Product Liability

Toyota may use “smart pedal” to fix unintended accleration problem

A safety feature common in most German vehicles, which reduces the likelihood of an unintended acceleration, could have prevented the injuries and deaths of people caught in runaway Toyotas. According to a report published by the New York Times, the technology isn’t new. It just hasn’t been adopted by most automobile manufacturers outside of Germany.

Toyota, however, is reportedly considering implementing this technology as a solution to the acceleration problems in up to 3.8 million Toyota and Lexus vehicles. Toyota announced last month that it would soon issue a vehicle recall over concerns that the driver’s side floor mats can slide forward and jam the accelerator pedal in full open position.

Toyota’s recall announcement followed the highly publicized deaths of Mark Saylor and his family members, who were riding in a Lexus ES 350 that sped out of control last August. The incident ended in a fiery crash, claiming the lives of everyone onboard and prompting a dramatic public apology from Toyota Motor Corp.’s president Akio Toyoda, who said his company was “grasping for salvation.”

In a New York Times report, BMW spokesman Thomas Plucinsky said that the brake pedal has taken precedence over the gas pedal in all of its cars beginning with the 2005 models. Unintended acceleration shepherded the design of BMW’s smart pedal, which tells the car’s electronic circuitry to ignore the gas pedal when the brake pedal is pressed simultaneously.

Brian Lyons, a spokesman for Toyota, told the New York Times that the company was considering the implementation of smart pedals rather than a redesign of the floor mats as a solution to the unintended acceleration problem.

Audi, Volkswagen, and Chrysler are other car manufacturers that have standardized a similar safety feature in all vehicles.

A Honda spokesman told the New York Times that his company continues to “accept application of the accelerator and brake pedals as representing the driver’s intention.” It’s a position still held by General Motors, Ford, Acura, Nissan and Hyundai.