Transmission Failure Blamed For Serious Car Accident

Automotive Expert Witness

This case involves a woman who was driving a mid-size SUV. The woman parked the car in her inclined driveway, exited the vehicle, and began to remove bags from the backseat of the car. As she was removing the contents of the backseat, the car allegedly self-shifted from “park” to “reverse.” The car began to drag the woman down the driveway and because she was in the backseat, she could not hit the brakes to stop it. As she attempted to pull the hand-brake, the car picked up speed and collided with another car in the street. Both the woman and the other driver suffered serious injuries. An expert in automotive engineering familiar with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) standards was sought to examine the vehicle and identify why this accident occurred and whether the SUV’s brake-transmission-shift-interlock (BTSI) feature failed.

Question(s) For Expert Witness

  • 1. Please describe your experience as an automotive engineer, specifically regarding gear shifts and land position.
  • 2. Please briefly describe your familiarity with NHTSA regulations as they pertain to automotive recalls.

Expert Witness Response E-139463

I have a PhD in automotive engineering and am a lead auditor for multiple quality management system (QMS) standards including TS 16949 (auto), AS9100 (aero), ISO13485 (medical), ISO9001 (general), and ISO 17025 (metrology). I have 25+ years of industry experience including serving as the CEO of a consulting and supply chain management firm for automotive manufacturing companies. I also have 6+ years of experience as an instructor of automotive research at a university. I have specific experience with a major vehicle manufacturer as a process control manager, a supplier quality engineer, QMS systems leader, and a vehicle test engineer. As a vehicle test engineer, I was frequently involved with anticipatory testing which evaluates dozens of customer misuse type scenarios such as the one described in the case. As a result, I have great familiarity with NHTSA standards. In this particular case, one of two things has happened: either a) the driver did not engage the gear shift into park to begin with or b) the BTSI (brake-transmission-shift-interlock) feature has failed. A trained mechanic familiar with BTSI function should be able to inspect the vehicle to determine if such failure has occurred.

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