Throttle body with integrated motor actuator

Throttle body with integrated motor actuator (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Are brake-override systems necessary? Should they be mandatory for all new vehicles? Federal regulators seem to think so. In fact, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration just recently proposed that all automobile manufacturers implement design changes in future vehicles that would include a brake-throttle override system. A number of car manufacturers already include this feature in their vehicles, including Nissan, Volkswagen, BMW and Chrysler.

The reason behind this move is the Lexus crash in 2009 caused by a floor mat interfering with the braking system and the subsequent recalls of Lexus and Toyota vehicles because of unintended acceleration. Many believe that brake override systems will effectively prevent crashes of this type from occurring in the future, as explained in this Los Angeles Times article:

The systems act as an electronic fail-safe that automatically releases the throttle when a car’s onboard computer senses that the brake pedal is depressed. Designed for cars with electronic throttle control, which use wires and software rather than mechanical cables to connect the gas pedal to the engine, it has been available for nearly a decade.

According to proponents of the proposed law, the roads would be safer if the regulations were implemented and American drivers would have more confidence in the safety of their vehicles and the roadways:

Safety officials believe brake-override systems — in which the application of the brake pedal by the driver would instantly disengage a stuck throttle — can prevent such crashes…

“America’s drivers should feel confident that any time they get behind the wheel they can easily maintain control of their vehicles — especially in the event of an emergency,” said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “By updating our safety standards, we’re helping give drivers peace of mind that their brakes will work even if the gas pedal is stuck down while the driver is trying to brake.”

Of course, not everyone supports this change, least of all the car manufacturers who don’t yet include this feature in the design of their cars, since adding it will affect their bottom line. And, some also dispute the effectiveness of brake-override systems in preventing accidents caused by unintended acceleration.

Even so, the addition of this feature can’t hurt, and if it saves lives, then it is undoubtedly worth the cost and inconvenience of adding this feature to new cars. After all, shouldn’t safety  always trump the bottom line?