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Automobile accelerator pedals have historically been mechanical assemblies which link the pedal to the engine throttle by mechanical linkages or a Bowden cable.
However, on October 24, 2013, a jury ruled against Toyota and found that unintended acceleration could have been caused due to deficiencies in the drive-by-wire throttle system or Electronic Throttle Control System (ETCS).While these old purely mechanical designs did have some friction, the return spring force was always designed to overcome this friction with a considerable safety margin.The return spring force ensured that throttle returned to zero if the pedal force applied by the driver was reduced or removed.Toyota will reconfigure the accelerator pedal, replace the all-weather floor mats with thinner mats, and install a brake override system to prevent unwanted acceleration.The brake override system, also called "brake to idle" and already a common design in German cars, allows the driver to override the accelerator by hitting the brakes.The second recall, on January 21, 2010, was begun after some crashes were shown not to have been caused by floor mat incursion.
This latter defect was identified as a possible mechanical sticking of the accelerator pedal causing unintended acceleration, referred to as Sticking Accelerator Pedal by Toyota.
On November 2, 2009, the NHTSA denied a petition to reopen previously closed unintended acceleration investigations of Toyota vehicles, stating they had already been thoroughly investigated making it unlikely for the NHTSA to reach any new conclusions.
In its November 2, 2009 recall announcement, Toyota appeared to claim the floor mats were solely at fault, stating, "The question of unintended acceleration involving Toyota and Lexus vehicles has been repeatedly and thoroughly investigated by NHTSA, without any finding of defect other than the risk from an unsecured or incompatible driver’s floor mat", but the NHTSA issued another statement stating, "This matter is not closed until Toyota has effectively addressed the defect", the letter was “inaccurate and misleading", and that, "removal of the floor mats is simply an interim measure, not a remedy of the underlying defect in the vehicles." On November 25, 2009 Toyota amended its floor mat recall involving the same 3.8 million vehicles sold in North America.
This made it easier for the driver to maintain a pedal position.
For example, if the driver's foot is slightly jostled by a bump in road, the accelerator pedal would tend to stay at its setting.
Approximately 1.7 million vehicles are subject to both. As of January 2010, 21 deaths were alleged due to the pedal problem since 2000, but following the January 28 recall, additional NHTSA complaints brought the alleged total to 37.