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  (Source: Sting Ray Studios)

Toyota has recalled millions of vehicles, including the best-selling Camry for unintended acceleration problems. Toyota has now received a massive fine for trying to deceive U.S. federal regulators.  (Source: Torque Report)
Fine is largest in U.S. history against an automaker

The atmosphere at the U.S. Department of Transportation on Monday was tense as Secretary Ray LaHood slammed Japanese automaker Toyota.  Lahood announced, "We now have proof that Toyota failed to live up to its legal obligationsWorse yet, they knowingly hid a dangerous defect for months from U.S. officials and did not take action to protect millions of drivers and their families."

Defects are an automaker's eternal enemy.  Every year thousands, if not millions of vehicles are recalled for defects.  Toyota's critical problem was not so much the defects itself -- despite the massive number of vehicles involved.  Rather, Toyota's key mistake was the dangerous game of deception it reportedly played.

According to documents obtained from Toyota, the company began a recall on "sticky pedals" in September of last year in Canada and Europe.  However, it failed to inform U.S. regulators of the problem, and made no effort to launch a recall of the effected vehicles until it came under heavy fire in January.

That constitutes a gross violation of federal safety guidelines, which demand that an automaker inform the U.S. federal regulators within five days of discovering a defect.

As a result, the DOT has thrown the book at Toyota, proposing a $16.4M USD, the maximum penalty allowed under the law.  That fine far surpasses the biggest previous fine against an automaker -- $1M USD sum levied against General Motors for failing to promptly recall windshield wipers in 2002-2003 model vehicles.

Toyota has two weeks decide its response.  Despite the reportedly conclusive evidence, the Asian automaker is expected to appeal the decision, perhaps seeking a smaller fine.

Meanwhile, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) continues to investigate the sticky accelerators, unsatisfied with Toyota's claim that floor mats were solely to blame.  NHTSA is looking at a host of mechanical and electrical elements for bugs, and is even examining whether cosmic rays could play a role, with the help of experts from NASA.

The government continues to investigate Toyota's behavior during the recall, as well.  DOT officials said more fines could brought against Toyota if further proof of wrongdoing is revealed.

While the defect mess is unpleasant for all those involved it does raise some interesting questions about governance.  Some say that the government should not police companies, and that the commercial press should be left to investigate reports of defects and inform consumers of safety risk.  Others argue the current system is a successful one.  And still others argue that current regulation does not go far enough -- that the federal government should have the ability to levy even bigger fines against companies who knowingly make products that could endanger U.S. consumers.

Likewise, the 135 pending lawsuits against Toyota raise similar questions.  Some argue that allowing such free litigation against safety critical businesses, such as automakers and healthcare providers allows citizens to take regulation into their own hands.  Others argue that it hinders free enterprise, raising prices, and worse yet leads to bigger government.

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RE: Amazing
By MadMan007 on 4/6/2010 2:06:57 AM , Rating: 2
I always crack up when people talk about percentages and IQ. IQ is defined as a bell curve with 100 at the peak. So it's unlikely that 80% of the people you encounter are below 100. The second sentence is probably right because *by definition* 50% of people are above 100 and 50% below 100. Now the only question is, given your lack of basic understanding of IQ, what's your IQ?

RE: Amazing
By porkpie on 4/6/2010 2:18:49 AM , Rating: 5
"the only question is, given your lack of basic understanding of IQ, what's your IQ?"

Oh, what delicious irony, given the error here is yours.

While IQ is normalized to a Gaussian curve across the entire population, few people interact with a truly random segment of that population. A researcher at Los Alamos, say, may well find the average person he meets has an IQ of 130, whereas the waitress at Joe's diner may find those around her averaging an IQ of only 90.

IQ has very marked variations by vocation, income and education level, and geography -- the very things people often use to choose those with which they associate. Therefore, very few people in the actual population will find that exactly half of their friends and acquaintances lie above or below the 100 IQ line.

RE: Amazing
By MadMan007 on 4/6/2010 11:27:36 AM , Rating: 2
Yes I realize that people may not interact with a wide range of people daily and of course it won't happen that exactly half fall above 100 and half below. Sorry that I didn't write a thesis about it in DT comments. That doesn't change the misunderstanding of IQ distribution. Having a 4 year degree quite frankly does not have much to do with IQ as implied by the post to which I replied. You take what I wrote much too literally when it was simply meant to show the common misunderstanding of how IQ is, by definition, distributed across a normal bell curve.

In fact your reply shows a lack of simple reading comprehension, I said 'unlikely' and 'probably,' neither of which means 'exact.

RE: Amazing
By porkpie on 4/6/2010 11:47:19 AM , Rating: 3
Your statement was wrong, period. Worse, you compounded your error by impugning the intelligence of the previous poster.

There was nothing in his original post to imply he lacked understanding of the definition of IQ nor, even if he did, would ignorance of what is essentially a trivial fact imply anything about his own intelligence. In other words, you're triply incorrect.

Three strikes, you're out.

RE: Amazing
By Mogounus on 4/6/10, Rating: -1
RE: Amazing
By Mogounus on 4/6/10, Rating: 0
RE: Amazing
By porkpie on 4/6/2010 1:16:10 PM , Rating: 2
Is English too complex a language for you? Madman is not correct, and my original post clearly explains why this is so.

Further, you've managed to miscomprehend what the debate is even about. No one is saying 80% of the population is below a 100 IQ". We are, rather, discussing the probability that the average population any single person interacts with is exactly at that mean value.

Quite a different topic altogether, but thanks for playing.

RE: Amazing
By FaceMaster on 4/6/2010 4:31:19 PM , Rating: 2
you've managed to miscomprehend what the debate is even about. No one is saying 80% of the population is below a 100 IQ". We are, rather, discussing the probability that the average population any single person interacts with is exactly at that mean value.

...This sort of nerdiness will doom Daily Tech's rep on the playground.

"There is a single light of science, and to brighten it anywhere is to brighten it everywhere." -- Isaac Asimov

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