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Toyota Recall: Feds Might Require Brake Overrides

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2010 Toyota Venza

2010 Toyota Venza

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It's already looking like the Toyota recall hearings will bring us at least one new safety feature to all new vehicles: brake overrides.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood might recommend that every U.S. new vehicle be equipped with so-called smart throttle systems—meaning, most importantly, that the signal brake pedal will always override the accelerator pedal.

Such a device would allow the driver to safely come to a stop even if the throttle is stuck open. In such a situation, as long as the driver is pressing on the brake, the throttle would return to an idle position. As part of a requirement, there might also be some sort of mechanical check.

In some older, rear-wheel-drive vehicles, so-called brake-torquing could help aid traction in some very specialized winter-driving situations (like getting out of a snow-packed spot, for instance). And of course brake-torquing has long been used by racers and vehicle testers to achieve the fastest possible launch from a standing start. But that's not good for transmissions anyway, and electronic stability control systems, traction control, and more sophisticated braking systems have rendered those techniques unnecessary.

Many—though not all—of Toyota's U.S. models will have a smart-throttle system or brake override by 2011, the automaker has said. 2010 Toyota Camry and Avalon models already have the systems, according to the New York Times, and the Tacoma, Venza, and Sequoia will soon get the system.

In a line of questioning in Tuesday's hearings related to how Toyota has handled its accelerator-related issues, Senator Jay Rockefeller, of West Virginia (Toyota manufactures engines and transmissions in WV), said that he thought the system should be installed on current and older Toyota models as well. Such a retrofit could prove very costly.

Rockefeller criticized the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's approach in accepting Toyota's explanation that floor mats were the cause of unintended acceleration, and not launching a deeper investigation into the possibility that it might be an electronics issue.

Brake overrides are already included in many vehicles sold worldwide and in the U.S.

For more information on the difference a brake override system could make, and what exactly we're referring to, in December Consumer Reports test engineer Jake Fisher demonstrated the difference in video with a Toyota Venza, which doesn't have a smart-throttle system, and a Volkswagen Jetta, which does.

[New York Times]

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Comments (11)
  1. This one seems like a no-brainer if it's all electronic, eh?
     
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  2. when the discussion focuses on solutions like brake over-rides, feels like we may now have graduated from the initial phase of this crisis - disbelief and fury to a new phase of addressing the screw-up. all necessary phases - but nice to see when we move from one to the next.
     
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  3. a little concerning that no fix found yet - perhaps the Edmunds competition will help
     
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  4. No car should be able to out-accelerate its brakes. Anyone in an accelerating Toyota should be able to just apply the brakes and have the car stop regardless of whether the accelerator is pressed or not.
     
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  5. On s somewhat unserious note, wonder what kinds of tricks and stunts people will be trying out with the manual override?
     
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  6. Can't see how they didn't think about it until now. Could have saved some lives...
     
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  7. Are they really so cost-conscious as to omit this stuff, when it seems like a fundamental? Even Nissan has these, and they could draw a copper penny into a whole neighborhood's worth of DSL.
     
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  8. I always thought any car's brakes could overpower its accelerator. Kinda shocked & surprised (and worried) to find out it's not true after all.
     
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  9. So this begs the question to you all -- please chime in if you have a strong opinion on this -- are today's cars overpowered? Are brakes still not strong enough relative to engine power?
     
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  10. Until it happened to us, I was a bit skeptical that the newer vehicles could accelerate on their own. It happened to my wife in our 2008 4runner, a model that has not been recalled. I now believe. So far, Toyota says they cannot duplicate the condition. The dealership still has our 4Runner. If I could buy my own throttle override, I would have it put on at my own expense.
     
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  11. Toyota's acceleration problem could be customer-based
    www.washingtonpost.com
    http://tinyurl.com/6h8r536
    THE RESULTS are not definitive, but a preliminary report on sudden acceleration from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has some good news for Toyota Motor Corp. Of the 58 data recorders analyzed by the agency and the company, 35 showed that the brake pedal was not depressed.
     
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