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Experts: Toyota Safety Flaw Systemic

The problem of sudden acceleration in Toyota vehicles is compounded by complex driver systems that hinder quick reactions, U.S. safety experts say.

Citing an examination of public records, the Los Angeles Times said Sunday that hundreds of such incidents have been reported to the company and the U.S. government. They have prompted auto safety experts to say there may be a bigger problem with the vehicles, which the automaker has blamed on faulty floor mats.

Instead, experts contend the vehicles' complex electronic features -- such as ignition, transmission and braking systems -- make it difficult for drivers to react quickly when accelerating out of control, the Times said.

"This is Toyota's Firestone," Sean Kane, president of auto safety consulting firm Safety Research & Strategies, told the newspaper, referring to the bad publicity that hit Bridgestone/Firestone almost 10 years ago over defective tires that caused a series of fatal accidents. "Right now," Kane said, "when you say sudden acceleration, Toyota is it."

The newspaper said Toyota is implicitly acknowledging its highly computerized engine control system lacks a fail-safe mechanism. Company spokesman Brian Lyons told the Times it is examining significant design changes in the longer term.

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