Behind Toyota's Acceleration Woes: Cosmic Rays?

Now NASA is on the case
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 30, 2010 7:38 AM CDT
Dr. Anthony Anderson, an electrical failure expert, holds an electronic chip from an acceleration pedal assembly.   (AP Photo/Luis M. Alvarez)
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(Newser) – Of all the potential culprits behind Toyota's acceleration woes, this has to be the most far-fetched sounding: cosmic rays. Thing is, it may be true. Cosmic radiation can mess with the chips found in electronic components, Wired reports. Federal regulators are investigating whether or not radiation is causing Toyota's problems—and they're getting a little help from NASA.

Regulators received a tip that claimed the design of Toyota's chips, processors, and software make them particularly vulnerable to the high-energy rays, which can alter a bit while passing through a chip. NASA scientists with expertise in electronics will help the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration look at the electronic systems used in Toyotas and determine whether they have flaws that would warrant a defect investigation.

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