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NHTSA Wants Brake-Throttle Override Systems

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) wants to upgrade the agency’s current safety standards to include brake-throttle override systems. This will most likely be included in the software on your engine control module and would control things like your ABS control module does. This is to disable the throttle in the case that the driver presses both the throttle and the brake at the same time. The new standards would apply to all vehicles and buses regardless of size and weight.

This is supposedly to protect drivers in the case that the gas pedal gets stuck, allowing for easy and controlled breaking. If you recall there was a huge 2010 Toyota snafu after a few people claimed their family member’s crashes were the result of a faulty gas pedal that got stuck (or that the car’s computer caused “unintended acceleration”). Investigations revealed there was no evidence to substantiate the claim that Toyota vehicles had an issue with “unintended acceleration” from the manufacturer, but that didn’t stop the lynch mob.

The NHTSA commented on the situation, "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," said NHTSA Administrator David Strickland. "While NHTSA's defect investigation program will continue to monitor and consider consumer complaints of any potential vehicle safety issues, this proposal is one way the agency is helping keep drivers safe and continuing to work to reduce the risk of injury from sticky pedals or pedal entrapment issues."

On its face, this seems like a good and safe idea. One thing is bothering me about this though: this seems more to prevent the idiots who freak out in an accident and press both the gas and brake at the same time and less about vehicle manufacturer problems to me. People who react like that should not be driving. Sure, we could spend a long time talking about who and who should not be driving but this measure seems like yet another attempt to idiot-proof driving a vehicle.

Operating a car in this country is still a privilege, as it should be. The problem is that many people in this country have a job and a life and there is simply no choice for them but driving, even if they shouldn’t be. Think about the people you have met in your life – I’m sure you can think of at least one or two who have caused several accidents and shouldn’t be on the road. I think the public transportation system in this country needs to actually work, so those who should not be driving have a viable alternative.

This is also yet another system I imagine breaking at some point. Can this thing go haywire and prevent the vehicle from accelerating at all? How expensive is it going to be to fix?

All-in-all, with the current driving laws we have today, I think this could potentially be a good idea. I’d like to see how many accidents are caused every year by “unintended acceleration” of any kind and the cost of implementing these systems in all motor vehicles. What do you think about idiot-proofing cars?

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