From: Holman Jenkins in Wall Street Journal
Those of lengthened years will remember the sudden acceleration scare, driven by CBS's "60 Minutes," that almost pushed Audi out of the U.S. market in the 1980s. Lawyers at the time made out like bandits even though handicapped by having to allege an unidentified defect in a mechanical system—and by the fact that the defect seemed to show up disproportionately in cases of elderly female drivers who were new to the Audi.
A second life was given to SUA (sudden unintended acceleration) litigation in the 1990s with the spread of cruise control and electronic fuel injection, making it easier to sustain a claim of unseen and unreplicable software or circuitry glitches. With Toyota wearing the bulls-eye, now comes the third wave thanks to the revolution that means even a midpriced car nowadays can contain dozens of microprocessors and 30 million lines of code.
As the L.A. Times argued in its latest installment Sunday, "complaints of sudden acceleration in many Toyota and Lexus vehicles shot up almost immediately after the automaker adopted the so-called drive-by-wire system over the last decade. That system uses sensors, microprocessors and electric motors—rather than a traditional link such as a steel cable—to connect the driver's foot to the engine."