A George Mason physicist's thoughts on unintended acceleration

A George Mason Physicist, Eugenie Mielczarek, saw Wolfman's post on unintended acceleration and wrote to send his thoughts on the issue. His theory is quite interesting. Eugenie is saying that she feels the Toyota cases of unintended acceleration could be a result of RF interference given all of the wireless controls on a car right now. He speaks with experience being he was a victim of his Subaru Tribeca taking off for no apparent reason. It was after this happened and the dealer and manufacturer said they could see nothing wrong, that he began to wonder if it was interference which could have caused the uncontrollable acceleration. One wonders if there is no evidence of acceleration and the high number of electronics in a car, if some of these mysterious Toyota cases are a result of interference. Read Eugenie's thoughts on it below.

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Dr. Mielczarek (who is a woman, not a man) believes that steering, braking and accelerating are controlled via wireless technology. This is completely false. No production automobile available today employs wireless steering, braking, or acceleration systems. Ancillary systems like door locks and ignition can be controlled remotely, but no auto manufacturer is willing to use wireless technology in systems used to operate a car.

The potential illustrations of RF interference offered in the PDF would fail to impress any journalists. Remote keyless entry systems use 40 bit encryption and the code is changed every time the key fob is used. This translates to a 1 in a billion chance of using your key fob to open or start someone else's car. Also, remote entry systems operate on the 315Mhz frequency, which would not be picked up by a portable scanner.

In Dr. Mielczarek's case, I would have to believe that confusion of pedals is the most likely cause of the unintended acceleration she experienced. Poor interface design has lead to unintended acceleration in the past (see the Audi 5000 and Jeep Cherokee pedal location controversies for more info), but without driving a 2007 Subaru Tribeca myself, I can't say the pedal location was the root cause of her accident. It may have just been a panic situation where she stepped on what she thought was the brake and was surprised when the car accelerated. This is a common problem and I know one person who experienced this situation. He slammed down on the accelerator in response because he thought his foot was on the brake pedal the entire time. The result was a damaged front end and a broken retaining wall. Credit is due to Dr. Mielczarek, though. She reacted quickly and threw the car into park, which is something the driver in the fatal Lexus crash failed to do and he was an off duty California State Trooper, trained to react in panic situations.

There's a city full of walls you can post complaints at

say that there is no wireless communication, but electronic communications/devices can be scrambled by interference. That is why I thought this was interesting especially since there are some owners who seriously claim it is not the car mats and manuf. see no evidence.

Thanks for the correction. I made it above. You are right, I had a supervisor with the name of Eugenie and it is not one you see every day.

I knew when I drove to work and I would lock/unlock my doors, another car's alarm would go off/on like clockwork. I believe it was a Subaru, or some import, because I found it one day and had a chuckle that it actually did that. The problem is it went on and off the opposite of mine so if I were to leave early I would have to set off the alarm. My car was a GM. I don't know if it was an aftermarket alarm or the default one, but I don't think the chances are that great to not find one with the same signal. It happened to me in a medium size parking garage.

With what I do for a living as a tech rep I am often confronted with electronic instruments and sensors going "haywire". More than once I have been told that the explanation that I had given for the malfunction was crazy. Later to find upon sometimes exhaustive investigation that a source of "stray voltage/amperage", or a radio signal, was identified as the culprit. Once this (interference) was removed the instrument returned to normal.
While I am not sufficiently educated in the newest electronics in the automobile I can see where some untoward events could happen.

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