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Toyota gets high-level help in accelerator probe: from NASA

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Our autos are now as technically complex as spacecraft. Meet George Jetson?

Maybe we have truly entered the "Jetsons era" -- we're now looking to the space travel industry to get help with fixing our cars.

Apollo 15 Rover on lunar surface. Credit: NASA

According to a news report, to get to the bottom of the root causes of the potential sticky accelerator problem plaguing recent Toyota models, NASA said it was joining the National Academy of Sciences in the government's investigation.

US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced that "NASA scientists with expertise in electronics will help the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration study potential electronic ties to unintended acceleration in Toyotas. NASA's knowledge of electronics, computer hardware and software and hazard analysis will ensure a comprehensive review."

NASA has experience with ground-based vehicles as well as airborne ones, such as the Lunar Rover (pictured above) or Mars probes.

The National Academy of Sciences will also be looking at acceleration and electronic vehicle controls from other auto manufacturers as well.

It used to be easy for a mechanic -- trained, or even in the backyard -- to spend a couple of hours tinkering or rebuilding car parts to get things running smoothly again. Perhaps we've crossed some kind of chasm when car technology is on a level of complexity with spacecraft technology.

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Joe McKendrick

Contributing Editor

Joe McKendrick is an independent analyst who tracks the impact of information technology on management and markets. He is a co-author of the SOA Manifesto and has written for Forbes, ZDNet and Database Trends & Applications. He holds a degree from Temple University. He is based in Pennsylvania. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure