NHTSA's Proposed Brake Override System: A Good Idea?
Yes, but for all the wrong reasons.
The proposal by the Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is a result of a highly publicized 2009 crash of a Lexus ES 350 and a subsequent flood of complaints about incidents of unintended acceleration in Toyota and Lexus vehicles.
Investigators believe the Lexus crash occurred after a floor mat was improperly installed and may have trapped the accelerator pedal, causing the vehicle to race down California Highway 125 in suburban San Diego at more than 100 mph before crashing and bursting into flames, killing an off-duty California Highway Patrol officer and three members of his family.
That crash led to a recall of 3.8 million Toyota and Lexus vehicles to fix the floor-mat problem and, after a Los Angeles Times series of stories on sudden unintended acceleration, subsequent recalls of millions more of the automaker’s car to fix sticking gas pedals. Lexus is a Toyota brand.
Safety officials believe brake-override systems -- in which the application of the brake pedal by the driver would instantly disengage a stuck throttle -- can prevent such crashes.
"America’s drivers should feel confident that any time they get behind the wheel they can easily maintain control of their vehicles — especially in the event of an emergency,” said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “By updating our safety standards, we’re helping give drivers peace of mind that their brakes will work even if the gas pedal is stuck down while the driver is trying to brake.”
"This technology is typically raised as a solution to the issue of unintended acceleration. The problem is that the evidence shows this is usually a driver-error issue. In other words, the gas is being applied, not the brakes," said Jeremy Anwyl, vice chairman of auto information company Edmunds.com.
- Shut the car off. Hold the start-stop button, turn the key, whatever. It will stop moving. This is how cars work. Even if the engine is in gear and the gas is floored, your car will stop running. You might lose power-assisted steering and brakes, but you will still have braking power, and you will still be able to steer the car, and you won't be speeding toward the horizon any more.
- Move the shift lever to neutral. Even if the throttle is floored, your car will shift from a drive gear into a position where the engine is no longer connected to the rear wheels. This applies to every car on the planet, no matter what type of transmission it uses.
- Hit the brakes. Even if you don't have a throttle override, your car will stop. By and large, every car in production has more brake power than engine power. In other words, even a floored engine and a speeding car can be brought to a halt by a nailed brake pedal. This has been proven over and over again. It's not that difficult.
"We should not design cars to suit the needs of idiots, and if idiots extinguish themselves through their own idiocy, then we should applaud this as evidence of the great symmetry of God's plan."
-- David E. Davis, Jr., automotive journalist and founding editor, Automobile Magazine.
to much junk in cars that does nothing but drive the cost up . next they will be putting a built in potty for the driver.
I wish we could get a car with all the junk removed.
You are incorrect in your statement saying that the typical Toyota customer is an old lady. Old people tend to buy more American made vehicles since in their day there was a valid argument about purchasing American made products making a difference in our economy. What the article ACTUALLY stated was the majority of the unintended acceleration accidents were from people over 76 and under 20. No where did they make the incorrect statement that these people were responsible for most Toyota sales or that the there are more Toyota drivers in this age range than in any other brand.
Truly educated people in the automotive industry know that the truth is that the Japanese are still building better vehicles than the US, even though the margin in quality has shrunk. To deny this when all experts agree is what is really ignorant.
I tend to think that people that purchase vehicles based on their dependability, quality and cost of ownership are MORE intelligent than those that purchase for other reasons.
I disagree. I think the lemmings that run toward the cars Consumer Reports points them to do so out of ignorance. They don't know a darn thing about cars and take what they believe is the safe route and settle for a basic appliance. Probably explains why the typical Toyota customer is an elderly woman these days. Based on the other article here about unintended acceleration being caused mostly by older females and kids under 20, that would explain Toyota owners' tendency to confuse the brake pedal and the accelerator. Their ignorance about cars also leaves them helpless to shut the engine off or shift the car into neutral before they crash.
I also tend to think that people that stereotype such as these two authors below have clearly shown that it is THEM that have not evolved or been able to outsmart a fifth grader. Of course, they will not be capable of recognizing that they did so.
Gee, I sure do miss David E. Davis, Jr. You don't find many automobile writers like him around. May he rest in peace.
Maybe you should have to pass an IQ test before you can get a driver's license.
Especially Toyota owners since they seem to have more trouble than the average driver distinguishing between the brake and accelerator pedals, if recent history is any indication.
Excellent article. One fine point to address concerning whether or not someone can think of a way to stop a car, is when the moment of oops happens PANIC strikes. Once panic hits it is common to forget simple coordinated functions. (example - being able to insert a key into a lock in a relatively smooth fashion) The thing to address is the command and control of one's vehicle, driver training shouldn't stop when you first get your license.
Complacency and inattentiveness combine to result in knucklehead moves. Combine that with (seemingly) most peoples unwillingness to accept the blame for said knuckleheaded actions and you get rich lawyers and overbearing policy.
PS, excellent David E quote.
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