Regulators Propose Requiring All Cars and Light Trucks to Have Brake-Override


We’ve all heard the stories for years — a car or truck injures or kills someone because the accelerator pedal “stuck” and the driver lost control. Many of these events turned out to be driver error, but some were actual vehicle defects. So the federal government is now proposing that all cars and light trucks sold in the United States be fitted with a brake-override system that will prevent accelerator pedals from “sticking.” The system would kick in when drivers press both the brake and accelerator pedals at the same time.

The details were laid out in a recent article in the Detroit Free Press. Here are excerpts:

Auto-safety regulators proposed requiring all cars and light trucks sold in the U.S. to have a brake-override feature to stop a vehicle when drivers press both the brake and accelerator.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration proposal follows a wave of Toyota recalls in 2009 and 2010 for defects that some owners said caused unintended acceleration.

“America’s drivers should feel confident that anytime they get behind the wheel they can easily maintain control of their vehicles — especially in the event of an emergency,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood wrote. “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.”

“We are currently reviewing the NHTSA notice of proposed rule-making but are proud that with the 2011 model year, Toyota was the first full-line automaker to make brake override systems standard across all model lines,” Brian Lyons, a Toyota spokesman, said in an e-mail.

The rule would update an existing auto-safety regulation and cost “close to zero” because most carmakers already meet the requirement, according to the agency.

The agency developed the proposal to standardize keyless ignitions that allow drivers to turn off cars faster after a 2009 incident in which a driver and family members died in a crash of a runaway Lexus ES350.

NHTSA, in the proposal, said it has received thousands of complaints about unintended acceleration since 2000, with some involving stuck accelerator pedals that brake-override technology would be designed to counter.

The systems are designed to cut power to the engine when the accelerator and brake are pressed simultaneously, which can occur with a jammed accelerator or a driver accidentally slamming on the wrong pedal.

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