TV crews watch as a 2008 Toyota Prius' brakes are tested by an auto maker engineer after a March 2010 news conference in San Diego at which company officials defended their vehicles.
Federal investigators have found a number of cases involving complaints about unexplained acceleration in Toyotas in which information in the cars' data recorders suggested that drivers stepped on their accelerator pedals instead of the brakes.
According to a Wall Street Journal story (subscription required):
The U.S. Department of Transportation has analyzed dozens of data recorders from Toyota Motor Corp. vehicles involved in accidents blamed on sudden acceleration and found that at the time of the crashes, throttles were wide open and the brakes were not engaged, people familiar with the findings said.
The results suggest that some drivers who said their Toyota and Lexus vehicles surged out of control were mistakenly flooring the accelerator when they intended to jam on the brakes. But the findings don't exonerate Toyota from two known issues blamed for sudden acceleration in its vehicles: sticky accelerator pedals and floor mats that can trap accelerator pedals to the floor.
The findings may not "exonerate" the car maker, as the WSJ reports, but it could arguably help the company push back against many of those product liability law suits it's now facing.