The Obama administration is considering requiring all automobiles to contain a brake override system intended to prevent sudden acceleration episodes like those that have led to the recall of millions of Toyotas, the Transportation secretary, Ray LaHood, said Tuesday ....
The override system is meant to deactivate the accelerator when the brake pedal is pressed. That will let the driver stop safely even if the car’s throttle sticks open. Often called a “smart pedal,” the feature is already found on many automobiles sold worldwide, including models from BMW, Chrysler, Mercedes-Benz, Nissan and Volkswagen.
Without the system, a car’s computer might think a driver wants to keep accelerating, and ignore a driver’s efforts to depress the brake pedal and stop the car. Once the system is installed, it will stop the car if both the brake pedal and accelerator pedal are depressed.
Which will help solve the real problem how? Outside the world of trial lawyers, Democratic congressmen, and their ilk, anyone who's looked at the problem knows that the vast majority of cases of sudden unintended acceleration are the fault of the driver applying the gas pedal when s/he thinks s/he's pressing the brakes. Efforts to prove otherwise have proven to be frauds or failures. Remember the rigged 60 Minutes hatchet job on Audi back in 1989? There was no sudden unintended acceleration problem. But there was pure unadulterated journalistic fraud for which 60 Minutes brought in a trial lawyer's expert witness to provide technical assistance. "The NHTSA's official view, detailed in a 454-page 1989 report, is that the vast majority of sudden acceleration incidents in which no vehicle malfunction is present are caused by drivers mistaking the gas pedal for the brake." (WSJ)
The news media, the trial lawyers, and the Congressional allies peddle the electronic gremlin story by focusing on Toyota. But there are reports of sudden unintended acceleration about virtually every model of virtually every manufacturer. What do all those cars have in common? Drivers.
If it were just Toyota, a design error would seem more probable. But it strains credulity to think that almost every single model of every single manufacturer has a design flaw that can cause sudden acceleration. To quote Wikipedia quoting Isaac Newton, "We are to admit no more causes of natural things than such as are both true and sufficient to explain their appearances. Therefore, to the same natural effects we must, so far as possible, assign the same causes."
In sum, I agree with Car and Driver:
Every man, woman, and child in the U.S. has approximately a one-in-8000 chance of perishing in a car accident every year. Over a decade, that's about one in 800. Given the millions of cars included in the Toyota recalls and the fewer than 20 alleged deaths over the past decade, the alleged fatality rate is about one death per 200,000 recalled Toyotas. Even if all the alleged deaths really are resultant from vehicle defects—highly unlikely—and even if all the worst things people are speculating about Toyotas are true, and you're driving one, and you aren't smart or calm enough to shift to neutral if the thing surges, you're still approximately 250 times likelier to die in one of these cars for reasons having nothing to do with unintended acceleration. So if you can muster the courage to get into a car and drive, the additional alleged risk of driving a Toyota is virtually negligible. ...
The lack of a throttle kill is probably the explanation for Toyotas' higher reported rate of "unintended acceleration" than other brands. But it's critical to note that the lack of such a throttle kill isn't a defect. It isn't Toyota's responsibility to account for every possible stupid thing people might do in a car. Anyone so uncoordinated that they can't differentiate the pedals and operate them independently shouldn't be driving.
And this is going to sound uncharitable, but even if the recall dealing with potentially sticking pedals applies to a lot of Toyotas, why aren’t people just shifting into neutral? Even if the throttle really sticks fully open, it won't have any accelerative impact on the car if it's in neutral. By this point, if you have a Toyota (or any car), and you don't know to shift to neutral if the engine races unexpectedly, you're going to succumb to what can only be described as natural selection.