In the wake of the defective product lawsuits lodged against Toyota, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) has called for new rules to make brake-override systems standard in new cars. More than 10 million vehicles, including Toyota's Camry and Lexus' ES300, were recalled due to the possibility of accelerator pedals being trapped under floor mats.
This problem led to several high-profile car accidents involving fatalities. In June 2006, a Toyota Camry ran into an Oldsmobile in a St. Paul, Minnesota intersection, killing two people. The driver was charged with vehicular homicide. In August 2009, four people were killed near San Diego, California when an off-duty highway patrolman couldn't stop a Lexus ES 350 that had an accelerator pedal trapped by a floor mat.
As such, there was a push to minimize the risk of drivers losing control of their vehicles. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood explained that drivers should feel confident in being able to maintain control of their vehicles, and that the safety updates would give them peace of mind.
With the new regulation, automakers would be required to include a brake-throttle override system in all vehicles weighing 10,000 pounds or less - essentially including all passenger vehicles on America's highways. Such a system would stop the vehicle if both the brake and accelerator pedals were used at the same time. The rule would apply with all 2014 model cars.
In the meantime, a number of automakers have included brake override systems in their vehicles. Toyota included them in all 2011 models. General Motors will make them standard in 2012 cars with automatic transmissions. Ford Motor Company has override systems on a majority of its 2010 models, and Chrysler includes them on all vehicles sold in the U.S.
The implementation of override systems creates a new expectation for safety standards and changes what is reasonable in what automakers can do to prevent accidents.
Source: The Detroit News, "NHTSA proposes making brake-override standard" April 13, 2012
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