"If you decide you want to brake, and the engine is at wide-open throttle, the ECU tells the engine, 'No, we don't want to go fast; we want to stop,' " David Cole, chairman emeritus of the Center for Automotive Research, told us. "And the vehicle stops."
Since an overwhelming percentage of new vehicles already employ electronic throttle control, the technology would be easy for automakers to add at minimal cost. Toyota reportedly began incorporating BTO to its vehicles in 2010 by adding new software code as a running change.
"From what we've seen, it's very simple," David Champion, senior director of Consumer Reports' Auto Test Division, said. "We don't know of any new car that doesn't have an electronic throttle. We haven't seen one of the old throttle cables in a long time." The BTO fix would solve problems caused by sticky accelerators or trapped floormats, but it would be unable to address the issue of a driver who mistakenly depresses the accelerator instead of the brake. Drivers must hit the brake pedal to make it work, experts said.
Not everyone is happy with the idea. Race drivers, who occasionally hit the brake and gas pedals simultaneously, foresee a problem. What's more, some industry analysts see the mandate as yet another form of inappropriate government intervention.
Still, analysts said that automakers are likely to accept the mandate, not only because it prevents unintended acceleration, but because it provides a layer of legal protection for the industry. "It makes sense all around," Champion said. "We can't find a downside to it."
If you've always dreamed of hanging with the pit crew at Indy, your opportunity has arrived. Littelfuse Inc., a KV Racing sponsor, is sponsoring the Speed2Design contest. Winners will attend the race, visit the pits, and talk engineer-to-engineer with crew members.
Click on the link to access the entry form for the