Toyota’s Unwanted Acceleration Theory Explained

This is a Clash of Modern Technology.

(please read addition to this post at the end to just get the skinny)

Please only watch this video completely (27min) before commenting on it.

For many years I myself have been angry about the FCC rules being relaxed about 20 years ago with regard to Part 15 Interference between devices.
The relaxed rules simply are no rules or standards that a device must be able to withstand some amount of RF energy before acting improperly.
This was to allow manufactures to not have to pass any tests and remove shielding in a cost cutting move.

This was not such a big deal when it happened as there were not 1/1000 the RF transmitters and not near as many potential receivers to interfere with but still I seen this at the time to just change the argument pitting neighbor against neighbor as if either one would really know why they could not watch their soap-opera when one of them was using a 2-way radio.

Times have changed and most devices that could cause interference and receive interference have increased and show no sign of not doubling every 2 years. Just watch and see how many iPads are sold in the first week when they are released to have a clue. Yes these devices just like the Kindle have a GSM cell phone embedded in them.

Now with 2 new problems to mention:
1 – Many of these devices are digital in nature
2 – Many of the new electronics have our lives in their control. i.e. cars and other transportation systems like Aircraft and Subways/Trains

Now take into account that the Toyota’s that are in the most hot water for doing things that they just should not be doing on their own. These cars are a FLY-BY-WIRE. Meaning that many of them do not have a direct mechanical control but the steering along with the accelerator and brakes are completely under computer actuation with computer controlled servo motors.

While I will take Toyota at their word that the computer systems on board function 100% correct, this would be without any outside influence of RF signals getting into the computer or its other on-board micro-controller systems that communicate with it.

All of this brings us to a new chapter in what type of rules we need going forward as the FCC is currently making new plans for mobile broadband including frequency & modulation standards for whole new groups of digital signals including Video for mobile broadband.
What is needed of the FCC here is at the same time they are making these plans, To Renew And Revise Part 15 and set some level of a standard of RFI resistance for devices that could have a life or death impact if a interference issue arise.

I’m sorry, I just don’t trust a company to ensure this on their own or we would not be speaking of it in the first place as this issue has been out there for at least 10 years.

How am I to feel safe knowing one of these steer by wire cars is driving down the lane towards me and some trucker with a CB radio using a illegal power amplifier and a improperly tuned antenna starts yakking on it and that car could steer into me when the driver looses control at no fault of his own!


As happens from time to time, a amplifier in a cell tower or paging transmitter begins to breakdown and becomes spuratic (sending many unwanted signals) that does commonly happen and there are rules against this but how would anyone know it caused your car or plane to crash. What about a Cable TV system becomes leaky near its in line amplifiers used to keep signal levels up as the line gets longer.

Yes there must be new rules to govern any digital electronic systems with regard to Radio Frequency Interference ( RFI ) resistance when lives are at risk. I am sure this has happened 100’s of times and the real cause was never found. This only amplifies the need for standards we can update as needed as things change yet again but we need to start to address this issue now!.


(Dec 27, 2013) Addition To Original post:

It has been a few years since that posted and I really had more information to include that better explained how I think Toyota dealt with their issue of technology clashing. But I also need to put some perspective on the original post.

First, because of law suites and the like and many folks out there claiming to have found the answer of Toyota’s problem specifically and some of them were pretty far out there like shorting out some parts of the electrical system to generate the expected result (come on man, this kind of thing is not happening while folks are going down the road). Anyway, I had seen many bad things happen to those that spoke out. I do have some credibility with certain circles and many folks will disrespect what they do not understand.

So speaking in generalizations and not specifically at any one issue was the best plan for me to take at that time. So let’s bring you up-to-date and spell out what I think happened in Toyota’s case.

First the up-to-date:

More recalls in Saudi Arabia and South Korea years after the issue was thought to be dead.–Toyota-recalling-more-than-400000-vehicles-in-Saudi-Arabia-17662939/

Now with that let me explain in more plain English what exactly I thought was happening and how I think they fixed the problem in the United States were they did the Recall a few years ago. I am sorry if some do not understand this.

In Toyota’s case, I believe that GSM (used by AT&T and T-Mobile) cell phone data was being parasitic to the data line in between the console area of the cockpit and the vehicle computer.

This is a line that is expected to transfer binary data as the settings of the user instruments in the cockpit are digital or digitized analog data in nature and are simple low speed data to the ECM (computer).

The cell phone and vehicle computer do not speak the same language or talk at the same data rate. But occasionally a data string would be recognized as a command and act on it.

What made this still a bit baffling to me, and I did not think about it until after the original post I had made on the topic, was why user intervention was not stopping the acceleration. As I was later watching Toyota’s fix for this included a firmware update the solution came to me. What was in the update for the computer?

First let me explain something about micro-controller development as it is a bit like writing game programs on a PC (just for a example some may relate to). As the program gets to complicated for the developer to test things out without the need to go through all the steps of the program to test just one area or function, you need to create shortcuts or “backdoors”.

So  it was this “backdoor” that seemed to be getting the interfering data to do things like (for example only) set the engine rpm to 3,000 rpm OR Force the cruise control at 60 MPH (for test in the lab for MPG tests etc). And if these backdoor engineers command sets were active, user intervention would not have been something the original code would have allowed for. So once active would be active until a engineers command came through to stop what it was doing or cancel the last command.

The entire problem was 2 fold.

1 The design engineering did not close their testing “backdoor” in the final product. By itself would not have been a problem except for –

2 The data lines in the cockpit area were not resistant to the parasitic nature of near-field GSM data communications found in cell phone from carriers like AT&T and T-Mobile.

Toyota’s fix, no doubt, was just to close the engineers “backdoor” and possibly add a string of code that allowed user intervention in the case it got there anyway.

Most likely the way they did it,  as some of the options were probably used by dealerships in diagnostic testing to remedy problems reported by owners by specially designed equipment.

In any case what I have been saying is still true. We are probably going to experience more of this sort of weird stuff as this clash of Tech is just getting started.

In my original research on this issue, I had read a bunch of NTSB complaints.  One item that was reported frequently that I though I could explain is not on the NTSB’s radar and it was this.

Many folks were reporting hard to steer or not able to steer and many were reporting accidents because of it.

So I look for similarities of each incident and found that the cars involved all had electronically assisted power steering (every car maker has their own term for there car but that is what it is).

Well, electronic power steering is just a way to do away with the mechanical power steering pump and get some horse power savings that translate into fuel savings. They could have done this stuff a long time ago and it’s a good idea. After all, you don’t need a pump running all the time when traveling as you really turn very little. Using electric motors only when needed just makes sense.

To control such a system, you need a sensor in the steering wheel to know if the driver is turning the wheel and in which direction and how fast . This would give the appropriate data to know how much assistance to apply to the steering assembly and what direction to apply it.

Having read many of these, the problem/solution did not hit me until I read one for the 3rd time as it was similar to another. The cars were attempting to overtake a tractor trailer on the interstate when the steering became hard or impossible to control.

BINGO…   I understood right away.

Many truckers use CB radio which operates on a frequency of 26/27 MHz and has a wavelength of 11 meters. but more importantly, most truckers use amplifiers, actually illegally, but because of cutbacks in the FCC budget, nobody to enforce the rules so it is a common practice to use them and talk further down the highway.

The problem in this issue is that the strong RF signal is bombarding the sensors in the steering column and by falseing them, it’s telling the computer to steer hard in left and right at the same time. This makes it either difficult or impossible to steer.

I really doubt if the NTSB is not smart enough to figure this stuff out. So I think they have  answers like what I just said here but play a game with the manufactures to push them into doing something about it without alarming the public in general. Probably because it is tough to prove a case so far that it indeed caused the accident. To do that without being in a lawsuit would be a hard line to walk.  I realized that when I started writing and speaking on the issue.

Since GSM is the most popular format for cell phones in the majority of the world, it only makes sense that the other countrys would probably have more of a problem with this that we did.

So here it is that other countries having the problem have had enough problems to force a recall of the vehicles.

As Paul Harvey might say, Now you know the rest of the “untold” story.