Safety officials have often blamed driver error for the unintended acceleration of automobiles that caused injury or property damage. Court cases have also traditionally gone against drivers who claimed to have experienced the phenomenon. But investigations of auto accidents involving unintended acceleration, and automaker documents that keep being uncovered, have reversed the trend. And the problem of sudden unintended acceleration is once again under a spotlight.
Many automakers thought they had solved the problem when, in the 1980s, they added "shift locks", a mechanism that requires drivers to press the brake pedal in order to shift into drive or reverse. And the number of unintended acceleration complaints did indeed drop considerably thereafter.
But renewed public scrutiny arose in the mid to late '90s when defective cruise control systems engaged, causing cars to accelerate as soon as the ignition was turned over. In a recent case, General Motors acknowledged that electromagnetic and radio interference is capable of activating cruise control systems in some of their vehicles. It has also been found that vibrations can trigger cruise control systems that use servo systems.
Another cause that has been attributed to unintended accelerations is electronic throttle controls. This technology, which has replaced a mechanical cable, improves fuel economy and performance through sensors that tell the vehicle's computer how much to open the throttle, which also controls the vehicle's speed. But as with most computers and other electronic devices, electronic throttle controls are subject to bugs and other glitches that, lawyers argue, can cause unintended acceleration.
The issue has since continued to reappear across several vehicle models. The Ford Motor Company has a history of concealing the potential of unintended acceleration in its vehicles. Chrysler denied the existence of an unintended acceleration task force until a high profile case involving a Jeep Cherokee prevented the automaker from continuing to do so.
Subaru recalled 128,000 cars because a suspected defect in their cruise controls could potentially leave their throttles sticking open. The National Highway Transport Safety Administration (NHTSA) is also currently investigating 1998-99 Audi A6 sedans that allegedly pick up speed unprompted while in motion, and the electronic throttle control systems in more than one million Toyota Solaras and Camrys, and Lexus ES 300s.
Only a team of attorneys with expertise in defective automotive litigation and the sufficient resources will be able to take on a major automotive manufacturing company. An attorney who is a member of such a team will be able to advise you on how best to recover compensation for any injuries or wrongful death you or your family member may have suffered. In some cases, your best course of action will be to join other plaintiffs in a class action suit.