Join us at Device Talks Boston in October

The (open) source of all the trouble with Toyota

March 04, 2010

More sudden acceleration phantoms for Toyota. Sigh.

At this point the sharks are circling in the water and an ambulance chaser mentality has arisen. With $39 billion of cash on hand Toyota is going to be in the sights of every lawyer on the planet. I guess Toyota deserves it but I suspect it's soon going to get very hard to separate fact from fiction.

As hard as they've worked to pin this down as a mechanical failure, the specter of some electronic or software glitch just simply isn't going to go away. Sorry.

What's Toyota to do???? They're sort of pinned between a rock and a hard place here. Even if they HAVE completely investigated this (which I'm starting to doubt) and if they really believe there is no problem with their electronics (which I'm starting to doubt) people are definitely starting to doubt (of which I'm sure).

So here's a wild proposal. What if Toyota were to openly publish ALL their electronic technical information on the internet? Both throttle and brake systems - everything… Schematics, board layouts, component specs, firmware code, test reports, theories of operation… the whole thing.

What if Toyota were to openly publish ALL their electronic technical information on the internet?

Publish it online and throw it out for open-source collaboration on finding a technical problem.

Why not? What is there to lose? Confidentiality? It can't be that proprietary - every other car company has the same things (oh and they don't seem to be backpedaling quite as fast so perhaps your stuff isn't all that good anyway). Worried about disclosure and lawsuits? I think that horse has left the barn!

What would happen? Would it work? Can you imagine chat boards with electrical engineers trading theories and exchanging findings? Engineers at GM working on their evenings looking for glitches on Toyotas as a point of professional pride?? Real time tweets as people traded hypotheses back and forth? PhD electronics wizards, weekend code warriors and crackpot conspiracy theorists all with total access? What would happen? Could - or would - the collective power of thousands of fresh pairs of eyes bring new clarity to the problem? Would we find anything or just how damn complex all this stuff really is? Would anything credible arise? Would a Wikipedia like organization and singular point of view evolve or would chaos reign supreme?

I know - It's never going to happen but I'd love to see it just for the fun of the experiment!