Not yet answered Marked out of 35.00 Flag question Beginning in late 2009 and early 2010, there were numerous reports in the media of problems related to sudden acceleration in various models of Toyota and Lexus automobiles. Of course, sudden uncontrolled acceleration of an automobile is a very dangerous situation, with the potential for serious accidents to occur. The first reports of accelerator sticking problems in Toyotas appear to have surfaced in December 2008 in Europe. The reported problems led to investigations by government agencies in the United States, Europe, and in Jap.an and led to several recalls by Toyota in attempts to fix the problems. Aside from the expense of solving the issues related to the problems in the car, the recalls also led to a great deal of embarrassment and lost sales for Toyota and destroyed their reputation for building high-quality automobiles. The acceleration problems were attributed to two different causes. One problem that was identified was improperly designed floor mats that could catch on the accelerator pedal, causing it to stick. Recalls were performed to install redesigned floor mats that eliminated this problem. In addition, it was found that there were mechanical problems with the accelerator pedal itself that could lead to the pedal sticking, causing unexpected acceleration. This problem was also fixed through recalls of over 2 million Toyota and Lexus vehicles. As difficult as it is for a company such as Toyota to weather the bad PR that comes from major safety issues leading to recalls, the problems for Toyota went well beyond design flaws. In February of 2010, the New York Times reported that the Toyota engineers and management often reacted very slowly to reports of safety issues in their automobiles, and in many cases made design changes without notifying customers about problems related to vehicles that were already on the road. These problems went back many years. For example, in 1996, Toyota engineers discovered a problem in the steering mechanism of the 4Runner and immediately made changes in the design to solve the problem. However, they waited eight years to recall vehicles that had already been sold that contained the defect. More recently, Toyota was very slow to order recalls when it was discovered that there was a flaw in the braking system of the Prius that led to safety concerns under some conditions. Due to the negative media reports and pressure from regulators in the United States and elsewhere, Akio Toyoda, the head of the Toyota company, formally apologized on February 5, 2010, for the company’s safety problems and pledged that the company would do a better job in the future of responding to safety issues and protecting the public. 1. What aspects of a corporate ethics and safety culture did Toyota seem to lack in these cases? (5 points] 2. Whed reports of sudden acceleration came in, Toyota sometimes blamed it on “driver error.” What responsibility do design engineers have for driver error? In other words, are there ways for engineers to help prevent drivers (or other users of our designs) from making errors? [10 points] 3. What responsibility do engineers have for following up on reports from the field related to safety of their designs? [10 points] 4. How should safety be incorporated into the engineering design process? Propose for the Toyota engineers a process that ensures a safe design. [10 points]
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