On my raceboat, we had one of those big red things pictured above. It was supposed to switch everything off when things went awry. The NHTSA now proposes something similar for cars with keyless ignition. It is intended to stop the car immediately in a panic situation. Of course it won’t be as intuitive as the big red switch pictured above. After all, the solution comes from Washington, DC.
“U.S. auto-safety regulators proposed standardizing keyless ignitions to allow drivers to turn off cars faster and more easily in incidents of unintended acceleration following Toyota Motor Corp.’s record recalls. “
If course, this is not entirely true. The NHTSA writes:
“In this NPRM, we (NHTSA) address safety issues arising from increasing variations of keyless ignition controls, and the operation of those controls. At issue are drivers’ inability to stop a moving vehicle in a panic situation, and drivers who unintentionally leave the vehicle without the vehicle transmission’s being ‘locked in park,’ or with the engine still running, increasing the chances of vehicle rollaway or carbon monoxide poisoning in an enclosed area.”
Basically, what the proposed rule wants is to standardize the time you need to hold down the Start button for a power-off. As the owner of a runaway (or hung) computer, this may be intuitive to you. In a senior moment, while you are trying to figure out which pedal is the brake and which is gas, pushing the start button to stop may be entirely confusing … but we digress.
Currently, you simply hold down the button and wait a while. This while will be standardized. The NHTSA proposes:
“to standardize the operation of controls that are used to stop the vehicle engine or other propulsion system and that do not involve the use of a physical key. We are also proposing to require that an audible warning be given to any driver who: attempts to shut down the propulsion system without first moving the gear selection control to the “park” position (for vehicles with a “park” position); exits a vehicle without having first moved the gear selection control to “park” (for vehicles with a “park” position), or exits a vehicle without first turning off the propulsion system.”
As far as the button-push goes, the SAE thinks anywhere between half a second and two seconds is good enough. Not good enough for the NHTSA. It suggests that:
“the driver must hold the control for a minimum of 500 milliseconds to shut down the propulsion system, whether the vehicle is moving or stationary, and the propulsion system must shut down within 1 second of the initial push of the stop control.”
But wait, there is more. While you are panicking, the system first gives you a lesson in proper shutdown procedures. The NHTSA wants to:
“Add a requirement for an internal alert to the driver when s/he requests propulsion system shut down without first placing the gear selection control in ‘park.’ “
Because, you know, the car can roll away after you panic-stopped and forgot that gear lever. THAT may be the real dangerous thing: Driverless cars!