By on January 18, 2012

A panel convened by the National Academy of Sciences is calling for NHTSA to “become more familiar with and engaged in”. What does this mean for you? More government intervention in new cars, of course.

Automotive News reported that

“The panel recommended that regulators require event data recorders in cars and that the safety agency research the design and placement of accelerator and brake pedals to minimize the risk of drivers mistaking one for the other. NHTSA plans to propose a rule requiring data recorders and to update its accelerator-control safety standard to require a so-called brake override system in a few months, Lynda Tran, an agency spokeswoman, said.”

I don’t know about you, but I’ve never ever confused the brake and gas pedals in my life. As for the event data recorded law? Well, I’m sure the Best and Brightest will have lots to say about that. Maybe Ronnie can give Ray LaHood a piece of his mind on behalf of TTAC next time they run into one another.

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40 Comments on “Government Wants “More Oversight” On Automotive Electronics...”

  • avatar

    Mr. LaHood is getting out of LaHand.

  • avatar

    Mr Lahood has got to go – and how.

    Now, we already have data recorders and it ONLY tracks a few seconds of data, usually the bit of data that takes place right before the accident and through it so one can determine what happened and why but that’s it.

    As for the accelerator, I’ve never had an issue of getting them mixed up.

    • 0 avatar

      As for the accelerator, I’ve never had an issue of getting them mixed up.

      Good drivers don’t, but there are many bad drivers. I’ve never forgotten to replace the dispenser and tighten the cap at the gas station, but there are people who drive off with it still stuck in their car. Dispensers are designed with this in mind.

      I believe that most cases of ‘unintended acceleration’ were driver error (hitting the wrong pedal), so I have no problem with defining a standard distance between them. (When I was in drivers’ ed., we had a Chevy Cavalier. The pedals were so close together that I could hit both pedals with the ball of my foot.) However, ‘replacement’ is going too far, IMO.

  • avatar

    This is to make sure the problem that the government thought Toyota had, but didn’t have, never happens?

    • 0 avatar

      To be fair – it was Toyota drivers that reported the problem and the government was asked this investigate. They found the problem difficult to investigate as the electronics don’t leave much in the way of an audit trail. This is just a reaction to that the lack of data in case they need to investigate future problems. Is it a good idea? Not if it can’t be shut off by the owner – maybe we can have a “start car in debug mode” option?

  • avatar

    The last time I confused pedals was in a 1955 Ford with an automatic transmission. I was used to a VW beetle with small pedals close together and the brake pedal on the Ford was very wide. As I braked to a stop, I absent mindedly pressed the non-existent clutch pedal to shift into neutral. What I got, instead, was the left side of the brake pedal. The stop was abrupt and noisy.

    • 0 avatar

      The last time that happened to me was 1985, Honolulu, vacation, Toyota Tercel rental. I never drove automatics, only owned sticks. Hit the brake with my left foot. Almost went through the windshield. Drove from that point on with my left leg bent to the right behind my right leg. Only happened once.

    • 0 avatar
      A Caving Ape

      This happened to me recently in my friend’s S4. Was actually quite scary since I was trying to go from 5th to 4th on a curved highway exit ramp.

    • 0 avatar

      That happened to me once as well. I was borrowing my parents’ car and fortunately hadn’t yet left the neighborhood.

  • avatar

    “I don’t know about you, but I’ve never ever confused the brake and gas pedals in my life”

    Haven’t made that mistake either, but I have jammed my left foot into the brake peddle a couple of times while driving an automatic. Maybe they should require an ankle strap for those of us who normally drive a stick…

  • avatar

    So they want data recorder to help figure out why people get the brake and accelerator are mixed up, so it will be asking people if they are over 80? From what I have read there was about 10.5 million vehicle crashes last year and about 33,000 deaths. The average car on the road is now almost 11 years old, cars that were built to older and less stringent safety standards. So as these “unsafe” cars leave the roads the number of deaths will decrease. I can’t help but wonder if there is a point to continuing to focus large sums of money on safety. There must be a point of diminished returns, more features add weight and complexity. They cost more to buy, cost more to drive due to fuel costs, and they could cost more to fix. We all know the most dangerous thing about the car is the driver, perhaps all the money spent on developing new could go to improved training courses to help fight the laziness and mistakes that will come with adaptive cruise control and blind spot detection.

    • 0 avatar

      Stricter inspections wouldn’t be a terrible idea either. Or at least some system of oversight ensuring inspection stations actually look for what they are already supposed to be looking for.

      I don’t want something quite as difficult as what Germany is supposed to have, but it would be nice if things like suspension, brakes, and tires were more carefully looked at. My indy once told me that I would be appalled at the condition people drive their cars in. Based on what I see on the highways every day, that isn’t hard to believe.

      • 0 avatar

        I have seen some appalling vehicles. I also think an investment in retesting every 4-7 years would be nice. I would even go for once every 2 years from 16-22 and from 70+. Failure would result in mandatory training (Pay for it with the $50 that will be inevitably charged for each driving test we take) A pain and somewhat unfair but in the end it might lower accident rates.

  • avatar

    When I first saw the title, I was thinking this had something to do with regulating complex entertainment systems i.e. MyFordTouch.

    Why hasn’t every car maker installed brake overrides by now?

    • 0 avatar

      That’s also what I thought the article would be about.

      My suggestion would have been: We don’t need more govt intervention–we just need less electronic crap.

    • 0 avatar

      I realize I’m in a vanishingly small minority, but I really DON’T want government bureaucrats redesging my car so that rev-matched downshifts can’t be executed. And I don’t want Nissan engineers automating it for me, either.

  • avatar

    I often get the pedals confused.
    Ted Kennedy
    oh, wait ! I’m dead…

  • avatar
    Rob Finfrock

    So, this pretty much confirms the Toyota debacle was little more than a manufactured crisis, handed to our benevolent leaders on a silver platter by the unfortunate antics of select morons not intelligent enough to shift into neutral.

    We need to cull our society of the ignorant. They have entirely too much influence, and their actions play right into the hands of a government desperate to assert more control and influence over our lives and decisions.

  • avatar

    Put the accelerator in the passenger footwell, the brake in the driver footwell!!

  • avatar

    Oh, no! It’s the National Academy of Sciences!

    Seriously: stop being so paranoid.

  • avatar

    “the design and placement of accelerator and brake pedals to minimize the risk of drivers mistaking one for the other”


  • avatar

    I’m in the auto electronics industry. In Europe, the semiconductor electronics companies work with the government to mandate high-tech standards, which of-course requires more electronics. You can bet the same happens in the US.
    Obama appoints Immelt, who is the CEO of GE, as the head of his economics council. GE is one of the largest if not largest supplier of wind turbine and alternative energy companies in the world, energy that can only compete when it has subsidies, thanks Mr. & Mrs. Taxpayer. It’s big biz helping big government get what it wants so big biz can make more big $ off of mandates. So you have so-called capitolists working with The Gov, each with the goal of getting more money from you and me. Crazy times in this world.

  • avatar

    This is a direct result of ‘unintended acceleration’ claims in Toyota/Lexus models a few years back.

    FYI: If your throttle DOES stick wide open (a statistical impossibility with fly-by-wire throttles), there is a fail safe. It’s called a KEY. That’s right. A KEY. TURN IT OFF AND PUT THE CAR IN NEUTRAL.

    ‘The Hood’ needs to be brought up on charges of crimes against humanity.

  • avatar

    when I was maybe 10, my Uncle Al was letting me take the wheel and the gas on the big ’59 Dodge wagon, the first V8 I ever drove. I accidentally hit the accelerator instead of the brake. I wished they’d sorted out the optimum size and placement of brake and clutch already. In fact, that’s what I told my older brother when he started laughing–that this wouldn’t have happened if NHTSA had done their job!

  • avatar

    I don’t know if “black boxes” for cars is a worthy idea or not, but definitely the NHTSA need to be ”become more familiar with and engaged in” car electronics, as they now include things like adaptive cruise controls, and in the future, even some sort of automated driving system. The potential of these things going awry is potentially quite dangerous. If the electronics in your 1970 Chrysler went awry, you probably lost radios, and maybe power windows. At worst you got no ignition to your engine. If the automated driving control of a future car went awry and decided to play demolition derby in the highway, with your car, well…

    • 0 avatar

      Not to mention collision avoidance systems that actuate the brake, and stay-in-lane systems that grab the steering wheel. And increasingly complex controls, entertainment, and communications systems that distract attention from the road. If you don’t want the regulators involved, ask the manufacturers to stop the electronic “innovations”. Really not happy about being rear ended by the guy who thought the car would hit the brakes for him, being sideswiped by the gent who lost control when the lane keeping system grabbed the wheel, or by the lady talking on her cell phone or the kid surfing the Internet.

  • avatar

    No matter where the pedals are, if you can’t figure out what pedal you just pushed within a small fraction of a second after pushing it, you shouldn’t even be driving.

  • avatar

    Of course as we all know, the problem is not mistaking the accelerator pedal for the brake pedal, but mistakenly hitting the accelerator pedal instead of the brake pedal. I really don’t see the problem with studying accelerator/brake placement to see whether that can be optimized and standardized. Or do you like seeing reports of old people smashing into crowds of people when they make that mistake? And yes, old people should be regularly tested for their driving capacity. And while we’re at it, we can start building a public transportation system so that old people don’t have to drive to the grocery store.

    As to automotive black boxes – not so keen on that. But I will bet that it will happen sooner or later, no matter who’s making the decisions.

  • avatar

    How’d that clown ever get past third grade?

  • avatar

    The ultimate goal would be cars that are linked to central computers, 24/7. Just imagine the possibilities for regulation, tax, and control. Monitoring of the masses is already well underway thanks to the personal computer and handheld devices used by 300 million people, let’s take it all the way to their cars.

    • 0 avatar

      Bingo! This is not about accelerators and brake pedals in the long run. Never is with the bureaucrats. Especially those that feel they can make better decisions for you than you can make for yourself. You poor dumb sod.

  • avatar

    It’s quite obvious that having the gas and brake pedals in the same place in every main stream vehicle since the Model A onward has lulled us to sleep as to their location. Clearly we should swap their locations in all vehicles in order to draw everyone’s attention to their location again. Even better, we could only swap 50%, so every time you got in a new car you’d have to check which was which. Then everyone would be thinking about it and no one would get confused.

    Is he serious? Even if there are 100 unintended acceleration deaths a year, which isn’t even close to the reality, that is still an incredibly low number compared to the amount of trips taken by drivers on US roads each year. I’m sure it will require a few multi-million dollar studies though.

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