Image: 2005 Toyota Prius
Seth Wenig  /  AP
A 2005 Toyota Prius is parked at a police station in Harrison, New York. The driver said the hybrid lurched suddenly down a driveway, across a road and into a stone wall. 
updated 3/17/2010 5:41:23 PM ET 2010-03-17T21:41:23

Investigators from Toyota and the U.S. government inspected a crashed 2005 Prius in a suburb of New York City on Wednesday to see if its event data recorder or wreckage could point to problems with the brakes or accelerator.

The data recorder yielded information on engine speed and pedal position. Investigators were still downloading additional data, said Toyota Motor Corp. spokesman Wade Hoyt.

A housekeeper who was driving the car told police that it sped up on its own as she eased forward down her employer's driveway on March 9 and hit a wall across the street. She was not hurt. Harrison Police Department Capt. Anthony Marraccini said driver error had not been ruled out or indicated.

Hoyt said Wednesday that Toyota will share the results of its investigation with local police. Marraccini said that any definitive information on the cause of the crash will be released to the public after that.

Toyota Motor Corp. has recalled more than 8 million cars since last fall because their gas pedals could become stuck or be held down by floor mats. The Prius hasn't been recalled for sticky accelerators. However, the wrecked Prius had been repaired for the floor mat problem.

The government is looking into complaints from at least 60 Toyota drivers who say they got their cars fixed and still had problems. Toyota is checking into those complaints as well.

On Wednesday, six Toyota inspectors, two from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and other experts huddled around laptop computers as they examined the gray Prius under a tent outside the Harrison police headquarters. The car's front end was smashed in, its hood bent upward; it had a broken bumper and headlight, a flat tire and heavy scratches around its Toyota logo.

"This car was preserved well, and it's the best evidence so far, I believe, that anybody's had an opportunity to evaluate," Marraccini said.

The investigation follows Toyota's probe into the claims of a California driver who said he was unable to stop his runaway Prius on a freeway last week until a state trooper helped him. The company held a news conference Monday and said the driver's account was substantially different from its findings.

NHTSA officials at the investigation site did not make themselves available to reporters.

The Prius' event data recorder was expected to contain "trouble codes," which show malfunctions, Hoyt said.

He said the Prius comes with a backup safety system for the brakes. The car's engine idles if a driver hits the accelerator and brake at the same time. "If that's all working, it should be impossible, really, for the car to take off on its own."

Dealers and experts have had trouble recreating episodes of sudden acceleration, and Toyota says tests have failed to find other problems beyond the sticking gas pedals and floor mats.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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