Washington Babylon — May 20, 2010, 10:39 am

Toyota: Testing well

From USA Today:

For four decades, the company Toyota commissioned to investigate allegations of unintended acceleration has played a central role in many of the most heated auto safety debates, almost exclusively working for the auto industry.

The company, Exponent, is part of a thriving industry of firms that do research and scientific and engineering analysis for hire and provide expert testimony and reports for companies facing product disputes, government regulation and lawsuits. Critics claim Exponent will go to any length to get test results favoring its clients…

“In virtually every case that I have been in, Exponent was on the other side as an expert,” says Savannah, Ga., plaintiff attorney Jim Carter. “It doesn’t matter whether it’s a seat back failure or a roof failure or a steering failure. They will come up with an expert to testify in their favor if they are asked by a car company.”

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Nobody in academia had ever witnessed or even heard of a performance like this before. In just a few years, in the early 1950s, a University of Pennsylvania graduate student — a student, in his twenties — had taken over an entire field of study, linguistics, and stood it on its head and hardened it from a spongy so-called “social science” into a real science, a hard science, and put his name on it: Noam Chomsky.

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