-year veteran California Highway Patrol Officer Mark Saylor, his wife, teenage daughter and brother-in-law Chris Lastrella were killed in a horrible car crash in San Diego in August of 2009. Their borrowed 2009 Lexus ES 350 was traveling at 120 mph at the time, and despite his best efforts, Officer Saylor couldn't stop or slow down the car.
The publicity surrounding the crash sparked several US government investigations (e.g., this one by the Committee on Energy & Commerce) into sudden unintended acceleration (SUA) of Toyota vehicles, and a recall of millions of Toyota vehicles to replace their floor mats and or fix their gas pedals. It also sparked a US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) inquiry into whether Toyota's ETCS-i system (Electronic Throttle Control System with intelligence) is also a source of SUA, something which Toyota vehemently denies.
"Toyota and the Saylor and Lastrella families reached an amicable agreement in mediation that fully resolves their product liability claims against Toyota."
"Through mutual respect and cooperation, we were able to resolve this matter without the need for litigation."
Terms of the agreement will likely remain sealed.
Toyota also moved last week to have more than 300 lawsuits against the company involving alleged sudden acceleration caused by problems with its ETCS-i system be dismissed. Toyota wants the suits dismissed, this ABCNewsstory reports, because it says that:
"... even after months of intense publicity and multiple scientific investigations, the plaintiffs have neither cited nor identified any specific defect in Toyota's Electronic Throttle Control System that causes unintended acceleration."
In other news, Toyota also admitted last week that there was a problem in the software used to read its event data recorders. Toyota said the data in the event data recorder was correct, but an error in the software used to interpret the speed data would sometimes indicate the car was traveling faster than it really was. In one accident, the software indicated a Tundra pickup was traveling at about 177 mph.
The NHTSA inquiry into unintended acceleration and electronic vehicle controls is scheduled to be completed in 2011.
Robert N. Charette is a Contributing Editor to IEEE Spectrum and an acknowledged international authority on information technology and systems risk management. A self-described “risk ecologist,” he is interested in the intersections of business, political, technological, and societal risks. Charette is an award-winning author of multiple books and numerous articles on the subjects of risk management, project and program management, innovation, and entrepreneurship. A Life Senior Member of the IEEE, Charette was a recipient of the IEEE Computer Society’s Golden Core Award in 2008.