Monday, August 16, 2010

Unintended acceleration update.

The longer the NHTSA investigation into Toyota's unintended acceleration woes goes on, the more it turns out to be what we suspected all along - there's not a problem with the cars. There's a problem with the drivers. So far the NHTS has investigated over 3,000 reports of unintended acceleration in Toyotas using various techniques including EDRs - Electronic Data Recorders - the automotive 'black box' that definitively tells you what was going on before a crash. Out of the 3000 or so cases investigated so far, all but two of them have turned out to be 'pedal misapplication'. Read: the driver mashed the accelerator, not the brake. This is eerily similar to the case built against Audi between 1978 and 1986 which eventually turned out to be the exact same thing - idiot drivers.

Still - facts be damned, people are still trying to solve a problem that is entirely human operator error. The latest is an interesting pedal redesign from Masuyuki Naruse a Japanese inventor. Essentially, there is only one pedal in his design - the brake. To accelerate, you slide your foot sideways against a lever instead. It's an interesting idea - if you want to brake, you push on the pedal. To accelerate, you pivot your foot sideways. The only issue I see with this is the phantom brake light problem. If the weight of your foot is on the pedal all the time, even pivoted to the side, then your brake lights will always be on. I'm sure there's some adjustment could be made to the sensitivity of the brake light switch, but I'm not sure the single pedal idea is a good one, because once you introduce human stupidity into the equation, someone will find a way to defeat it and still manage to accelerate when they 'thought' they were braking.
Picture credit : NYT.

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