NEW YORK – The National Highway Traffic Safety Admin. so far has received only three event-data-recorder readers from Toyota Motor Corp., top official David L. Strickland says.

The Japanese auto maker has promised to put 100 of the readers into the U.S. market following two massive recalls surrounding reports of sudden-unintended acceleration involving a number of Toyota and Lexus models.

Strickland says NHTSA would like to have enough readers to distribute around the country to help investigate the unintended-acceleration complaints. The agency also is looking at how it might strengthen rules to make EDRs compatible with generally available commercial tools, rather than the type of specialized reader Toyota’s black boxes require.

Strickland was the keynote speaker at a World Traffic Safety Symposium here. He says NHTSA is on track this year to receive 45,000 reports from motorists concerning vehicle-safety problems. Normally, NHTSA takes in about 30,000 such reports annually.

The agency attempts to contact every individual reporting a safety defect, Strickland says.

NHTSA has a budget to hire 66 new employees, including electronics engineers, to help unravel the mysteries of unintended acceleration and create new regulations to deal with the problem, the official says, noting the regulator will make it a priority to strengthen its expertise in automotive electronics.

Under study are new standards that would require auto makers to modify pedal designs, install brake-override systems and improve the functioning of stop/start button designs that now are proliferating across a broad range of vehicles. Strickland wants the start/stop buttons to be more effective in shutting down the engine of a runaway vehicle.

NHTSA also would like to see manufacturers use a new generation of EDRs that would yield more data, he adds.

NHTSA has two major research projects under way – one with NASA and the other with the National Academy of Sciences – to help solve the mysteries of unintended acceleration. However, those are relatively long-term studies and won’t yield findings for up to 15 months, Strickland says.

Future light-vehicle regulations could be impacted by what these and other studies determine, he says.