Chasing the Toyota hobgoblin

by Walter Olson on May 13, 2010

The quest to do something about the imagined Toyota crisis may result in a federal mandate for all cars to include “brake-override” features that cut off power when the driver hits the brake. Writing in the Philadelphia Inquirer, Michael Fumento says many cars on the road do already have such a feature — but lawmakers don’t seem overly curious as to whether it’s made a difference.

{ 5 comments }

1 David Schwartz 05.13.10 at 1:42 am

“If it’s a good idea, it should be the law” run amuck. I think it’s a good idea for some particular types of cars, particularly those where it only requires a line or two of code. However, in order for it to make any kind of significant difference you’d need a “perfect storm” of circumstances that is so rare that it quite possibly has never happened.

2 Jim Collins 05.13.10 at 7:33 am

Then the next lawsuits will be from people who got rear ended when this feature supposedly malfunctioned.

3 Bumper 05.13.10 at 12:10 pm

Wouldn’t it make more sense if we developed some sort of test to separate those people who shouldn’t be behind the wheel of a motor vehicle from those who can operate one safely? Maybe people to go once a year or so and be retested before being allowed to continue to drive. And the government could make a buncha bucks and hire lots more employees and they could keep the people who aren’t mentally or physically up to piloting a two ton death machine down the highway off the roads … maybe we could call it a Driver’s License or some such.

Just a thought

4 David Schwartz 05.13.10 at 2:01 pm

I wonder what the cost/payoff would be for mandating much more extensive driver training. A lot of drivers have no idea how to handle a mechanical malfunction or how to avoid an accident. In theory, we could train drivers the way we train pilots. Obviously, any system that made it significantly harder to get or keep a license is a political non-starter.

Theoretically, it should be possible to design cars so that they don’t require driver skill to recognize and react to malfunctions. A brake/throttle lockout so that a driver doesn’t have to figure out if reduced braking effectiveness is due to a brake problem or an accelerator problem is one example. However, that addresses a pretty rare situation. Anything that significantly increases the prices of cars is also politically a non-starter.

So we’ll get band aids and feel good changes. But nothing substantive will be done. (It doesn’t help that there are no easy solutions.)

5 D 05.13.10 at 7:12 pm

Congress can easily pass these requirements then hand over more of our money to their favorites in Detroit to implement said requirements.

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