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Government agency pushes to make brake-throttle override mandatory on new cars

Consumer Reports News: April 13, 2012 02:38 PM

Federal regulators have proposed a mandate to require all cars and trucks up to 10,000 lbs. GVWR be equipped with brake-throttle override technology to ensure drivers can bring them to a stop in case of unintended acceleration.

Brake-throttle override is an electronic system that works with modern electronic throttle controls to reduce engine power whenever the brake pedal is depressed allowing the vehicle to easily come to a stop. (See how brake-throttle override works.)

While a few European automakers, General Motors, and Nissan have used the technology for several years, its benefits came to light in the Toyota unintended acceleration cases in 2009. Now Toyota installs the system is standard in all of its new models, and most other automakers have been following suit.

Several of the 2009 cases were attributed to poorly installed floor mats that trapped accelerator pedals and pressed them down. With brake-throttle override, a driver in that situation would be able to step on the brake and bring the car to a stop easily, even if the engine was racing.

The new proposal was issued by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), a branch of the Department of Transportation that monitors safety complaints. It was NHTSA that led the Toyota investigation.

"America's drivers should feel confident that anytime they get behind the wheel they can easily maintain control of their vehicles—especially in the event of an emergency," said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. "By updating our safety standards, we're helping give drivers peace of mind that their brakes will work, even if the gas pedal is stuck down while the driver is trying to brake."

The public will have a chance to comment on the proposed regulation before it is published. Consumer Reports will submit its recommendations, as we have been actively advocating for this technology and other ways to improve automotive safety throughout this period.

We are pleased that NHTSA took this step forward to make smart-throttle override technology mandatory in cars. "To us, one of the most important safety features is to ensure that a vehicle can stop within a reasonable and safe distance, especially in an emergency," says Consumer Union's Senior Director of Federal Policy Ellen Bloom. "This should help minimize the risks of accelerator pedal sticking or floor mat entrapment." Consumers Union is the advocacy and public policy arm of Consumer Reports.

Eric Evarts


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