The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration wants to require automakers to incorporate a brake-throttle override system that will prevent sudden accelerations in all cars and light trucks. This would help drivers of vehicles that suddenly accelerate take back control of the vehicle. The proposal follows a 2009 fatal crash in San Diego involving a Lexus that led manufacturers of Toyota vehicles to recall millions of vehicles over design defects.
After the fiery crash, a series of stories ran in the media complaining of sudden acceleration in vehicles manufactured by Toyota Motor Corporation. The Lexus model is manufactured by Toyota. The media coverage led to a series of highly-publicized congressional hearings calling for tougher federal regulations.
Although Toyota and other automakers have already implemented similar braking systems into some models, federal officials want to ensure every car, SUV or light truck sold in the United States will come equipped with a braking system that allows the driver to stop their vehicle even if the throttle jams or the gas pedal sticks.
It is believed by investigators that the cause of the Lexus ES 350 crash that resulted in the wrongful deaths an off-duty California Highway Patrol officer and three of his family members was an improperly installed floor matt that trapped the gas pedal causing it to stick in acceleration mode. The car crashed going more than 100 miles per hour. That crash led to the recall of 3.8 million Toyota and Lexus vehicles with millions more recalls issued later to fix the same design defect issues.
The NHTSA proposal, which would require automakers to comply within two years, is expected to become final. Since almost all light vehicles sold in the U.S. already have a brake override system, the costs for the industry to comply should be minimal. Nissan, BMW, Volkswagen and Chrysler have been using brake override systems for years.
Source: The Los Angeles Times, "Federal regulators want brake-override systems in all cars," Jim Puzzangherra, Jerry Hirsch, April 13, 2012