Electronic News & Comment

Can An Engineer Prevent the Unknown?

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Charles Murray
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Re: a new approach needed
Charles Murray   1/9/2014 6:21:05 PM
You're right, naperlou. You can't prove everything. This is a really complex situation because, as you mention, Toyota cars have driven billions of miles with these electronic throttles. So either you believe that the one-in-a-million error occurred, or you believe that the driver stepped on the wrong pedal. Either way, there's no hard evidence. I just wonder now how the pending cases will be resolved.

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Re: a new approach needed
GTOlover   1/9/2014 11:49:22 AM
I agree with what you are saying naperlou. But in reality, we do NOT accept the risk of death in automobile failures. If we did, Toyota would not be forking over 3 million dollars to two families. Do not get me wrong, if the car is crap and is purposefully sold disregarding safety requirements, then they pay. But as pointed out in this article, throttle by wire is a proven and robust technology and Toyota still has to pay.

Self driving cars? I agree, rules of liability have to be established. But then you would put 99% OF ALL LAWYERS OUT OF A JOB!

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a new approach needed
naperlou   1/9/2014 10:00:52 AM
Chuck, you bring up a valid and important topic here.  There is no way to "prove" everything about a vehicle.  Since there are so many vehicles and they are driven so much (in hours and miles) you are likely to run into any error that exists.  So, we cannot prevent problems.  In safety critical systems one typically designs in multiple failsafes.  This is a complex topic.  There are also overrides and safe modes.  This is a well understood area and is applied in the aerospace industry.  Even then, it is not perfect. 

The flip side is that we have lived for about a century with automobiles. They cause more deaths than just about anything else.  We accept that, even though many of the fatalities involve someone just getting from one place to another, often for trivial reasons.  Go figure.

There is probably no real solution.  The next step is to outline the liability rules and install those black boxes.

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