Mercedes Tackles Unintended Acceleration With New Cruise Control Stalk
Unintended acceleration has been a huge topic in automotive circles over the last year or so, as the Toyota Recall Scandal brought new attention to that man-machine-interface problem. But did you know Mercedes has been receiving its own complaints about UA? Neither did we, as a post-Toyota Recall survey of NHTSA complaints showed Mercedes enjoying one of the lowest rates of UA complaints of all manufacturers. But, reports WardsAuto, the problem was indeed real.
Just about anyone who has driven a Mercedes-Benz in the past decade has experienced it: unintended sudden acceleration because of awkward placement of the cruise-control stalk on the left side of the steering wheel.
A driver may think he is signaling to turn right, when inadvertently he has pushed the cruise control lever upward to the “accel” position, occasionally sending the vehicle bolting forward instead of slowing down to turn at an intersection. This could happen if the cruise control was on but not active.
Left turns were somewhat less problematic because pushing the lever downward put the cruise-control system into “decel” mode.
And, starting with the new M-class SUV, the brand is tackling the problem head-on.
Nevertheless, with the all-new ’12 M-Class cross/utility vehicle going on sale in September, Mercedes has corrected the problem once and for all by placing the turn indicator at the 10 o’clock position and the cruise-control stalk at 8 o’clock.
Until now, those placements were reversed in virtually all Mercedes vehicles, triggering complaints.
The turn-indicator stalk, which also controls the windshield wipers and high-beam headlamps, is longer than the cruise-control lever, and Mercedes engineers are hopeful the new configuration will eliminate any confusion.
In determining that human error was the main cause of unintended acceleration, federal regulators have put a new emphasis on designing-in features that prevent the misuse of pedals, stalks and shifters. Between the Toyota scandal and a recall of its own earlier this year, for 137,000 M-Class SUVs that would not disengage their cruise control when drivers tap the brakes, Mercedes seems to be learning from history. Hopefully more manufacturers will use Toyota’s embarrassing ordeal as motivation to similarly re-examine the ergonomics of their future vehicles. After all, it’s clear that unintended acceleration is an issue that comes up again and again unless manufacturers go the extra mile to “idiot-proof” their cars.
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