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The brake-throttle override switch: Why stop at cars?

April 12, 2012|By Paul Whitefield
  • Federal regulators say brake-override systems should be in all cars because they prevent unintended acceleration.
Federal regulators say brake-override systems should be in all cars because… (Associated Press )

"To stop car, push on brake."

That's the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's simple solution to the problem of sudden, unintended acceleration.

As The Times' Jerry Hirsch reported Thursday, "Federal regulators plan to require automakers to design a brake-throttle override system into future vehicles to reduce the risks of high-speed, unintended acceleration."

The proposal was prompted in part by a 2009 accident involving a Lexus ES 350, in which the floor mat may have jammed the accelerator pedal, causing the car to hit speeds of more than 100 miles per hour before crashing.

As Hirsch wrote: "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."

Well, yep, that should do it.  

Of course, it won't help those unfortunate souls who experience unintended acceleration because they stomp on the pedal to the right instead of the pedal to the left.  No matter how smart you make the car, it's hard to make up for dumb behind the wheel.

But that's OK.  Just as Facebook paid $1 billion for a company that makes new pictures look old, I think this technology has huge potential.

How about adding some pop to the proposal: Wouldn't you love to have a switch that would apply the brakes to the jerk tailgating you on the 405?

For that matter, I would like to have a "volume override" switch that would turn down the volume on other cars' booming stereos.

Heck, given the music my teenage sons listen to, I'd like to have a "volume override" switch on my own car stereo. (And don't even think of lecturing me about being a more assertive parent. I’m a 21st century dad -- all I know how to do is grumble a lot.)

Honestly, I can think of tons of situations that call for override systems:  for Fox, MSNBC and all radio talk show hosts; for cellphones in restaurants; for cellphones in cars; for cellphones in … oh, heck, just for cellphones anywhere.

And Facebook postings.  Please, God, someone put an override switch on what people post.

Ditto YouTube.  

Not to mention politicians, political campaigns, political campaign contributions -- and Newt Gingrich in particular.  Limit. Limit. Limit. Limit.

There's a start-up company idea here somewhere.  In 90 days, we could be gazillionaires.

Probably would have to kill the Facebook limiter, though.

It never pays to bite that hand that's buying you.


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