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CNN claims translated Toyota documents imply accelerator glitch was a known factor

Yes, once again doubt about the integrity of Toyota is resurfacing; and this time it is CNN stating there are documents, three, that imply unintended acceleration may have been a known problem.

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Furthermore, by the context of their findings, that it was electronic in nature. So, question is: Will CNN tarnish Toyota's reputation with its story? And will the stock take a hit once again?

A financial attorney once told me that figures do not lie. There are just a lot of liars doing the figuring. In this case, it's difficult to tell which invention, which translation, which cover up and which sensational statements are truth.

Did Toyota lie about sudden acceleration and that that it was electronic in nature? According to CNN, that may be the case, provided their translations of Japanese documents are accurate; and therein is the problem. It comes down to a proper translation and a proper context.

As long as I’ve worked in automotive engineering, I never met an engineer who would intentionally hide a serious design flaw or keep it from management. Engineers like to sleep at night; so they write reports all the time to basically cover their own behinds. So, this latest charge by multiple CNN translations of a Toyota document has special significance.

According to a CNN article that somehow obtained access to an internal Toyota document, Toyota engineers found an electronic software problem that caused "sudden unintended acceleration" in a test vehicle during pre-production trials. Of course it was written in Japanese and had to be translated for CNN.

Supposedly the document was written in 2006 and marked “confidential.” Of course, Toyota denies that it says any such thing. However, CNN is sticking to its guns; its three translations of which two were commissioned by CNN.

Bottom line per CNN is this: Toyota engineers raised concerns that the adaptive cruise control system would start the car moving forward on its own.

Well, not wanting to take anyone’s word for it, I opted to download a copy for the translated report and read it for myself. Here is what I found:

Original Translation 1

An Overall Inspection of Communication Fail Safes procedure is now mandated for the 180L in order to prevent the reoccurrence of the problem that occurred in the 250L, in which the cruise control activates by itself at full throttle when the accelerator pedal position sensor is abnormal.*1

Translation 2 Commissioned by CNN

A communication fail-safe overhaul for 180L will be conducted to prevent recurrence of the problem that occurred with 250L: sudden unintended acceleration due to wrong judgment made by (the full speed range Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) System) when there is an abnormality with the accelerator pedal position sensor (*1).

Translation 3 Commissioned by CNN

To prevent the accelerator malfunction that caused the vehicle to accelerate on its own (see note 1) that occurred on the 250L, we conduct an “Overall Quality Inspection of Failsafe Signaling Systems.”

Our Turn to Assess

Note that these three translations were consistent in that they related to a reoccurrence. It doesn’t take a biblical exegesis to appreciate the significance of that number of repeats; and that makes this reporter a bit suspicious. Then again, I have to admit that I never did totally dismiss an electronic failure if for no other reason than an EMI pulse. Hey, its possible. And I didn't believe the magic bullet theory which killed Kennedy.

My favorite line in the first Toyota response, though, is: “Because Japanese language is so contextual, misinterpretation by those not actually creating or using this document is possible.”

So, context is key to Japanese. Gee, isn’t every language?

In all fairness, though, Toyota is correct in stating that during prototype development, all manufacturers artificially induce failure to evaluate potential scenarios, no matter how remote, to help ensure a condition does not go into production.

In the second rebuttal letter to CNN by Toyota, I then found these words disturbing: “an inaccurate and misleading translation of a Japanese language document that by its very nature requires significant context to evaluate accurately.”

So, what they are saying is that communication within a Japanese document is subject to so much context that only the writer really knows what he is really stating. Did I get that right? Then how the heck do they communicate in that country? Reminds of that warden in the movie, Cool Hand Luke, when he said, "What we have here is a failure to communicate."

Toyota’s official position is that it was a stress test intentionally designed to confuse the ACC interaction by artificially creating (and thereby simulating) a failed accelerator pedal sensor. In this respect, this reminds me of the intentional stress test of the Chevy Volt battery. So, let’s be fair in that that is a distinct possibility.

Toyota also wrote to CNN that "the studies conducted by the NHTSA and NASA got it right – there is no evidence that Toyota’s electronics can cause uncommanded acceleration."

The next line certainly places some suspicion on CNN’s report, as Toyota states that "It is ironic and disheartening that the very document at issue, which is actually evidence of Toyota’s robust vehicle design and pre-production testing, is the apparent centerpiece for CNN’s broadcast." I learned in another letter that the CNN program was Anderson Cooper 360.

Now, one last question: Do you think CNN is right? Or do you think they’re spitting into the wind?

Read it for yourself at

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Brian (not verified)    March 1, 2012 - 10:51PM

The CNN article clearly does not present all the facts and at best is misleading news on a slow news day, or at worst blatantly unethical journalism. Either way, this article erodes my trust in their organization.

Spw (not verified)    March 2, 2012 - 12:31AM

Watching the interview with Toyota engineer, CNN does not understand what ACC is and how it is supposed to start on its own (accelerate).
Also their translation is "sudden unintended acceleration"... who actually writes that? Engineer would write start or accelerate, not use the term that lawyers use when trying to sue Toyota.

At the end, even if the test showed the crash of the car due to completely broken system (it didnt, it worked fine), this is why pre-production tests happen. How can they blast Toyota for testing their pre-production cars? Thats so silly I am amazed.

I am sure Toyota has done pre-production tests on cars that exploded. What would CNN air - "Exploding Toyota!!!"... How silly is that?

Not to mention that this is Adaptive Cruise Control system not sold in the USA at all, and pre-production versions where engineers try to make it work as perfectly as possible by introducing various different methods of failure.

I will never be able to watch CNN without thinking - is this really true or did they make it up?

Don Bain    March 2, 2012 - 2:59AM

Misinformation both now and then
Big Brother is here and he is the subjective media. Freedom is Slavery, War is Peace and Ignorance is Bliss – truth has been compromised - perhaps forever.

Anonymous (not verified)    March 2, 2012 - 7:25PM

Toyota / Lexus has been deceiptful all along?

Just got caught again!

Truth always comes out.