Sudden Acceleration Problem In Toyotas Caused By Cosmic Rays?

It's the stuff of bad science fiction, but is it really the culprit? If it is, it could mean disaster for an already struggling auto industry.

We've heard Toyota throw out a lot of excuses lately about its product line--everything from floor mats to sticky pedals to operator error--to help explain away the fact that for little or no reason their cars will, once you start them, apparently decide to speed up to a fraction of lightspeed in, say, your garage.

But one item that hasn't crossed a lot of people's minds is cosmic radiation. Yes, the stuff that made the Fantastic Four so fantastic is apparently a real thing, and it's been shown to affect airplane and spacecraft components. So is it possible that this cosmic radiation could be affecting the hardware under Toyota's hood?

They're called "single event upsets", and despite the fact that Toyota claims its hardware is "robust against this type of interference", industry insiders say that "the automotive industry has yet to truly anticipate SEUs". You may be wondering how to determine whether Toyota cars are vulnerable to cosmic radiation attack, but there's actually a simple test. Well, relatively simple, anyway--you just park a Camry in front of a particle accelerator and shoot radiation at it and wait to see what happens. If the car starts accelerating all on its own, it's got a problem with cosmic radiation.

And if it turns into a giant dinosaur and starts ravaging Detroit, it's a Michael Bay movie.

Seriously, though, the tests for radiation are relatively simple to carry out, but no one wants to even admit to the necessity. Think about what that would do for every car company's bottom line to release a press release that says: "We must recall EVERY SINGLE CAR on the road in order to shield it against invisible radiation from space.". And the worst part of all is is that this is FEASIBLE, if you listen to the insider reports. It's entirely possible that our heavily computer-dependent cars might well be subject to the whims of astronomical phenomena. That effectively means that virtually every car made in the last six to eight years or so might be at risk, and add this on to an already struggling auto sales sector and you've got a recipe for disaster in the car stock fields.

The possibility does exist--several engineers I know, however, are crying foul. The key thing here is that Toyota stock may REALLY not be a good place to put your savings, nor any other car manufacturer if this is as bad as some claim.

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  • Sam Cass

    March 26, 2010

    My sister has a Lexus. Great car except that it does accelerate. She mentioned it to the dealer when they first bought it and they ignored the problem and claimed the couldn't reproduce it. I think many of the cases we are hearing are frauds. If you run someone over then of course you're going to claim there was sudden acceleration. But I also think there is a real problem. I don't think it's from cosmic rays though because her car is in the garage and that's where the sudden acceleration happens.

  • SteveAnderson

    March 26, 2010

    Sam--not a bad point, that. I will, however, interject a story of my own here. I drive a 1996 Chevy Monte Carlo, and at one point, I would stop, put the car in park, and suddenly the engine would rev of its own accord to about six thousand RPM. Worse, I would be driving, and trying to accelerate, but the engine wouldn't tach over a thousand RPM. I could literally not accelerate. But not always. What happened was a part called the "potentiometer" had burned out, was what my car repair guy told me. A fairly quick and inexpensive repair later, the problem was fixed. Your mileage--no pun intended--may vary, of course, but that's what happened to me.


    March 27, 2010

    Toyota can’t catch a break , a global recall of hybrid cars confirms the issue was more than they lead on , they attempted to hide the seriousness of the problem. Until a never seen before amount public and government pressure caused them to come clean . 2010 will sure be a record breaking year for auto recalls with every major car companies feeling the pain . I looked and discovered my car was recalled . I’m just in shock at the huge volume of recalls this year and its only the 3rd month

  • SteveAnderson

    March 27, 2010

    Scott--you're not kidding, man. I was amazed too, frankly. Some have suggested that there's something deeper at work going on there, because the bad news for Toyota has just been too hard, too much, too fast to be just one giant coincidence. I don't buy it myself, but it's an interesting thought.

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