U.S. Proposes Brake Override for All Passenger Autos

U.S. auto safety regulators announced a proposal that would require brake override systems on all new passenger cars and trucks, likely by the 2015 model year.

The U.S. Department of Transportation safety regulation arm in a 98-page proposal said costs to auto manufacturers are expected to be “close to zero” because most automakers already install brake override systems that can stop a vehicle if the accelerator pedal gets stuck open.

“Almost all” 2012 model year automobiles sold in the United States are equipped with brake-throttle override systems, according to a notice on the proposed rule change by the DOT’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

If the proposed rule passes a 60-day comment period and becomes a final rule by October 1, the brake-throttle override requirement would go into effect on Sept. 1, 2014, NHTSA said.

“The NHTSA proposal aims to minimize the risk that drivers will lose control of their vehicles as a result of either accelerator control system disconnections or accelerator pedal sticking or floormat entrapment,” said a NHTSA press statement.

DOT Secretary Ray LaHood said in the same statement, “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.”

Jeremy Anwyl, vice chairman of autos and sales analyst Edmunds.com, was critical of the proposed rule.

“There’s the risk that an override system could provide a false sense of security for drivers, especially in cases where a driver accidentally applies the wrong pedal, and an override will do nothing to solve the problem,” said Anwyl.

“While this mandate might help prevent some other causes of sudden unintended acceleration, a brake override system could impact everyday drivability and generate other sorts of customer complaints if not executed properly,” he said.

The proposal comes after much-publicized unintended acceleration claims made against some Toyota Motor Corp models, which caused a worldwide recall of nearly 19 million vehicles from late 2009 to early 2011.

Toyota maintained from the start of its worst safety crisis that the issue was linked to floormats pinning gas pedals down rather than a systemic electronic problem. And in early 2011, LaHood announced that a federal probe essentially agreed with Toyota.

“There is no electronic-based cause for unintended high-speed acceleration in Toyotas,” LaHood said in February 2011.

Once the proposed rule change is published in the Federal Register, the public can comment on it.