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Transportation Technology

Mandatory Brake-Override Proposed For All Cars 911

Posted by Soulskill
from the robot-overloads-give-permission-to-drive-fast dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "The LA Times reports that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration wants to require automakers to include a brake-throttle override system in all their cars and light trucks to help drivers regain control when a vehicle accelerates suddenly when the throttle becomes stuck or jammed. '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,' says Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. The move came after a fiery 2009 Lexus crash after a floor mat was improperly installed and may have trapped the accelerator pedal, causing the vehicle to race down California Highway 125 outside San Diego at more than 100 miles per hour, 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 Toyota issued millions more recall notices to fix sticking gas pedals and other issues. Now Toyota has made a brake-override system standard, implementing it in all vehicles the company sold by the end of 2010, and most other automakers offer such a system on many of their vehicles or are adding it. Other automakers would have about two years to comply with the proposal (PDF). 'We learned as part of the comprehensive NASA and NHTSA studies of high-speed unintended acceleration that brake-override systems could help drivers avoid crashes,' says NHTSA Administrator David Strickland."
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Mandatory Brake-Override Proposed For All Cars

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  • by crazyjj (2598719) * on Friday April 13, 2012 @10:35AM (#39674073)

    Do they do everything *EXCEPT* a space program now?

    • by GodInHell (258915) on Friday April 13, 2012 @10:42AM (#39674171) Homepage
      Apparently:

      After months of study conducted for the National Research Council by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), researchers concluded that the unintended acceleration accidents in 2009 and 2010 couldn't be traced to any problems with engines' electronic throttle control systems.

      cite [edmunds.com].

      • by Joce640k (829181) on Friday April 13, 2012 @11:51AM (#39675539) Homepage

        Plus: When this happened a bunch of motor magazines tried braking when the car was under full throttle and the brakes won. Every time. Even with muscle cars. cite [caranddriver.com]

        You can also put the car in neutral [consumerreports.org].

        Not sure what this says about the "Highway Patrol Officer"'s abilities as a driver. If he couldn't manage either of those then this new system won't save him.

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by Obfuscant (592200)

          Not sure what this says about the "Highway Patrol Officer"'s abilities as a driver. If he couldn't manage either of those then this new system won't save him.

          He was distracted by all the bright shiny things dangling off a ring near his right hand. They were making tinking sounds and reflecting sunlight, and he ignored the fact that turning the one sticking into the steering column two clicks to the left would have shut the engine off and saved all their lives..

          Either that, or he was too busy trying to pull his Taser out of his off-duty weapons bag so he could shock the vehicle into submission.

          I'm assuming there has to be more to that story.

          • by Joce640k (829181) on Friday April 13, 2012 @12:43PM (#39676541) Homepage

            I'm assuming there has to be more to that story.

            Nothing about it makes sense to me. He had time to call 911 and talk for ages but not enough time to do any of the several things that would have stopped the car.

          • by danomac (1032160) on Friday April 13, 2012 @02:39PM (#39678247)

            I just went and looked, the Lexus that officer was driving had no actual key... it was one of those fob things with a push-button engine start.

            Trick is with those, when the car is in gear and moving, you have to press that button and hold it for 5+ seconds to shut the engine off to prevent accidental engine shutoff while moving. Of course, this doesn't happen when the car is stopped with the transmission in Park, you just tap the button and the engine shuts off.

            I have had this experience with a very old Toyota...

            I can sort of imagine how it went for him:
            1. Car does not show sign of stopping acceleration
            2. Driver takes foot off gas pedal
            3. Driver looks at gauges, notices car is still accelerating
            4. Driver looks at pedal, can't really see anything
            5. Driver steps on brakes (not hard enough in the officer's case)
            6. Driver tries to shut car off (which is what I did, I have a keyed ignition, I rolled off to the side of the road and stopped here) - officer taps the engine start button and nothing happens
            7. Driver goes "Oh shit!", doesn't know what else to do and tries 911.

            After I stopped I got out and found the gas pedal was caught on the transmission tunnel mat.

            I know when I bought my new truck (not a Toyota) the dealer went through with me emergency procedures like the fuel cutoff and various other things. Maybe Lexus (and other auto dealerships) should make a point of informing customers on how the push-button engine start works if the car is equipped with it. It probably wasn't mentioned, other than here's how to start and stop the car (at a stop.)

            I also read the manual for my new vehicle, but maybe some people can't be bothered?

          • He was distracted by all the bright shiny things dangling off a ring near his right hand. They were making tinking sounds and reflecting sunlight, and he ignored the fact that turning the one sticking into the steering column two clicks to the left would have shut the engine off and saved all their lives..

            Either that, or he was too busy trying to pull his Taser out of his off-duty weapons bag so he could shock the vehicle into submission.

            I'm assuming there has to be more to that story.

            There is. The car did not have a traditional key type ignition switch. Inf fact it had a push button ignition which required the non-obvious technique to hold the button down for 30 seconds to turn the engine off. Cite: http://articles.latimes.com/2010/feb/10/business/la-fi-toyota-pushbutton11-2010feb11 [latimes.com]

            The car was a loaner and he was not that familiar with the controls as if it was his daily driver. I also wonder if he was showing off the power it had by pressing the throttle all of the way to the floor res

            • by gemtech (645045)
              There IS more to the story. He tried to turn off the car: he didn't know that the START button had to held in for almost 5 seconds. He tried to shift it out of gear: it's shift by wire. Once the engine control is "in the weeds", all bets are off. At full throttle the engine isn't making vacuum for the power brakes so he probably pressed the brake pedal more than 5 times. This is near and dear to me as I happen to own a 2007 Toyota Avalon. So Toyota made the stupid decision (I have to believe this w
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Ihmhi (1206036)

          I was actually taught by one of my dad's friends how to handle this situation.

          Let's say you're in the passenger seat and the driver passes out, foot stuck on the accelerator. What do you do?

          One of two things. You could change the gear to neutral. There's a chance it will destroy your gearbox but it's better than crashing.

          The other thing is to - get this - turn the car off. Just turn the ignition and pull the keys. Either way, you have to then try to control the car to a stop.

          Do try to flip on the hazard ind

        • by coyote_oww (749758) on Friday April 13, 2012 @01:13PM (#39677037)

          Not sure what this says about the "Highway Patrol Officer"'s abilities as a driver. If he couldn't manage either of those then this new system won't save him.

          I have read elsewhere that the retired CHP officer's car (a Lexus) was actually determined to have an improperly installed floormat. It still begs the question of why he didn't put the car in neutral (an option even with automatic transmission). Overall, the situation suggests he may not have been thinking clearly.

          The media's periodic focus on unintended accelleration always focuses on the cars, when rational observers almost always conclude the failing part of the system was the driver. Car magazines have done these articles debunking, explaining, etc a number of times with these cycles. The general public doesn't care, doesn't want to learn, and wants it to be some else's fault, preferably someone with deep pockets. Media serves up exactly that. :-(

    • by Kenja (541830)
      NASA is really good at science. Frankly, they are not that great at rockets.
      • by Electricity Likes Me (1098643) on Friday April 13, 2012 @11:17AM (#39674885)

        I'm starting to doubt this rather blunt kind of assessment. I suspect NASA could be great at rockets, if they weren't used as a political football over them. Watching a congressman try and railroad into yet another solid-fuel booster system because it happens to be in his district has really made me suspect that there's a lot of under the table bullshit they have to put up with in that regard.

        • by Kenja (541830)
          "Building stuff" is simply not what they do well. For example, a space suit costs them 10 million dollars to make and gets thrown away after a handfull of uses. They are great at the design and science side of things, but seem to fail at budget and logistics of construction.
          • by gtall (79522)

            "but seem to fail at budget and logistics of construction." And to which space agency doing these things marvelously are you comparing them?

    • by tlhIngan (30335)

      Do they do everything *EXCEPT* a space program now?

      Remember what the first "A" stands for - Aeronautics. Their big PR thing is a space program, but they are really big in other fields and because of the demands required in a modern space program, very multi-disciplined. Heck, even doing the aeronautics part requires a lot of disciplines.

      It's not just rocket scientists, but you'll have scientists and engineers from all the major disciplines because they're required. From biology and earth sciences (and atmos

  • by hydroxy (863799) on Friday April 13, 2012 @10:38AM (#39674105)
    I never understood why this option was so difficult for people.
    • by cs668 (89484) <cservin@cromagnon.com> on Friday April 13, 2012 @10:40AM (#39674141)

      Exactly, the only downside is the steering wheel lock. But, that is still a better option than crashing at 130mph.

      • by hydroxy (863799) on Friday April 13, 2012 @10:42AM (#39674175)
        You just have to leave the key in the "on" position, for the steering to still work
        • by jd2112 (1535857) on Friday April 13, 2012 @11:11AM (#39674751)
          Many if not all of the cars involved in unintended acceleration incidents had keyless ignition. In an emergency shutting off the engine isn't as easy as turning the key a quarter turn. Yet another reason I'm not a fan of keyless ignition.
      • by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 13, 2012 @10:44AM (#39674229)

        How about just put it in Neutral? The brakes will still work even if the accellerator is forced all the way down. Ray LaHood has been in the news more than any previous SecTrans, and has been at the forefront of all sorts of questionable new regulations (ban on text messaging, ban on using a phone at all even if it's hands free, ban on any sort of moving display like a GPS, etc.) He's definitely trying to make a name for himself, and it's costing us money as well as freedom.

        • by Dishevel (1105119) on Friday April 13, 2012 @11:07AM (#39674655)

          Let us just keep making stuff more expensive and harder to get so that the stupidest people in society can continue to pass on their genes.

        • by flaming error (1041742) on Friday April 13, 2012 @12:34PM (#39676371) Journal

          In a stick shift that's probably what drivers would naturally do. In an automatic, it's not necessarily that easy.

          I've practiced this. So should anybody who plans to try it in an emergency.

          In my 98 Toyota Sienna, it works great, although it's easy to shift pass Neutral and go to Reverse.

          In our '06 Prius, at moderate/high speeds the car simply won't let you shift from D to N, and I really doubt the computer would pay any attention at all if the driver were to try holding the power button down. But I'll try that out when I get a chance.

      • On every car I know the steering wheel lock only engages when the ignition key is pulled out.

        • by ftobin (48814) *

          In a crisis situation you aren't going to remember "I shouldn't be pulling the key out." Good safety systems require little if any cognitive input in emergencies.

        • On every car I know the steering wheel lock engages when the ignition is in the OFF position, whether the key is in or not. What car do you know that works as you said?

    • by malraid (592373) on Friday April 13, 2012 @10:42AM (#39674167)
      You should switch to neutral. If you turn off the engine, you loose power steering, brake boosters, and if you go too far, can even lock up the steering wheel. If you're driving with a manual transmission is even easier, just step on the clutch pedal.
      • by jeffmeden (135043) on Friday April 13, 2012 @11:16AM (#39674855) Homepage Journal

        You should switch to neutral. If you turn off the engine, you loose power steering, brake boosters, and if you go too far, can even lock up the steering wheel. If you're driving with a manual transmission is even easier, just step on the clutch pedal.

        A car with a stuck accelerator is going to have absolutely no vacuum to assist with braking, and in case you have never tried to stop a car that has a non-functioning vacuum system, it is quite hard. Add to that the possibility that the car accelerated to a particularly high speed before you took action, and getting the car to stop even after you disengage the transmission will still be challenging.

      • by jank1887 (815982) on Friday April 13, 2012 @11:20AM (#39674937)

        congratulations. everyone just answered like car guys. fits in well where everyone normally answers like superior computer geeks. You're expecting the average soccer mom to respond properly to an emergency situation where the car isn't behaving as she expected. Or grandma. or the new 16 year old kid behind the wheel of a minivan.

        Some automatic override of a recognized possible fault condition sounds reasonable.

        • I'm not a "car guy" by a long margin - I don't do any maintenance on my car myself, have never even changed a tire in my life, and I have only a very basic idea of how the engine works. But I know what "N" on my gear stick means. It's kinda hard not to when you drive the car for more than a few days - eventually you're going to switch to it if only by accident. On most cars, it's also the easiest gear to switch into, because you don't need to hold brake to do that - just swipe the stick down with your hand,

    • by King_TJ (85913)

      Actually, they recommend simply shifting into neutral, vs. turning off the ignition. That way, your steering won't lock (and you won't even lose power steering assist or power brake assist functions).

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      you need to be a child riding a schoolbus to be smart enough to turn the keys to "off"

    • by GodInHell (258915)
      Does that work in every vehicle? I seem to remember that my old escort wouldn't let you turn the key to "off" while it was in drive. . . which raises the question -- why not put the car in neutral?

      -GiH
      • by GodInHell (258915)

        why not put the car in neutral?

        Oh right -- answered my own question -- because you're panicking like a moron and can't think to do anything but stand on the brake.

        • by demonlapin (527802) on Friday April 13, 2012 @10:58AM (#39674489) Homepage Journal
          If you stand on the brake, you'll stop. The brakes are more powerful than the engine in everything on the market.
        • by Spectre (1685) on Friday April 13, 2012 @11:00AM (#39674519)

          why not put the car in neutral?

          Oh right -- answered my own question -- because you're panicking like a moron and can't think to do anything but stand on the brake.

          Actually, the people panicking like a moron and standing on the brake will come to a rapid and controlled stop.

          It is the panicking morons that swear they are standing on the brake and are instead:
          A) Standing on the accelerator
          B) Timidly applying light brake and boiling brake fluid 'til the brakes don't work
          these are the people that actually have issues with "unintended acceleration".

          • by Entropius (188861) on Friday April 13, 2012 @12:07PM (#39675883)

            There was a case of somebody who was trying to back out of their garage, but had the car in the wrong gear and went forward instead... and wound up pinning a family member against the wall. They tried to hit the brakes as hard as they could but the car didn't stop, and wound up crushing their family member.

            An investigation afterwards found that they'd been stomping on the *gas* pedal so hard that it was bent.

    • You wouldn't want to turn off the car. Braking and steering would instantly become more difficult than most people would expect.

      A better solution would be to put your car in neutral. Most, if not all, modern cars have RPM limiters on the engine, so your car jumping to max RPM shouldn't be an issue. It would just be loud. You can then coast to a stop with your power steering and power brakes still functioning.

      Once you are stopped, then turn off the engine.

    • by bws111 (1216812) on Friday April 13, 2012 @11:01AM (#39674559)

      Simple, they panic. I know everyone on here thinks they are far too smart, and this could never happen to them, but it can. When your car starts accelerating wildly, your brain goes into 'I am about to be killed' mode. You do not think, you react. Your instincts take over. If you are an experienced driver, your only instinct is 'mash the brakes as hard as possible'. When that doesn't work, you get even more panicky. Now your instincts are 'curl up and hope for the best'.

      Unless you have been specially trained, your instincts are not going to be 'turn off the key (but not so far as to lock the wheel)', or 'put it in neutral', or any of the other ideas people think are so obvious.

      This is also why a child can think of the 'turn off the key' option: first, they are not fully aware of the terrible danger they are in, so they don't panic. Second, they have no driving instinct to hit the brakes. They are calm enough to think of another option.

      • by fridaynightsmoke (1589903) on Friday April 13, 2012 @11:13AM (#39674799) Homepage

        Simple, they panic. I know everyone on here thinks they are far too smart, and this could never happen to them, but it can. When your car starts accelerating wildly, your brain goes into 'I am about to be killed' mode. You do not think, you react.

        This. I'm as guilty as anyone of thinking "Oh, but I'm a smart person, I know what to do.." and I even drive a manual, making 'unintended acceleration' even easier for me to resolve. But; once when I first had my current car, my first with cruise control, I unintentionally pressed the 'resume' button that activates the cruise control to the last speed it was set at. I believe the setpoint in question was somewhat over 70mph. I was in a variable speed limit zone set to something like 40mph (which was why I wanted the cruise control). The car shot off on its mission to go along at 80mph or whatever, straight towards a speed camera site (there was no-one in front of me, thankfully). Now, I know and knew that pressing the brake would immediately disengage the cruise control; but for about 2 seconds at least I was shitting bricks not knowing what to do.

        Having one's car unexpectedly accelerate is a disconcerting experience, so it's not surprising that people panic and end up in trouble.

  • I have one of those systems, it's called the 'ignition key'. I turn it to the left and the engine stops.

    • by synapse7 (1075571)
      Or select neutral, power brakes and steering would still work.
    • My car doesn't have an ignition key; it has a software on-off switch. There is no guaranteed way of turning off the engine if the throttle sticks.

      The only workable response in that hypothetical situation would be to move the control knob into neutral and apply both brakes. The engine management will prevent the engine from blowing up. If the clutch doesn't disengage, still apply both brakes with maximum force (anything else could destroy the brakes by pad wear.)

  • Wrong override (Score:5, Interesting)

    by anonymousNR (1254032) on Friday April 13, 2012 @10:40AM (#39674133) Homepage
    America needs a Driver Override. Being a troll because I have got karma to burn. Seriously though,this is more likely to be used as a backdoor to Bad driving
  • The move came after a fiery 2009 Lexus crash after a floor mat was improperly installed and may have trapped the accelerator pedal, causing the vehicle to race down California Highway 125 outside San Diego at more than 100 miles per hour, crashing and bursting into flames, killing an off-duty California Highway Patrol Officer and three members of his family.

    Sounds Darwinian to me. If you don't know how to turn your car off, then frankly as a race we don't need you genes!

  • Wouldn't it be easier just to make sure that cars' throttles don't get jammed or stuck?

  • Apparently CHP officers get paid very well. Or you could imply the other option...

  • by yurtinus (1590157) on Friday April 13, 2012 @10:43AM (#39674185)
    Probably should have reworded: "Expensive, high-tech system mandated to overcome floor mat design flaw" just to highlight the ridiculousness...
  • by Hatta (162192) on Friday April 13, 2012 @10:44AM (#39674209) Journal

    A properly functioning brake system will be able to overcome any force the engine can can produce. If you stand on both pedals, your car should go nowhere.

    • by djbckr (673156)
      Well, not entirely... The brakes on cars *are* stronger than the engine. However if they heat up they become ineffective. I personally had heard of this and tried it once back in the 90's. I was on a relatively empty interstate highway, put my foot on the brake and went full acceleration and attempted to keep a relatively stable highway speed. In about 15 seconds the brakes quit working nearly completely. No matter how hard I pushed on the brakes, the car wouldn't slow down - that is until I released the ac
  • by Spectre (1685) on Friday April 13, 2012 @10:44AM (#39674239)

    I don't believe there has ever been a production model of car or truck where the brakes aren't FAR more powerful than the engine/transmission.

    If you apply the brake firmly, you WILL stop, even if the engine is at Wide-Open Throttle.

    http://www.caranddriver.com/features/how-to-deal-with-unintended-acceleration [caranddriver.com]

    • by the eric conspiracy (20178) on Friday April 13, 2012 @10:53AM (#39674423)

      I was in a car in the late 60's with my father when a bolt holding the air filter on came off and dropped into the carb jamming the throttle wide open. This was a bad ass Buick 445 V8 so we took off like a scalded cat.

      I reached over and turned off the ignition and we coasted to a safe stop. I was 12 at the time.

      The problem with these people is they have no idea how their car works or how to drive. So we are going to put in more safety systems which of course make how a car operates less transparent.

  • by msobkow (48369) on Friday April 13, 2012 @10:46AM (#39674265) Homepage Journal

    Given that electronic fuel injection systems really only use a pedal sensor rather than an old-fashioned accelerator linkage moving an arm on the carb, it should be quite easy for a tap on the brake to override the accelerator inputs.

    But the brake-torquing fans are going to be pissed! :D

    • by digitac (24581)
      Yea! How am I supposed to burn up a set of tires in 20 seconds if I can't do a brakestand? If this rule goes in to effect, people will buy less tires which will mean less profits for tire manufacturers which will result in layoffs! This rule will cost jobs!
  • This is going ... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by PPH (736903) on Friday April 13, 2012 @10:47AM (#39674281)

    ... to mess up all the geezers who use the brake pedal as a footrest.

    Fortunately, they seem to be accounting for certain intended accelerator/brake operation in the design. Or they'll just screw up the drag racing off a traffic light tradition. I just hope they leave it off cars with manual transmissions and clutches. If you can't figure out how to stop one of those, you deserve all that Darwin has to offer.

  • It's confirmed (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DesScorp (410532) <<DesScorp> <at> <Gmail.com>> on Friday April 13, 2012 @10:48AM (#39674303) Homepage Journal

    The government wants cars to be unaffordable. They want to ladle so many requirements on building them that you'll need a six figure income to buy one. Sheesh.

    I grew up in the 70's with a VW beetle as our family car. It didn't have anti-lock brakes, a third brake light, air conditioning, air-bags, a computer, or annoying "Door Ajar" voice. It had thin doors. Hell, it didn't even have a radiator.Those old bug engines were air-cooled. They were so light and easy to maintain, my dad overhauled one in our yard. He literally unbolted the engine from the motor mounts, lifted it up and out with his own hands, worked on it, then put it back. All without the help of pulleys, computer analysis kits, or microchips. You could drive to forever and back on a tank of gas. It was the most reliable car we ever owned.

    And now, you couldn't build one in America if you wanted to, because the government would forbid it. "Inherently unsafe", they'd call it. They'd produce 3,000 pages of requirements to be filled before you could actually make one. And yet my family drove one for almost two decades, and it was safe, cheap, and reliable. So yeah, I do think that the government wants to price Americans out of the auto market sometimes.

    • Re:It's confirmed (Score:4, Interesting)

      by ftobin (48814) * on Friday April 13, 2012 @11:16AM (#39674861) Homepage

      Your statement that the car was safe is unsubstantiated. Without enough proper data points the claim simply cannot be made.

    • VW beetle ... And yet my family drove one for almost two decades, and it was safe, cheap, and reliable.

      Nope. Cheap and somewhat (but not extremely) reliable I'll grant you. But "safe", esp. from a passive safety perspective, not so much. Risk = Likelihood x Outcome. That you didn't crash only goes to show that the likelihood is rather low, not that the outcome wouldn't have been catastrophic. And with 50's style cars, the outcome usually was.

      We've done risk reduction when driving mainly by working on the outcome part of the equation. Drivers haven't really improved much. Some, yes, but enough to make a diffe

    • Are you really that ignorant? This requirement will not add cost or weight to the car. From the car and driver article (Dec '09) linked above:

      "Since the advent of electronic throttle control, many automakers have added software to program the throttle to close—and therefore cut power—when the brakes are applied. Cars from BMW, Chrysler, Nissan/Infiniti, Porsche, and Volkswagen/Audi have this feature, and that’s precisely why the G37 aced this test."

      So, aready being done by a wide range

    • Re:It's confirmed (Score:5, Insightful)

      by TubeSteak (669689) on Friday April 13, 2012 @11:58AM (#39675673) Journal

      The government wants cars to be unaffordable. They want to ladle so many requirements on building them that you'll need a six figure income to buy one. Sheesh.
      [...]
      And now, you couldn't build [a 70s VW Beetle] in America if you wanted to, because the government would forbid it. "Inherently unsafe", they'd call it.

      This is what a post based on ideology sounds like. The reality of the situation is wildly different.
      First and foremost, almost all new cars are drive by wire: A brake override is just another setting in the car's ECU.

      Second, if you want to drive in a tin can, go ahead. Build one yourself and get it licensed as an experimental/kit car.
      Lights all around, a horn, mirrors, a speedo, a seat belt*, some wheels, and brakes. Don't violate any noise ordinances and you're set.

      BTW - a 1970 beetle would cost ~$10,000 after adjusting for inflation.
      Add in the optional airconditioning and you can buy yourself a Nissan Versa,
      built to modern safety standards, for the same inflation adjusted price.

      *optional if you're getting your creation licensed as a motorcycle

  • A bit excessive (Score:4, Insightful)

    by pablo_max (626328) on Friday April 13, 2012 @10:49AM (#39674347)

    I can help but think this is a bit excessive. I could imagine if this were a common occurrence to where one had a reasonable chance of the accelerator being stuck, but I dont imagine it is.
    I only know one person in San Diego driving a Toyota where that happened. Granted, he and his family were killed, but there are lots of people killed in freak accidents.
    We cant make the world totally bubble wrapped. I dont want to pay for it at least.

  • by Ogi_UnixNut (916982) on Friday April 13, 2012 @10:51AM (#39674373) Homepage

    But in Europe, all cars have to have (by law) brakes that have enough stopping power to overcome the engine. The result is that hitting the brakes will slow you down despite full throttle. This will eventually lead to a stall of the engine and a complete stop. You will damage your car, but at the point you're using this lives are at stake. Does this not apply in the US?

    Then again, I've only ever really driven manuals, where in such a situation (not that it ever happened to me) I can just lift the clutch and coast to the side. Can you not shift an automatic transmission from "D" to "N" when accelerating? I've never tried tbh, but I can't think of why that wouldn't work...

    Also, what is wrong with turning off the engine? Turn the key so the ignition is off, and then turn it part way. This is usually enough to stop the steering lock engaging, while still not starting the engine again.

    I've never heard of this being a problem in Europe, honestly. We have automatics here too, but I've yet to hear of any runaway cars. Is this a US specific problem? If so what would cause it to be so? (or have I just missed out on these events in Europe)

    Also, the BBC provide a nice article on what to do if you are in a runaway car: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/8498257.stm [bbc.co.uk]

    • Apologies, turns out the comments on the BBC article are full of people who had runaway car problems in the UK, so must be common in Europe as well. Oh, and to clarify, when I meant turn the key "part way" I meant to the accessory position, where things are still powered on, but no ignition. This would stop the steering lock engaging.

  • seriously?? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by GReaToaK_2000 (217386) on Friday April 13, 2012 @10:52AM (#39674377)

    How often does this happen? (does it statistically matter?)
    NO!
    There are so many other things which should be recommended as mandatory.
    How about mandatory bluetooth integration in ALL cars to prevent drivers from using their hands to do anything other than drive?
    THAT would save more lives than are lost due to "speeding out of control".

  • by h4rr4r (612664) on Friday April 13, 2012 @11:03AM (#39674585)

    My car already has one, it is called the clutch. You press that and the engine can rev all it wants without the car speeding up.

    I suggest we make all cars without this much needed safety device illegal.

  • Eh? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ledow (319597) on Friday April 13, 2012 @11:09AM (#39674709) Homepage

    If you DO NOT KNOW how to stop your car should a component fail, you're driving without due care and attention. I'm not saying you *won't* hit anything, but if something major like your brakes fail or accelerator jams, then you should know what to do. Depending on the car and the damage you don't care about causing to it, this can be anything from clutch-down, to forcibly out of gear, to handbrake, to clipping kerbs deliberately, to double-de-clutching or just plain switching off the engine (seriously, if you're going to zoom at 100kph out of your control, and you've tried the obvious, fuck what you've heard about losing power-steering - you'll still HAVE steering but in the worse case of steering lock coming on, it's a damn sight better to brake in a straight line with no engine fighting you than careening about the place at speed trying to weave in and out of crap that doesn't know what's happened to you).

    If you DO NOT KNOW what to do: Find out. Before you use the car again. Hell, find a "test track" like an empty car park late at night and try it out (GENTLY!) if you want. Be shocked by how ineffective a handbrake can be, and how much it can affect your steering on some cars. See how long it takes a non-powered car to start versus a powered one.

    But if you don't do this, really, you're driving a car that you don't know how to drive. Any idiot can press the throttle in a strange car without thinking. But you should KNOW how the car works from a driver's perspective to the point of knowing what to do in an emergency FIRST. For 99% of cars, this isn't a problem - they are pretty much the same.

    But if you notice that you're in an auto and you've never driven an auto before - look up what to do with it. If you're in a start/stop electric crap, LOOK UP WHAT TO DO WITH IT. Some of those cars have literally computer-like-resets - hold the button down for 5. During those 5 seconds (less than the recommended 2-second gap between you and the car in front), you're going to need to do something else too. Find out what will work, whether in theory or practice.

    I find it quite horrendous that more people "know" you should wait for your car to sink to the bottom of the river and the pressure to equalise before getting out of it (WRONG! Get out of there before it dips below the waterline and you won't have any problems! Once the water pressure is on it, that door won't open until you're already in danger of drowning) than know how to bring an out-of-control car to a stop.

    LEARN YOUR CAR. It's doing everything it can to save you all the time, and most of its cost is from safety featurees, and you can't be bothered to learn how to stop it in an emergency?

  • by kimvette (919543) on Friday April 13, 2012 @11:24AM (#39675015) Homepage Journal

    Unnecessary. In my SAAB the throttle jammed the other day - I had unwittingly kicked the floor mat off the peg and the throttle caught on the mat. I was behind another vehicle, so what did I do? Depressed the clutch, shifted into neutral and while the rev limiter was bouncing off the 6500rpm rev limiter, I kicked the throttle down repeatedly until it came loose, while maintaining control of my vehicle and keeping my left foot off the brake. I then pulled into a parking lot and fixed the mat and made sure it was in place on the pegs which normally keep it from sliding out of position. I was concerned about the engine (and turbocharger to some extent, although there was no load on the engine) after being at redline for a few seconds. So I detoured and drove around a bit in high gear at low RPM to keep oil and coolant circulating to cool things down a bit.

    It was a total non-event, really. If they do require that brake-throttle override I'd want it disabled because there are times I do want throttle and brake at the same time.

    I also keep traction control off in that car most of the time (I do wish I could keep it disabled by default), and on one of my other cars I actually disable ABS (I disconnect the EBCU entirely) in icy/snowy weather because ironically it adversely affects braking by being overly-sensitive (probably due to 335mm/13.1" wide tires - and no they are not slicks), greatly extending stopping distances, even when braking gently.

    Besides, NO mass-produced car from the factory has enough torque to overcome its brakes. If you mash down on the brakes, the car WILL slow down and come to a stop. The problem is idiots don't apply the brakes - they miss the pedal and apply the throttle.

    What is the correct solution? Get rid of the current driving licensing system since it is PURELY a revenue generator. Implement proper driver training, including safety and performance driving courses, an extended course where the instructor distracts you (maybe by setting off a small firecracker in the car, or popping a balloon, etc) and also several courses instructing you on how to deal with blowouts (on the highway you just keep driving - don't let off the throttle entirely, DO NOT BRAKE but gently back off the throttle and gradually coast down), how to steer properly (NOT hand-over-hand but sort of shuffle your hand position as you turn the wheel), how to take turns properly (don't go wide and turn sharply - follow the apex of a turn and by god don't slow down to 20mph on an on-ramp where there is no speed limit because the idea is for you to freely accelerate to merge with traffic, even overtaking speed if required), and of course, eliminate the fucking drive-around-the-block-then-parallel-park-on-a-deserted-street driving test. Make the driving test include driving through TWO major cities during rush hour, including navigating AT LEAST one roundabout properly, exercising all yields and merges properly, both obeying the law and following courtesy properly, and parallel park between two cars without customizing the bumpers on the other cars (I HATE parking on Boston streets because I find my bumpers customized by people who "feel" their way into a parking space).

  • by Anarchduke (1551707) on Friday April 13, 2012 @12:33PM (#39676363)
    Because if I was the government, I'd love to add that particular requirement to the specifications. Makes stopping people really easy.

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