Unintended Acceleration Solution: One Pedal For Throttle And Brake?

August 5, 2010
Loose all-weather floor mat jams accelerator pedal. Photo: NHTSA

Loose all-weather floor mat jams accelerator pedal. Photo: NHTSA

What if the traditional pedal setup, with an accelerator and brake adjacent and just a couple of inches apart, typically, isn't such a great idea after all?

Japanese inventor Masuyuki Naruse doesn't think it is, and argues that it can cause drivers to mistake the accelerator for the brake, in stressful accident-avoidance situations especially.

Naruse's prototype for a single-pedal design has been finished since 1991, but because of Toyota's recent accelerator-related recall issues there's renewed interest.

The completely new pedal design works as a brake pedal when pressed, or when pressed with the side of the foot, an accelerator. Though we have to wonder how well comfortable it would be on an all-day road trip.

In 2009, in Japan alone, 6,700 accidents, 9,500 injuries, and 37 deaths were attributed to the driver mistakenly pushing the accelerator instead of the brake pedal. In the U.S., that figure is harder to come by, but the number of accidents due to mistaking the accelerator for the brake surely ranks in the tens of thousands.

Most automakers have dealt with claims of unintended acceleration in some form. In some, it's been deduced that the driver stomped their foot down in a panic, hitting the wrong pedal instead.

But that leads to the unfortunate footnote: Even this solution wouldn't help if there's a cognitive error and the driver were to simply press the wrong pedal.

The federal government might soon require brake overrides (sometimes called smart throttle technology), and a number of automakers, including Toyota, GM, Honda, and Mazda, plan to soon install the devices on all of their models.

For more information, take a look at the video below, or the longer story at the New York Times, and let us know what you think.

[New York Times]

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