24 February 2010

Toyota in Perspective

John Stossel's Take | John Stossel | The Parasite Circuit

To put the Toyota problem in perspective, before all the media hype, 19 fatal accidents were linked to faulty gas pedals and floor mats over the last decade. That's fewer than 2 each year. Compare that to America’s 40,000 annual fatal car crashes.

As David Champion, director of automobile testing for Consumer Reports, said to The Guardian:
"I find it a little odd that we're going to have a Congressional hearing to look at those two deaths out of 40,000... you have to look at death rates in safety terms rationally."
Odd that none of the media reports I've seen before now have mentioned that this hoopla is about 0.005% of car fatalities.  That explains why no one at Toyota inductively determined there was a problem based on observations of a pattern in accident reports. There was no pattern to find.

They still could have (and perhaps should have) deduced the existence of the accelerator assembly flaw based on the design, but even that could be overridden by a potentially defensible normalization of deviation.

Honestly, I have no idea how obvious or egregious the design flaw was.  I bet no one at today's congressional hearing on this did either.  I've studied enough engineering of risk to learn that the amount of public outcry is entirely uncorrelated to how badly designed a product actually was.

I understand part of the problem was the reluctance you usually see in these gong shows to pass the bad word up the Toyota chain of command.  That's never a good sign.

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