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Edmunds.com announces $1-million prize for fix to unintended acceleration [Updated]

March 2, 2010 |  5:33 pm

Solve the unintended acceleration problem, win $1 million.

Edmunds.com, the auto information and pricing company, said it plans to launch a public competition to find a cause and solution to the problem that has allegedly caused dozens of auto accident deaths and devastated the reputation of Toyota Motor Corp.

You don’t have to be an auto mechanic to enter.

"If there is only one person who can re-create unintended acceleration in a car and then solve that problem and prove the whole thing to us, then they’ll get $1 million dollars," said Jeremy Anwyl, chief executive of Edmunds.com.

[Updated at 7:40 p.m.: Toyota has had two massive recalls in connection with sudden acceleration, but Edmunds spokesman Chintan Talati said that Jim Lentz, president of Toyota Motor Sales USA, left doubts in testimony before a congressional panel that the car company has completely resolved the issue.

“If you look back last week at Jim Lentz’s testimony, he said himself that he’s not 100% certain that this is the only fix or the only problem,” Talati said. “So we don’t know the problem is really fixed and that’s what this contest is about."]

Unintended acceleration is primarily associated with Toyota vehicles, but Anwyl expressed doubts the company would come up with a permanent fix. He noted that the problem has long been an industry-wide concern, beginning with Germany's Audi 5000 more than 20 years ago.

"While Toyota is embarrassed and the spotlight is on them, we still don’t have any better of an idea of what’s been causing the acceleration problems," he said. “Unintended acceleration is something nearly every automaker has dealt with over the last couple decades and we’ve never been able to solve."

But can a American Idol-esque call for talent yield a solution to a problem that has stumped corporate engineers? Anwyl denied the prize was a publicity stunt.

"We’re not looking to keep any information or technology ourselves," he said. "Anything discovered in the competition will be open and out there and hopefully this all works, because it could save lives."

The details of the competition, which will begin next month, are still being worked out. But one thing is for sure -- even if you win, you might have to share.

"There might be one answer, there might be many answers,” Anwyl said. “But if there are three people who can do it, then the money will be split three ways. We can’t give everyone $1 million dollars."

-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles

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