Behind the Wheel with Phil Lebeau

GM Brake Override a Sign of What's to Come

GM Headquarters

Slowly, surely, and somewhat quietly we're starting to see the fall out from the Toyota unintended acceleration scandal.

Today, GM has announced it plans to have brake override "smart pedals" in its global line-up around the world by 2012. Get ready to see other automakers follow the GM lead.

While nobody will say it, the general consensus among many industry leaders is brake override systems are coming whether they want it or not. And most don't mind the idea of adding the safety systems.

With the federal government probing Toyota in an investigation that will take months, it's unclear if they will ever definitively find out why there's been a surge in reports of Toyota models suddenly speeding up. What is clear is leaders in Washington won't wait for result to push automakers for more safeguards on electronic throttle controls. The easiest way to do that will be through brake override systems. Toyota is already putting them in, and GM is not far behind.

I have said for weeks, and still believe that when it's all said and done, safety regulators will eventually require all new cars to have brake override systems as well as "kill engine" switches in cars. These switches will let drivers kill power to the engine, but still allow drivers of "runaway cars" to bring the vehicle to a controlled stop.

Unfortunately, I don't think all this will stop people from reporting that their car or truck suddenly sped up. Much of this is do to the fact that many incidents of unintended acceleration wind up being cases of driver error where the driver hit the gas instead of the brake. And that will still be happening even after brake override systems are standard.

Still, nobody will argue against the merits of putting in this safeguard.


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