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“Yawn” he wrote Friday. “This was not difficult.”

But Raj Rajkumar, an electrical and computer-engineering professor at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh who studies auto electronics, said the Prius could still have acceleration malfunctions even with the fail-safe system.

Toyota says the fail-safe and the engine are controlled by a central computer that contains two independent microprocessors that communicate and must agree with each other. If there’s a disagreement, power would be cut to the wheels.

But Rajkumar said the two engine control unit microprocessors could still receive common erroneous signals from sensors or experience software errors that could cause the throttle and the fail-safe mechanism to malfunction.

Sikes came to a stop after a Highway Patrol officer blared instructions from a loudspeaker, telling him to push the brake pedal to the floor while applying the emergency brake. Sikes apparently did this, allowing him to slow the car to 50 mph and shut off the engine.

At one point during the 911 call, the dispatcher asks if he can press the ignition button for five seconds and she gets no response. Sikes said later that he struggled to hold the phone and keep his hands on the wheel.

Todd Neibert, the officer who gave instructions to Sikes over a loudspeaker, said he smelled burning brakes when he caught up with the Prius. He examined the car when it came to a stop.

“The brakes were definitely down to hardly any material,” he told reporters. “There was a bunch of brake material on the ground and inside the wheels.”

Sikes said afterward that he was “embarrassed” by the incident, suggesting that he wished he would have handled it differently. “I’m just embarrassed about that,” he said. “You have to be there. That’s all I can say.”

Kurt Bardella, a spokesman for Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., said Friday that investigators are best positioned to determine if there was a hoax, but no evidence has emerged.

A representative of Issa’s office was at a California Toyota dealership when investigators from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and Toyota examined Sikes’ blue Prius on Wednesday and Thursday.

“Where are these suggestions coming from?” he said. “It would be irresponsible to assert it’s a hoax without having facts.”

Joan Claybrook, a former NHTSA administrator, said Sikes’ refusal to shift to neutral, is understandable.

“It’s such a horrifying experience to be completely out of control,” she said. “It’s the kind of thing you dream about when you’re really upset and you wake up in sweats.”

The same firm handling Sikes’ case also represents the family of California Highway Patrol Officer Mark Saylor, which sued Toyota last week in San Diego Superior Court.

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