A team of NASA engineers was unable to identify an electronic flaw in Toyota vehicles that could cause potentially deadly sudden acceleration, according to a study released today by the Department of Transportation.
"We enlisted the best and brightest engineers to study Toyota's electronics systems, and the verdict is in. There is no electronic-based cause for unintended high-speed acceleration in Toyotas. Period," U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced today.
The only known causes of the "unsafe and unintended" acceleration in Toyotas were mechanical safety flaws involving the "sticking" accelerators and accelerators becoming trapped underneath the vehicles' floor mat, the study said.
However, the NASA report said that "because proof that the [electronic system] caused the reported [unintended accelerations] was not found, does not mean it could not occur."
"It's not over because tomorrow you could find what the cause is," Clarence Ditlow, executive director for the Center for Auto Safety told ABC News. "There's no doubt in my mind there are electronic problems, but we're talking about a very rare event."
The NASA engineers did find two theoretical scenarios in which the electronic systems could cause sudden acceleration, but found no evidence it had happened in the real world.
In addition to the findings, the NHTSA announced the agency is considering taking several steps to improving driver safety including requiring a brake override system, making "event data recorders" mandatory in all passenger vehicles and researching the placement of the pedals to "reduce pedal misapplication."
"While today marks the end of our study with NASA, our work to protect millions of American drivers continues," NHTSA Administrator David Strickland said in the DOT statement. "The record number of voluntary recalls initiated by automakers last year is also very good news, and shows that we can work cooperatively with industry to protect consumers."
The problem with the runaway Toyotas first came to light after a California highway patrolman couldn't stop the Lexus he was driving in 2007. In a desperate 911 call, a passenger in the car said, "Pray for us."
All four people in the car died in the collision that followed.
In the past two years, Toyota has recalled nearly eight million of its vehicles due to the pedal malfunctions, and paid nearly $50 million in civil penalties after an NHTSA investigation into the problem.
Toyota only admitted the sticky pedal problem in the U.S. after ABC News reported on the case of a New Jersey driver whose car would not stop
CLICK HERE for ABC News' full coverage of the Toyota recalls.
Toyota said in a statement the company welcomed the findings announced today.
"We hope this important study will help put to rest unsupported speculation about Toyota's ETCS-i [Toyota Electronic Throttle Control System-Intelligent], which is well-designed and well-tested to ensure that a real world, un-commanded acceleration of the vehicle cannot occur," the statement said.
Today's finding comes as auto-manufacturing giant also reported today a 39 percent dip in quarterly profits. Though thriving in some international markets, Toyota sales have slowed in the U.S. in recent years, reportedly affected by the widespread recalls.