You are here:HomeNews CenterInsurance News2010Do You Know How to Drive Your High-Tech Car?

Do You Know How to Drive Your High-Tech Car?

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) intends to review the safety of electronic systems found in new vehicles as well as consider imposing brake-override-systems...
February 18, 2010

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) intends to review the safety of electronic systems found in new vehicles as well as consider imposing brake-override-systems requirements for all vehicles. This comes as experts, who are looking into cases involving recalled Toyota vehicles, suspect many motorists cannot keep up with the advances in automobile technology.

Many drivers may be unaware that they are driving cars that don't perform as they might expect. While airline pilots receive re-training to learn to fly newly-designed aircraft, average motorists are not being trained how to drive their high-tech cars.

The Wall Street Journal reports that some auto makers design their computer-controlled braking systems to always favor the brakes if the system senses that the driver is pressing both the brake and the accelerator at the same time. But not all auto makers designed their vehicles with these so-called brake-override systems. Toyota didn't, and no U.S. regulation said the company had to program its brakes the same way as certain European rivals. Now, in the wake of criticism, Toyota says it will reprogram the braking systems in all its cars to provide brake override as of 2011, with many models moving to the technology this year.

Other issues include whether electronic systems in cars should have mechanical backups, such as electronic throttles. Toyota is facing lawsuits from owners who say the company should have designed its electronic throttle-control systems with a mechanical backup in case the electronic system malfunctioned. But eliminating the weight of a mechanical system is one reason why auto makers are moving to electronic throttle systems. Then, there's the strong aversion on the part of many software developers to any suggestion that redundancy is a good idea.

Can Drivers Handle High-Tech Cars? (The Wall Street Journal 2/17/10)

Toyota Probes Take a New Turn (Los Angeles Times 2/3/10)

Data Point to Toyota's Throttles, Not Floor Mats (Los Angeles Times 11/29/09)

Filed under: