When you, as a consumer and voter remain silent, DEMOCRACY is sacrificed, TRUTH IS SILENCED along with the safety of us all. Government no longer works for its citizens.
Although TOYOTA has worked to DISCREDIT and SILENCE THE TRUTH, it's out there!
Betsy Benjaminson stepped forward out of a deep moral belief to present TOYOTA'S OWN DOCUMENTS that are damning!
TOYOTA is taking steps to SILENCE Ms. Benjaminson, as well as targeting those who speak ILL of TOYOTA.
Here is an unpolished draft of some facts and opinions after four days of meetings with Congressional staff on the Toyota UA issue. I went to see them when they invited me to bring experts to try to validate the evidence I’d provided.
Generally it was a failure, and I guess and wonder about Toyota’s lobbying forces working in opposition behind the scenes. I am a rank amateur without the benefit of perfect evidence, up against the most professional and cunning lobbyists.
However, the game is not over, not by a long shot. There will be plenty of opportunity during the trials and/or with others coming forward, or in the aftermath of more crashes. Now this also amounts to Senator Grassley joining the House and others who those who know of this problem in detail but choose to do nothing to solve it. This group has already included Toyota itself, individuals who know the inside story, the industry, the watchdogs, NHTSA, and in some sense also NASA for going along with NHTSA’s program and not making its scientists’ objections public. So any coverage of the “bad guys” can include members of both the House and the Senate under whose direction the staffers work.
I suspect that the background issue of the pending litigation caused some concerns among the staffers, who cannot be seen as supporting claims usually associated with Democrat notions of consumer protection/more regulation/corporate expose, risking possible job loss at the corporation. This is totally illogical, because the cost of car crashes to the economy runs into the hundreds of billions of dollars every year, not to mention the huge human toll, and the litigation is also a monstrous waste of national resources.
The meetings were as follows:
Tuesday am – Hannemann with House Energy and Commerce staffers. The staffers admitted they could do nothing unless some dramatic insider testimony or some new evidence came their way. The Toyota internal documents were not enough, even with expert backup. Theoretically they could compare the internal docs from me with what Toyota produced to them, but they are in the minority and a comparison would be very expensive. I heard a rumor that Toyota has hired away a staffer who used to work on that investigation, and she is keeping tabs on what goes on there now.
The rest of the meetings on the Hill were with Sen. Judiciary Cmte staff
Tuesday pm – Hannemann—he said to me that he saw in the documents evidence that T knew of electronics related UA (and of course had not admitted that at any time.) To the staffers he also explained this, and highlighted the document evidence of Toyota's global problem—evidence that does not seem to have been available to Neil when he worked as a consultant to the House in the past.
Wednesday pm Dr. Gordon Davy and his tin whiskers whistleblower daughter Lisa. Gordon said there is no question that NHTSA is “derelict” in not performing its duty to the public, and that in one document he found evidence that Toyota was lax its approach to handling tin whiskers risk—they did not bother to prevent the risk by coating the item, but instead just conducted lab tests to see if the whisker growth was less than some arbitrary amount that they set as the upper limit. Separately he said to me that the company was definitely negligent because it marketed a product that contained a known danger (pure tin) without taking reasonable steps to prevent or mitigate the risk.
Gordon proposed that the solution to the problem was to either privatize the auto safety certification function or to expand the FAA to also include cars because the FAA is a strong and effective regulator of aviation safety. Gordon is brilliant. He offered some great solutions based on his deep experience in industry. His many contacts in the engineering world may also band together to write letters and take other steps to help advance awareness of the dangers of tin whiskers and the crying need for better regulation of the auto industry in general and regarding tin whiskers risk mitigation in particular.
Thursday pm Bill Rosenbluth and his wife Jean
Bill presented some compelling technical evidence that, as far as I understood it, proved that there is a layer of EDR data behind the data that Toyota wants anyone to see. Bill is able to collect and download that data from EDRs and finds all kinds of things in it, and according to Jean, Toyota “hates” him because all they want anyone to see is the small subset of the real data. He also gave a detailed explanation and case study of how EDR data is fundamentally unreliable and how Toyota has been uncooperative with families of victims by not providing the tool to read out the EDR after a crash. The case presented, the Eves fatal crash in the pacific northwest, involved a single-vehicle accident of a truck hitting a tree in which the EDR recorded data was physically impossible.
We discussed the role of the MDL in correcting this failure of regulation. The staffer said that the MDL plaintiffs will be able to fund a thorough technical investigation after which Congress will sit up and take notice of large settlements or judgments and will do something afterward to fix the regulation. This really pissed me off because he is not taking into account all the untold suffering of the victims and the enormous wasteful effort of all the plaintiffs and the defense in the litigation. To me this sounded like a close echo of the position of the automakers. When I heard this I thought we are really dealing with a Republican mentality. So after this, which he said on Wednesday, when Bill demonstrated Thursday his download of the EDR, I asked if he did this when people died, or if he did this any other time. The answer was, when attorneys asked. Attorneys only get involved if there is a death or severe injury. And it cost $10,000, he said. So this puts plaintiffs in a position of having to pay for experts along the way, during a case.
These comments sounded just like Toyota. The playing field is just as tilted in Toyota’s favor in court as it is on the Hill.
Friday am Dr. Antony Anderson
Dr. Anderson presented a compelling story of the history of electronics-based failures, lack of safety standards for cars, horrifying videos and photos of runaway cars from around the world, and videos of Ray LaHood saying there is nothing wrong with Toyota’s vehicle electronics, in direct contradiction of the actual study findings.
Dr. Anderson brought sample CTS pedals that had manufacturing defects in several places, including holes that might result in “sticky pedal” for reasons other than those publicly claimed by Toyota, as well as evidence of shoddy manufacturing of the APPS (Accelerator Pedal Position Sensor) assembly.
Dr. Anderson also showed photographs of the Eves EDR box and circuit board that contained evidence of electrical arcing that may have occurred when the truck hit the tree, and which may likely have caused an erroneous data recording that was physically impossible, as had been described by Bill Rosenbluth.
There was also an extended discussion of wrongful imprisonment of drivers whose cars were out of control and had killed people. The Lee case was mentioned. The Mary Hill case was mentioned. Mary Hill remains imprisoned in Florida after having been sentenced to 15 years when her car went out of control and killed two girls. Perhaps she could be interviewed?
Dr. Anderson pointed out a very weak and obsolete point in the law that he understood from his perspective as an expert witness in many UA civil cases and in one criminal UA case. That is, he said the law assumes the driver is in control of the car, but in many cases of vehicle electronic glitches, the car does not do what the driver wanted. In actual practice, this puts the driver in the impossible legal position of being responsible for the behavior of a vehicle that the driver cannot completely control. The staffers responded by saying that in a criminal case, the defense could establish reasonable doubt about the driver’s culpability. Dr. Anderson later commented that first, it is expensive to do so, and there are few experts available who could credibly testify about intermittent or one-time electronic cased vehicle behavior that leaves behind no physical evidence. Courts rely too heavily on traditional rules of evidence that require physical evidence of a defect, but electronic defects often leave no evidence behind, and thus the driver tends to be blamed.
Dr. Anderson also pointed out the difficulties of requiring repeatability in proving UA events. The events need not be repeatable because the sheer number of possible failure mechanisms makes it impossible to find the exact cause in a majority of incidents. Toyota engineers have agreed with Dr. Anderson in their recorded interviews with House staff and in internal memoranda.
Meanwhile on Wednesday am, Gordon Davy, Lisa, and I went to NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt MD and met Dr. Henning Leidecker and Dr. Norman Helmold who indicated their concerns that the NASA study was not scientifically sound. Both of them have worked as senior level failure analysts for many years. Henning’s specialty is tin whiskers.
The concerns with the study were with the small sample sizes, lack of samples of failed pedals, vehicles, or other components, and no data to analyze. They seem to have numerous other concerns that remain unexpressed. Dr. Leidecker was on the study team that he asked to be put on, and the team leader agreed without enthusiasm. He was sometimes excluded from meetings.
Dr. Leidecker indicated that the path forward involved more thorough engineering failure analysis and probability studies using a proper sample of many pedals. I asked him if he would like a huge box of, say, 1,000 pedals and he responded agreeably, with enthusiasm, and said that would enable him to predict the probability of failure and to publish his findings. That would cost so little money! I wonder what neutral funding source could be secured for such a project.
Someone who lobbies for a highway safety advocacy group explained to me that the reason this is going to be stuck in the Senate is that NHTSA administrator David Strickland used to work for Rockefeller, the chair of the Senate Commerce Committee. Senator Rockefeller is from W. Virginia, where he got Toyota to build an engine plant. So the Senator does not necessarily want to do anything to embarrass his former employee or his patron. Separately I had heard that information provided to that Committee is likely to be shared with Toyota.
All this palace intrigue is emotionally exhausting to watch from an uninvolved position, but far worse to observe as a participating unpaid volunteer when lives are at stake. I have now seen directly, as far as the feedback I’ve gotten from the staff, that an expert-verified universal safety issue affecting every American driver is less important that those relationships…and I tentatively and sadly conclude that members in Congress care more about their political fortunes than they seem to care about the welfare of the people, and do not have the capacity to proactively fix problems. Rather we must wait for them to react to some scandal or disaster. I had hoped to make a scandal with Congress for this reason but don’t seem to be able to, so much work with media to do it and press Congress to do it.
When people advocate tort reform they are also often advocating regulatory rollbacks. Softer regulations lead to more torts. And tort reform leads to lower compensation for victims. I think these people will continue this way until some tort happens to them.