Friday, April 20, 2012

Clever invention stops runaway cars

The accelerator assembly of a 2007 Toyota Avalon, which was recalled amid complaints about unintended acceleration.
We've read the stories throughout the years of cars that take off while the drivers are pressing hard on the brakes. Audi had a problem with their 5000 series in the 80's, old folks in Florida have been plagued with this. The latest victim of this problem were Toyotas (right after I bought their stock) with many people complaining about sticking accelerators and one widely publicized case of a family driving 120 miles per hour while on the phone with 911 complaining about the stuck accelerator. Usually the causes are the placement of brake pedals or sticking floor mats. (Another good reason to drive a manual transmission car but I'll save that rant for another time)

What do you do? At the time I didn't understand why these people didn't just put the car into neutral but I guess people freeze in emergencies. And after extensive and expensive testing, Toyota proved that there was no fault with their vehicles. Usually it's just the driver pressing their foot on both pedals simultaneously. I've done that myself though I figured it out a few seconds later.

But now there's a simple solution that federal safety regulators plan to require in all new cars and trucks: It's called a brake-throttle override system. All it does is cut the throttle as soon as the brake is pressed. So, whether it's a floor mat or your own foot pressing the accelerator while you're pushing on the brake, the accelerator will be disabled, allowing the car to come to a stop.

Best of all, the cost of making them mandatory would be close to zero since most vehicles already have the system. Toyota made these standard after the recalls and even retrofitted some earlier models. I guess it's cheaper to do this than continue to fight off lawsuits from bad drivers.

The NY Times has a full article about the system.

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