Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Bug Transportation Technology

Driver Trapped In Speeding Car At 125 Mph 1176

Posted by timothy
from the can't-wait-for-robot-cars dept.
Hugh Pickens writes writes "The Guardian reports that Frank Lecerf was driving his Renault Laguna in Northern France when the car's speed jammed at 60mph. Then each time he tried to brake, the car accelerated, eventually reaching 125mph and sticking there. While uncontrollably speeding through the fast lane as other cars swerved out of his way, he managed to call emergency services who immediately dispatched a platoon of police cars. Realizing Lecerf had no choice but to keep racing along until his fuel ran out, they escorted him at high speed across almost 125 miles of French motorway, past Calais and Dunkirk, and over the Belgian border. After about an hour, Lecerf's tank spluttered empty and he managed to swerve into a ditch in Alveringem in Belgium, about 125 miles from his home. 'My life flashed before me,' says Lecerf. 'I just wanted it to stop.' His lawyer says Lecerf will file a legal complaint over 'endangerment of a person's life.'"
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Driver Trapped In Speeding Car At 125 Mph

Comments Filter:
  • Awesome (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Laxori666 (748529) on Thursday February 14, 2013 @06:27PM (#42902291) Homepage
    Glad nobody got hurt.
  • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Thursday February 14, 2013 @06:28PM (#42902305)

    Turn it to "off" and the engine will lose power. The car will stop. Also, you can shift it in to neutral. Might not be the best for the engine at high RPMs, but it'll do the trick.

    Seriously, I have trouble believing these "My car is stuck going fast and can't stop!" stories are anything other than failure to understand how to operate your vehicle.

  • by Twinbee (767046) on Thursday February 14, 2013 @06:29PM (#42902321) Homepage
    Handbrake as well would have worked surely?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 14, 2013 @06:33PM (#42902387)

    Thus engaging the steering wheel lock.

  • by Jane Q. Public (1010737) on Thursday February 14, 2013 @06:36PM (#42902455)

    "You're thinking of an old-fashioned car, like the Model T. Today's cars don't do that, grandpa. Computer controlled."

    B.S.

    I don't know about Renault, but in the U.S. all gasoline cars that I know of have an ignition switch that literally shuts off electrical power to the cylinders, rendering them incapable of firing. This is regardless of whether they are computer controlled. (That's what "ignition switch" means.)

    If any computer controlled cars lack this feature, it should be added back in, yesterday.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 14, 2013 @06:38PM (#42902521)

    Article says "A Renault technician had been on the phone with police throughout the chase trying to help but couldn't come up with a solution." I'm pretty sure that those two options were tried.

  • by LinuxIsGarbage (1658307) on Thursday February 14, 2013 @06:43PM (#42902607)

    "You're thinking of an old-fashioned car, like the Model T. Today's cars don't do that, grandpa. Computer controlled."

    B.S.

    I don't know about Renault, but in the U.S. all gasoline cars that I know of have an ignition switch that literally shuts off electrical power to the cylinders, rendering them incapable of firing. This is regardless of whether they are computer controlled. (That's what "ignition switch" means.)

    If any computer controlled cars lack this feature, it should be added back in, yesterday.

    Even "push to start" cars act like ATX power supplies. If you hold down the power button for a few seconds it will force a poweroff.

    Surely in an area with predominantly manual transmissions, neutral / declutch would come to mind?

  • by camperdave (969942) on Thursday February 14, 2013 @06:45PM (#42902645) Journal
    I've yet to see a car without a transmission. Dropping into neutral is the universal procedure for a runaway engine.
  • Re:Neutral Gear (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mpk23 (879460) * on Thursday February 14, 2013 @06:46PM (#42902665)

    Automatics still have a neutral gear. Most people don't use it, so I can understand a driver in a panic situation not thinking of it, but I would expect he would try it when stuck in that situation for an hour.

    Neutral nearly caused my engine to jump out of the hood when I had the same thing happen, dangerously high rpms at no load... Turning off the engine worked like a charm, and I found a little flak trapped under the cable. Perhaps there is some reason you can't turn off a Laguna?

  • by _Shad0w_ (127912) on Thursday February 14, 2013 @06:47PM (#42902679)

    The Schengen Area agreement also contains rules concerning police crossing international borders when in pursuit of someone; I believe they keep going, but hand over to local police on the fly.

  • by GiganticLyingMouth (1691940) on Thursday February 14, 2013 @06:48PM (#42902705)
    From the article: "A Renault technician had been on the phone with police throughout the chase trying to help but couldn't come up with a solution." Of course I can't say with 100% certainty, but I'm guessing the Renault technician would have thought of all of your proposed solutions and more. It's important to note that his car had been "adapted for disabled drivers", which likely played some role in its malfunction, so conventional wisdom about cars may not be as applicable, depending on the modifications made. Also, he likely has various disabilities, given that his car is for disabled drivers, and that he "had two epileptic seizures" during the drive, so it's likely not necessarily a matter of him failing "to understand his vehicle's operation" as you say, so much as him being physically and/or mentally unable to take action. One last interesting note from the article: "it wasn't the first time his speed dial had jammed but that Renault had looked at the car and assured him that it was fine." That's probably where the legal complaint comes into play
  • Re:Awesome (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 14, 2013 @06:53PM (#42902803)
    Here in Denver the man wouldn't have had a chance. The drivers doing 5 to 10 mph under the speed limit in all lanes wouldn't know to get out of the way.
  • by innocent_white_lamb (151825) on Thursday February 14, 2013 @06:53PM (#42902805)

    Why is a man who suffers from epilepsy being allowed to drive in the first place?

    Epilepsy is a "reportable condition" here, along with some other medical conditions that can lead to blackouts and/or disorientation. If you are diagnosed with something like that, your drivers license is revoked and you're not allowed to drive at all.

  • by compro01 (777531) on Thursday February 14, 2013 @06:58PM (#42902909)

    Assuming the shifter actually physically does something rather than being connected to a drive-by-wire system that isn't responding to your commands.

  • by Americano (920576) on Thursday February 14, 2013 @07:05PM (#42902999)

    I'm sure it never occurred to the Renault technician to tell the man, "Press the stop button to shut down your engine."

    And everybody knows that pressing a labeled button ALWAYS causes the malfunctioning computer connected to the button to take appropriate action.

    By Jove, you've solved the case!

  • by dgatwood (11270) on Thursday February 14, 2013 @07:23PM (#42903255) Journal

    I think it is way past time for us (as in every country on Earth) to pass laws that ban any further manufacture of vehicles that lack a mechanical key switch and mandate that any existing vehicles be modified by the manufacturer to comply with that law within six months, or else those vehicles are no longer allowed to be driven on public roads.

    This isn't the first or even the second time this has happened. This is at least the third time I've seen a story about such a runaway vehicle. It is just not acceptable for such a severe safety problem to occur that many times without the manufacturers being forced to design an actual, provable fix, and by provable, I do not mean "We fixed the software bug that caused it to happen in this particular instance".

    As long as you have a computer in complete control over the operation of a vehicle, from the electronic transmission and brakes to the throttle control, a failsafe kill switch within easy reach of the driver should be mandatory, by law. Without the ability to kill the computer if it malfunctions, your vehicle is fundamentally unsafe, period, and should never have been allowed on the road in the first place.

    Unfortunately, knowing our lawmakers in the U.S. and how badly they're in the pockets of industry, such regulations won't happen until the first time somebody dies in one of these situations, and maybe not even then. Perhaps France will do better.

  • by Githaron (2462596) on Thursday February 14, 2013 @07:36PM (#42903415)
    The average person does not know how to do that safely.
  • by dwywit (1109409) on Thursday February 14, 2013 @07:38PM (#42903435)

    Not if you ease it on. Its other name is "emergency brake". I don't know much about engine management computers, but cruise control in my car shuts off from a number of different triggers - use the brakes, exceed speed parameters (high OR low), etc - as well as just pressing the button to shut it off. Surely there'd be more than one trigger for an electronic throttle to shut down, and using the emergency brake should be number 1 or 2 on the priority list.

  • by Totenglocke (1291680) on Thursday February 14, 2013 @07:55PM (#42903669)
    No, you're thinking of the throttle. I'm unable to find mention of any car with a drive-by-wire clutch.
  • by 0111 1110 (518466) on Thursday February 14, 2013 @07:59PM (#42903723)

    Do we know whether or not the car actually had an automatic transmission? Auto transmissions are mostly popular in the US and Japan. Everywhere else manual transmissions are at least as common as automatics. If the car did have a manual transmission that makes the story even more incredible. It means that he didn't have a traditional clutch and thus couldn't separate the engine from the transmission by merely pressing down his foot.

  • Re:Awesome (Score:2, Insightful)

    by dov_0 (1438253) on Thursday February 14, 2013 @08:14PM (#42903909)
    Just wondering why he didn't just put the car in neutral and then use the handbrake to control his decelleration? Seriously some people should never be allowed to get behind the wheel...
  • by QuesarVII (904243) on Thursday February 14, 2013 @08:20PM (#42903973)

    Not all cars have a kill switch you can just shut things down.

    And that's the problem right there then.

  • by hawguy (1600213) on Thursday February 14, 2013 @08:52PM (#42904381)

    I call BS.
    You can't get a car inspected in my state(TX) if it doesn't have a kill switch. They will flunk you right then and there if your key being turned off doesn't turn everything except accessories off. It's the first thing they check, turn car off then on, if they can't do that cycle you fail inspection.
    Thanks to my Saturn ION 2007 for that...stupid ignition cylinder breaks and doesn't let you turn the car off.

    Many newer cars don't need a key to start it - as long as your key is somewhere in or near the car, you can just press a button to start the car. And press a button to shut it off. This will work find under normal conditions (like your DMV inspection), but if the car computer ignores the "turn off car" button press while you're driving at speed, there's no way to force the car to turn off.

    Maybe fly-by-wire cars need a failsafe physical switch that manually cuts power to the ignition system or fuel injector pump.

  • Re:Awesome (Score:4, Insightful)

    by JoelKatz (46478) on Thursday February 14, 2013 @09:13PM (#42904605)

    So what? Driving at 125 miles per hour could have killed him -- worrying about the engine or the brakes is idiotic. And the brakes won't catch fire decelerating you from 125 to 0 just once after the transmission is in neutral. He should have shifted into neutral as soon as he realized he couldn't keep the engine from accelerating the car beyond where he wanted it to be.

  • Re:Awesome (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Gription (1006467) on Thursday February 14, 2013 @09:26PM (#42904697)
    I call bullshit...
    125mph maximum speed so he was driving for at least an hour...

    In one hour you can't figure out how to select neutral or at least turn off the key? No way.
  • Re:Awesome (Score:4, Insightful)

    by methano (519830) on Thursday February 14, 2013 @09:34PM (#42904783)
    I wonder why on earth, when he finally ran out of gas, did he have to run into a ditch. I tend to agree with Gription. I'm gonna call BS on this story, too.
  • N is for neural. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by jellomizer (103300) on Thursday February 14, 2013 @10:00PM (#42904991)

    This what I don't get. Shift the car into Neutral. Then coast or break to a stop.
    You can do this on manual and automatic transmissions. Heck you can do it on a hybrid.
    You may burn your engine out, but that is better than racing out of control.

  • Re:Awesome (Score:5, Insightful)

    by horza (87255) on Thursday February 14, 2013 @10:08PM (#42905073) Homepage

    Not sure about the States, but turning off the key in Europe and you would be worried about triggering the steering lock. Which means you can no longer turn the wheel. If it's a manual then going into neutral would be a no-brainer. In Europe we rarely use neutral in an automatic, it's either drive or park, so in panic mode I can see somebody not wanting to use a control they've never used before. Stupid? Yes. Believable? Just about.

    Phillip.

  • Re:Awesome (Score:2, Insightful)

    by demonlapin (527802) on Thursday February 14, 2013 @10:15PM (#42905129) Homepage Journal
    Wrong, bullshit. You can easily steer down to around 5 mph. I did it in my first car, which had broken power steering. Parallel parking was a lot of work, but getting in and out of nose-in is a piece of cake.
  • Re:Awesome (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Mr. Slippery (47854) <tms.infamous@net> on Thursday February 14, 2013 @10:32PM (#42905283) Homepage

    In one hour you can't figure out how to select neutral or at least turn off the key? No way.

    From TFA: "...after his Renault Laguna, which is adapted for disabled drivers...A Renault technician had been on the phone with police throughout the chase trying to help but couldn't come up with a solution."

    Apparently, whatever adaptation was done did not include the ability to put the car into neutral (or that also malfunctioned). If the company couldn't figure out how to stop the car, don't blame the driver.

  • Re:Awesome (Score:5, Insightful)

    by slack_justyb (862874) on Thursday February 14, 2013 @10:37PM (#42905339)
    The transmission is computer controlled. Trying to move it to anything is ignored if it doesn't make sense to the system. In fact that is the key thing, you have a misbehaving computer, however, you have to reason with this crazy machine to get anything to happen, which usually it will tell you, you are the one in the wrong here, hence why a lot of sane sounding things wouldn't work in this case. If the system was completely wonked, there isn't a thing a person could do that this system would respond to, such as turning off or going into a different gear or lack of gear.

    It's like your car is saying, "I'm sorry Dave, I'm too busy pushing the accelerator to process your request to shift into neutral, please try again later."

    Going into neutral with the gas pedal down is going to trigger an ignore signal from the system and thus the request to switch into neutral will not be dispatched to the transmission. Likewise with ignitions, having forward motion in a non-collision situation will have any request to disengage the engine ignored. Heck, some electronic systems won't care. If the car isn't stopped, collision or not, the system may very well ignore any request to disengage the engine.

    The problem is that a lot of these drive by wire systems make a lot of bad assumptions about things and there really isn't a standard guide book on what to make sure does and does not happen, so it varies pretty wildly between systems. Some cars will allow you to switch to neutral, and neutral alone, while the gas pedal is down (never mind that the system is having a fault on requests to accelerate.) Some cars will let you burn through the break pads. The parking brake is always manual, so you'd figure someone would put a kill switch in there. Nope, pulling on the parking brake with the accelerator stuck will just get you some nice brake dust blowing out of your wheels. There are a ton of WTF thinking that goes into some of the programming of these systems.

    Stuck accelerators can be cause by any number of faults, some of those faults are checked, some not. The ones that are checked, can try resets or allow you to stop the car safely. The ones that get missed cause this kind of crap where, no matter what you do, your car is now programmed to go as fast as it can in a forward motion and getting under the hood and pulling the plug to the system for a hard reset is the only solution.

    There is a serious need for someone to come up with logical standard operating procedures for these types of systems. Airplane manufactures do it for their fly by wire systems so that the pilot always stays in control, even when the system would rather beg to differ on the matter. I haven't the foggiest idea on why this kind of thing eludes car makers.
  • Re:Awesome (Score:2, Insightful)

    by RedHackTea (2779623) on Thursday February 14, 2013 @10:42PM (#42905381)
    Neutral with the accelerator slammed down will destroy the transmission. At 128 MPH, I bet there would be a high chance of fire or maybe even an explosion. Overrevving. [ehow.com]
    Turning the engine off usually locks the steering wheel up. This would have been fine assuming that he was on a very long, straight road.
  • Re:Awesome (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dwywit (1109409) on Thursday February 14, 2013 @11:11PM (#42905561)

    Don't know about the USA, but in Oz I've never seen anything other than Off/steering lock, then accessories, then on/run, then start. Turning the key from ON to Accessories will not lock the steering. Sometimes the steering won't lock until the key is physically removed from the barrel.

  • by SpinyManiac (542071) on Friday February 15, 2013 @04:58AM (#42907685) Homepage

    What TFA is missing is that Renault Lagunas don't have an ignition key, they have an electronic card and a start button.

    From what other posters are saying, it seems there's no way to turn the engine off while the vehicle is moving. I can see Renault getting some flak for that design decision, if it's true.

  • Re:Awesome (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Alioth (221270) <no@spam> on Friday February 15, 2013 @06:20AM (#42908081) Journal

    Even so, the safety record of Airbus and Boeing is comparable, so the evidence is that both approaches are just as valid.

  • Re:Awesome (Score:2, Insightful)

    by cayenne8 (626475) on Friday February 15, 2013 @11:02AM (#42910223) Homepage Journal
    I suppose it never occured to him to take the car out of gear??

    I mean, is there such a thing as a car without Neutral?

I bet the human brain is a kludge. -- Marvin Minsky

Working...