US safety watchdog toothless against Toyota

A US watchdog which was supposed to bark at a sign of technology trouble from car manufacturers lacks the techies to do the job.

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has told a hearing into the Toyota fiasco that the recent problem on Toyota braking systems sailed past it undetected because the outfit does not employ any software engineers and only two electrical engineers.

Given that a car can have up to a 100 million lines of software code in it, running on 70 to 100 microprocessors this is a bit of a gap in the safety standards monitoring process.

According to Thecarconnection that software and electronics can make up 35 to 40 percent of the cost of a premium car today. At $10 a line, a cost he calls too low, 100 million lines represent $1 billion of investment for each car.

Software controls the vehicle, the operation of its engine, the mapping of the transmission shift points, the interactions among the components of the powertrain, the traction control system and yet the road safety watchdog did not feel the need to test it.

Software that controls the “drive-by-wire” accelerators of Toyota and Lexus vehicles look like being the cause of “sudden acceleration” problems. It might have been spotted by a software engineer who looked at the code with safety specifications in mind.