• Oct 9, 2009
Now that Toyota's massive 3.8 million-vehicle recall for floor mats with a mind of their own has got unintended acceleration on our brains, perhaps it would be a good time to take a look at ways to solve the potential problem once and for all. In contrast to Toyota's initial low-tech tie-wrap approach, The New York Times reports that some automakers have created so-called "smart gas pedals."

So, um, what's a smart gas pedal? Apparently, on all BMWs since 2005, a computer can tell when both the gas and brake pedals are being applied when the vehicle is moving. In that situation, the computer disables the gas pedal and gives the brakes priority. Presumably, the BMW system is smart enough to figure out intentional left-foot braking, as we don't recall experiencing any problem in such usage scenarios.

Considering Audi and other automakers' unfortunate history with unsubstantiated unintended acceleration claims, similar technology reportedly exists at that automaker along with parent company Volkswagen. Interestingly, the NYT reports that General Motors, Ford, Honda, Acura, Toyota, Lexus and Hyundai don't employ such systems, though Toyota is said to be considering the technology after its recent travails. According to Chrysler spokesperson Lisa Barrow, most vehicles from the Pentastar "have a feature that recognizes the use of both pedals at the same and brings the engine speed to idle."

[Source: The New York Times | Image: George Heyer/Getty]


I'm reporting this comment as:

Reported comments and users are reviewed by Autoblog staff 24 hours a day, seven days a week to determine whether they violate Community Guideline. Accounts are penalized for Community Guidelines violations and serious or repeated violations can lead to account termination.


    • 1 Second Ago
  • 37 Comments
      • 5 Years Ago
      solve one problem with the potential to create another....
      • 5 Years Ago
      There was an invention a few years ago that put the throttle and brake on the same pedal. The idea was that you use your toes to accelerate, and the ball of your foot back to your heel to brake. However, the entire sole of your shoe would stay in contact with this single pedal at all times. This eliminates two problems: the reaction time to move your foot sideways at a potentially hazardous moment (your leg might not go where you wanted it to if your car's moving unexpectedly), and the problem that the solution in TFA highlights: depressing both pedals simultaneously.

      Apparently, it reduced reaction times very significantly. I can't remember where I heard about it. It might have been on Tomorrow's World or an earlier incarnation of Top Gear (sans Clarkson).

      Ah well. Heel-&-toe be damned. That'll be an option if you need it. And most don't.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Philip, the study showed that this single pedal arrangement was indeed quicker and safer. I have a feeling it tapped into our instincts to tense up when danger is sensed.

        If you drive an automatic with two feet, you're an idiot. First for thinking you can drive an automatic like that, and second for killing your ability to drive manual ever after.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Audi has done this for years. My 2000 A6 has it.

      It only takes effect if you push the brake (or release and push) the brake after pressing the gas. If you press the gas 2nd, it lets you go ahead and torque up the tranny.

      This doesn't solve any liability issues because liability lawsuits are more driven by the deep pocket theory than by logic.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Glad to hear that. My first thought was "R.I.P. heel-and-toe."
      • 5 Years Ago
      Better add Launch Control, too...
      • 5 Years Ago
      I'm pretty sure the Toyota Prius already has this. A friend of mine tried power-braking one. No dice. If you are holding the brake the Gas does nothing.
        • 5 Years Ago
        i think anyone would have a hard time power-braking a prius, with or without a smart gas pedal
      • 5 Years Ago
      but what if i want to power brake????
      • 5 Years Ago
      People who mistake the gas pedal for the break pedal shouldn't be driving to begin with. Can we implement a system to prevent THAT?
        • 5 Years Ago
        People who mistake "breaks" for "brakes shouldn't drive. And there's already been a few of you in the post.
        • 5 Years Ago
        People who make mistakes shouldn't drive? That's a bit strong don't you think?
      • 5 Years Ago
      How about inventing smart drivers? In any car, if the throttle can be overpowered by the brakes. Solution: "APPLY BRAKES"!
        • 5 Years Ago
        @m: If you can get stopped (i.e. if you apply full braking force immediately, before you've overheated the brakes by trying to "control" it instead of just stopping ASAP) then you can hold it stopped indefinitely while you figure out something to do. If you were thinking, you'd have put it in Neutral long before and wouldn't have to care about the brakes' ability to overpower the engine... but so many people don't really think about how to drive a car, and people who've only driven automatics often don't think about the fact that you can disconnect the engine from the wheels with that PRNDL thingie-whatsis.
        • 5 Years Ago
        I've read that the engine revving at full tilt, either in drive or neutral robs enough vacuum from the assist for the brakes that it takes an enormous amount of pressure on the brake pedal to stop the car.

        Also, I believe this whole issue has uncovered a fundamental flaw in the push-button start/stop in that 1) it takes 3 seconds to turn off a moving vehicle when you start pressing it. and 2) most people don't know this aspect of the system. I don't know about the rest of you, but I don't want to wait 3 seconds in an emergency for my car to turn off. Also, Toyota didn't even publish this information in the manual until the 2009 model year.

        If I were a surviving member of the family involved in that accident, I would sue the ass off of Toyota. Also, anyone who personally drives one of these cars should be made aware of how to turn their vehicle off in an emergency.
        • 5 Years Ago
        @m
        "If you did manage to get stopped, what do you do then? Jump out before the car open-throttle launches itself again?"

        Ummm - I'd turn the ignition off rather than jumping out.

        Actually, I'd probably have put the clutch in long before that happened but that's besides the point.
        • 5 Years Ago
        In any car? The brakes can only absorb and dissipate full engine power for a pretty short time. That's on basically every car. If you did manage to get stopped, what do you do then? Jump out before the car open-throttle launches itself again?

        But I agree with your smarter drivers idea. After the brakes thing fails, you'd think it would cross somebody's mind to shut off the engine or put the transmission in neutral.
        • 5 Years Ago
        I've read that the engine revving at full tilt, either in drive or neutral robs enough vacuum from the assist for the brakes that it takes an enormous amount of pressure on the brake pedal to stop the car.

        Also, I believe this whole issue has uncovered a fundamental flaw in the push-button start/stop in that 1) it takes 3 seconds to turn off a moving vehicle when you start pressing it. and 2) most people don't know this aspect of the system. I don't know about the rest of you, but I don't want to wait 3 seconds in an emergency for my car to turn off. Also, Toyota didn't even publish this information in the manual until the 2009 model year.

        If I were a surviving member of the family involved in that accident, I would sue the ass off of Toyota. Also, anyone who personally drives one of these cars should be made aware of how to turn their vehicle off in an emergency.
        • 5 Years Ago
        During the sudden acceleration days, Audi loaded up cars with 3 journalists and a driver, drove down a steep hill and nailed the gas and brake at the same time and the cars stopped, even though they didn't have the accelerator cutoff back then.

        Your brakes are far more powerful than your engine. Many cars can do 60-0 in under 120 feet. But they take 2-3x as far to reach 60 from 0.
      • 5 Years Ago
      My stupid Alfa MiTO just won't let me use left foot braking!
      Seems like the first hint of pressure on the brake while accelerating triggers the idiotic "panic brake" system... it's just wrong!!!
      • 5 Years Ago
      Only the New York Times would come up with a "smart" brake/gas pedal. Don't consider the lazy boobs who are driving the cars. How do we come up with a "smart" driver?
        • 5 Years Ago
        Get a "smart" driving test instead of the simple form filling process for obtaining what amounts to little more than an ID card in the US.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Wouldn't an easier solution be to implement pedals that are hinged at the floor? These seem to be a lot less susceptible to a mat creeping up to the point where it can actually apply pressure to the gas pedal.
        • 5 Years Ago
        The downside is that tends to take up more space. Or they do it and don't give you the extra space like on an old 911 where your foot hits the dash and keeps you from getting the clutch all the way in.
        • 5 Years Ago
        My thoughts exactly. No problems with floormats in my '98 328i.
      • 5 Years Ago
      How about making the gap between the bottom of the pedal bigger than the thickness of the mat? Why is it that brake and clutch pedals are 3-4 inches off the floor but accelerators must scrape? It's not heel and toe because i don't know anybody who's heel is 2 cm wide.

      Is this too simple?
    • Load More Comments