By on August 4, 2010

Imagine yourself going down the road with your foot on the brake pedal all the time. This is a Japanese inventor’s idea to stop driver error and unintended acceleration. To accelerate, you move your foot sideways against an accelerator bar. To brake, you stomp on the brake. A horrible thought – if you are a personal injury lawyer.

“We have a natural tendency to stomp down when we panic,” says the inventor, Masuyuki Naruse. What’s more, in an accident, you are very likely to accelerate, because of the impact. In the split second it takes to change from gas to conventional brake pedal,  with the new pedal, you are already braking.

There is little chance to hit the wrong pedal with the new setup.” When the pedal is pushed down, it always activates the brakes,” writes the New York Times.

Naruse developed the pedal 20 years ago, after he mistakenly stepped on the gas – as many others did, but often not admitted. Naruse did something about it. Natuse holds patents for the pedal in Japan, the United States and six other countries.

Naruse is not the only one who have designed a single pedal solution to prevent accidents caused by pedal misapplication. Regulators in Sweden are testing a single-pedal prototype by the inventor Sven Gustafsson.

Katsuya Matsunaga, an engineering and psychology specialist at Kyushu Sangyo University in Fukuoka City says: “Simply speaking, the conventional pedal setup, which forces drivers to switch back and forth between pedals, is dangerous.  Mr. Naruse’s pedal works because it takes into account how our bodies work. It makes sure that when we make a mistake, the car stops.”

According to Naruse, Toyota engineers tested a prototype in 2000, but did not like the design. In May, Naruse invited Akio Toyoda, president of Toyota, to try a Lexus sedan fitted with the latest version of his pedal. Mr. Naruse said he had received no response.

Tip of the Skype to you-know-who. 

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26 Comments on “Pedals For Dummies...”

  • avatar

    …or you could left foot brake with the current system, which also ensures that you will stop in a panic, since slamming both feet down will either electronically cut the gas or, in worst-case, the brake will overpower the engine.

    Left foot braking is also intuitive – one foot for each control option. It prevents the possibility of pedal misapplication. It eliminates the lag in panic braking caused by the foot-switch necessary with right foot braking. There is little chance of hitting the wrong pedal, since “left to stop, right to go” becomes ingrained very quickly – and with new drivers, there’d be no possibility of confusion as it would be all they know. And for enthusiasts, it also enables better control of the car.

    It also has the advantage of not forcing drivers to use an entirely new method of acceleration – surely far more difficult to get used to than using your left foot to brake. And it doesn’t force drivers to swivel their feet to the side to perform a control action, which would be hell on anyone with ankle problems, is imprecise at best, is not a muscle action the human body is really meant for, and might well CAUSE ankle problems for those who don’t have any already.

    It’s funny how TTAC seems to think it’s OK to hover your foot on the brake in this case, but not with left foot braking. Which is it, then? If people can’t hover on the brake without dragging the brakes, how is this acceptable? And if they CAN, how is left foot braking a problem? And how is LFB a more significant change for drivers than forcing them to perform a new, entirely different physical action?

    • 0 avatar
      Brian P

      two words: Manual Transmission.

      You can’t left-foot-brake when your left foot is working the clutch.

      And before you jump on a “ban the manual transmission” argument, it’s worth noting that so-called “sudden acceleration” incidents are almost vanishingly rare on vehicles with manual transmissions. Manual transmissions have a built-in engine disconnection device that the operator is forced to know how to use and forced to use it hundreds of times every day.

    • 0 avatar

      Who said anything about banning manual transmissions?

      First, my post assumed two things:

      1) In the US, 99.99999% of vehicles are autoboxes.
      2) As you point out, these issues are rare on manual boxes for the reasons you state. That said, I wouldn’t drive a car I can’t left foot brake, if for no other reason than the 20 to 40 feet it chops off braking distance at 60mph plus.

  • avatar

    I have never understood the bias against left foot braking. I learned to drive on a farm with tractors and pickup truck and somehow I naturally used both feet to operate the pedals. I’ve never mistakenly used one when I meant the other. I know exactly which pedal that I’m pushing by which leg is doing the pushing and if I use both legs then the brake is being automatically applied. Not the best scenario but better than what the dead-leg drivers are doing.

    • 0 avatar

      +1 on two-footed tractor-driving.

      Most of my early training was on our John Deere 4020 with a column throttle, dash-mounted manual gear lever, clutch, left/right brake pedals, and a floor-mounted throttle cut-off pedal. When turning around with a hay rake (6th gear, 1500 rpm, PTO engaged), the procedure went something like: pull hydraulic lever (raise rake), turn wheel, press left brake, throttle down (foot feed), finish turn/straighten wheel, release left brake, push hydraulic lever (lower rake), release foot feed (throttle up). Two hands and two feet doing four separate things, hours on end in the sun (no cab), no suspension, rough hayfield, no suspension, etc…

    • 0 avatar


      You have my respect. Congrats on mastering that. I, on the other hand, drove into the barn’s stone foundation wall at an alarming clip. Instead of being angry, the farmer just about bust a gut laughing, turned to my friend (also working there those summers) and said “What IS wrong with your friend?” My friend didn’t know what to say, but I’m sure he was embarrassed for me too. Your right about those hours upon hours in the hot sun as well. – I wonder it there’s a racing application for this design?

  • avatar

    Braking for dummies? Idiot-proofing a car is a fools errand. Darwinism always wins.

    Anybody who mistakes the gas for the brakes, or who can’t safely stop a car in extremis, is obviously unfit to operate a motor vehicle safely on public roads, and should have their license revoked. They can ride public transportation, or bum rides from family and friends who can drive.

  • avatar

    Left foot braking would be good for the abs too! :)Allot of guys use it in autocross as a way to move the pedal quicker than one foot.

  • avatar

    So, where’s the clutch?


  • avatar

    The use of pedals and a steering wheel to operate a car is so 20th century. We should move to much better driver controls.

    Get Nintendo or Sony to develop a new user interface. All we need are two simple control movements: brake or accelerate (these should be the same control), left or right. Let experts on human-machine interfaces put some modern technology to work.

    • 0 avatar

      Oh, yes. And then we can do “Up Up Down Down Left Right Left Right B A” to increase power by 100%

    • 0 avatar

      At least those new-fangled ‘start’ buttons will have a real raison d’etre, then…

    • 0 avatar

      Not this again. Have you ever driven a car at the limits? Do you really think it’s currently possible to adequately simulate the feedback you get from a steering wheel? Is there any reason at this point to even try? Even the best gamers at driving simulation games often use steering wheels and foot pedals instead of control pads. I’d wait at least until a better system is invented for the gamers to be calling for a revolution in automobile controls.

  • avatar

    Left-foot braking is fine with automatic transmission vehicles. I have problems left-footing it in my 5spd truck as my feet don’t fit in the correct position/angle to hit the brake without getting stuck between the brake and clutch.

    The Naruse pedal looks like it wouldn’t work well with a manual trans as it appears (can’t watch the video so I’m going off the diagram) the accelerator actuator disengages the actual accelerator linkage when it is depressed along with the brake. This would eliminate the ability to heel-toe downshift under braking and would cause brake entrapment if the foot did not slide toward the left to allow the actuator to clear the accelerator linkage.

  • avatar
    Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

    Try twisting your right foot to the right and holding it there. Or do it repeatedly for 20-30 minutes. Try doing that while you have yaw/roll forces turning the rest of your body towards and away from the pedal.

    Shitty idea, this pedal.

    Makes more ergonomic sense to integrate the throttle into the steering wheel or on the floor-shifter.

  • avatar

    When I first saw the headline I thought it was going to be a hydrostatic transmission. Completely impractical for a car, but hey, it’s got forward+brake+reverse all on the same pedal.

  • avatar

    Left foot braking sounds like a great idea until you watch, say, my in-laws do it. My FIL rides the brake all the time (complains about his pads wearing out, too), while it’s 50/50 which pedal my MIL will stab at.

    Left-foot braking is a really bad idea. Yes, people who are trained and skilled can do it. Most people can’t be trusted to.

    The reason you have two pedals, and why this patent isn’t a huge improvement, is to have two distinct operations for two different outcomes, and that those operations don’t require fine muscle control (which this does) or stress (which this will cause).

    If nothing else, the brake and accelerator should be even further apart and offset distinctly from each other. It would be good if they moved differently, too (eg, hinged at the top versus the bottom). It might help if the accelerator pedal provided significantly more resistance, too.

    An even better option is pre-collision application of the brake, or cut-off of the accelerator using laser/radar. Again, enthusiasts won’t like it, but enthusiasts are vastly outnumbered on the road anyway.

    • 0 avatar

      Left foot braking sounds like a great idea until you watch, say, my in-laws do it. My FIL rides the brake all the time (complains about his pads wearing out, too), while it’s 50/50 which pedal my MIL will stab at.

      You’re describing driver incompetence, not an intrinsic result of LFB. People who drive like idiots will drive like idiots no matter how few feet they use, and you can’t tell me that in a world where the average joe can (and did) learn to run a clutch, throttle, and gearshift in tight synchronization, people can’t manage to learn to have their left foot over the brake without pushing on it.

      People always come out with these anecdotal, “My brain-dead mother-in-law can’t LFB” as proof that LFB is a bad idea.

      When your mother-in-law can’t drive and right foot brakes, the problem is with the mother-in-law. But when she can’t drive and left foot brakes, the problem is left foot braking? Nonsense.

  • avatar

    As I recall, Volvo tested a similar system a year or two ago. The accelerator pivoted about an axis perpendicular to the brake pedal arm. Thus, putting some torque on the pedal itself would open the throttle, but any downward deflection in the arm would cut the fuel and apply the brakes. I never did read anything about the outcome of Volvo’s tests.

    Seems like it would be be difficult to obtain government approval for such a radical departure from the established system.

  • avatar

    It would be an interesting transition period while people got used to this new pedal system. Some guy is coming down the freeway on-ramp, suddenly notices that freeway traffic is moving faster than he thought and that he needs to accelerate briskly to merge smoothly, so he stomps on the pedal, panic stopping his car and possibly causing a chain reaction accident on the ramp.

    The installed base of drivers who expect separate pedals with the accelerator to the right and the brake to the left is much too large to retrain, no matter how effective this system might be (not that I think that it is).

    • 0 avatar

      To some extent we are faced with a problem like the QWERTY keyboard layout. There may be better alternatives (although in the case of the QWERTY keyboard, probably not), but we are locked into the current system because billions of people are used to it.

      As noted above, I think the answer is to go to a completely new driver interface. That won’t be easy, however, and may be impossible.

      Especially in my own nanny-state of California. My son took his written driving test yesterday, and missed a question that asked whether it was illegal for a person to smoke in a car with a minor inside. We were both stunned to find that smoking in a vehicle with a minor inside is indeed a violation of California’s motor vehicle law, with a $100 base fine.

      You would think that in a state teetering on the brink of insolvency our legislators would focus on things a little more important than trying to govern these aspects of its citizens’ lives. (And I say this as someone who has never smoked, and never will, and hates the smell of tobacco smoke.)

    • 0 avatar

      QWERTY keyboard is rather interesting in that it is now completely vestigal. It was designed thus to separate commonly used letters to prevent the mechanical typewriter linkage from jamming when two adjacent keys are struck. The linkage is also the reason why the rows are offset not above each other.

      We are quite dogmatic when it comes to vehicle controls. Personally I think the accelerator should actually be a speed control with no specific brake/throttle function – the vehicle should decide on the application of these depending on what is the most expeditious way to achieve the speed set by the driver. In other words you’d have a simple faster-slower-stop control like they do on trains.

    • 0 avatar

      Interesting comments, Nicodemus.

      The QWERTY keyboard gives a thought-provoking example of lock-in. Although as you say, that layout is vestigial, it also appears to be as good as the alternatives. Testers have found that fast typists do just as well on any keyboard layout, once they have gotten used to it.

      So I don’t see any burning need to jettison the pedals and steering wheels that we all use today. They work, and work well. If they did not, they probably would have been thrown out by now. Just like QWERTY.

      On the other hand, I think most people would like a newer system not quite so quaint. Like you suggest, have one pedal (or other control) for speed. One that handles both acceleration and braking.

      Interestingly, most electric cars that have regenerative braking work (for the most part) that way. You push down on the pedal to go faster. To coast, you keep the same pressure on the pedal. To slow down, you lift your foot.

      Most people, including me, like to drive that way. I rarely use the brake now. Most days I don’t have to.

  • avatar
    Robert Schwartz

    Just reading about Naruse-San’s invention made the tendons in my right leg twitch.

    I would argue that the current set-up is sub optimal. But we probably can’t make a change while the there are substantial numbers of three pedal cars around. However, in a few years, the dual clutch transmissions will make the third pedal completely obsolete.

    I like the idea of putting the brake on the right side. I also like the idea of putting the throttle control on the steering wheel. I would also think that putting the brake on the right and the gas pedal on the left might reduce errors particularly if they were further apart than is current practice.

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