NHTSA to Require Brake-Throttle Override Technology on All Light Vehicles

U.S. regulators on Thursday proposed that all light vehicles be equipped with an override mechanism that would give motorists the ability to stop a car or truck in the event the accelerator pedal becomes stuck or malfunctions.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the decision to require brake-throttle overrides was based on research that showed the devices are effective at reducing the risk of unintended acceleration and accidents.

Brake override technology automatically shuts off power to a vehicle’s engine if the accelerator and brake pedals are pressed simultaneously.

The NHTSA did not provide an estimate of how much it will cost automakers to offer override technology but said it could be accomplished “without significant difficulty or cost.” A number of automakers already offer override technology.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood issued a statement in which he said, “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. 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.”

In late 2009 and early 2012, Toyota Motor Corporation became the focus of federal investigations and lawsuits because of unintentional acceleration in a number of its vehicles. In the end, Toyota was forced to recall millions of vehicles worldwide and pay fines totaling $48.8 million because of its failure to disclose the problems in a timely manner.

Toyota consistently denied allegations that there were problems with its vehicles’ electronics. The automaker contended that the cases of unintended acceleration it investigated were caused when accelerator pedals became trapped under the vehicle’s floor mats. A 10-month investigation by the NHTSA also failed to prove any electrical defects.

Although Toyota was not mentioned specifically in the NHTSA’s report, the agency said it received “thousands” of reports of unintentional acceleration between 2000 and 2010.

The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, which represents 12 automakers including Detroit’s Big Three, is on record supporting the proposal to mandate override technology since 2010.

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