Gov’t mulls brake overrides in new cars

John Dimsdale Mar 2, 2010
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Gov’t mulls brake overrides in new cars

John Dimsdale Mar 2, 2010
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TEXT OF STORY

Tess Vigeland: Today Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said the government may require every new car to have a braking system that overrides the gas pedal. LaHood’s testimony followed an announcement from federal safety officials that the number of deaths from sudden acceleration of Toyotas has increased from 34 to 52. Since September, the Japanese car company has recalled some six million cars in the U.S.

John Dimsdale reports on the changes still to come.


JOHN DIMSDALE: Many cars sold in the U.S. already have a system where the brakes override the accelerator. GM cars do, says spokesman Greg Martin. But that doesn’t mean the company is ready to embrace a government mandate.

GREG MARTIN: What we don’t want to do is rush to any definitive position on requirements before we know what those requirements may be.

Fords, Honda Acuras, Audis and Mercedes are among the cars that already have brake overrides. But not Toyotas, says Washington Post automotive columnist Warren Brown.

WARREN BROWN: Toyota routinely mass installs safety systems such as airbags and that sort of thing after some other manufacturer developed not only a performance history for those systems, but a litigation history for those systems. Toyota routinely tries to avoid that. So it is usually last to install those systems.

Meanwhile, the Detroit Free Press reported today GM is considering putting its electric hybrid prototype — the Chevy Volt — into the hands of a few consumers early, to test it out and get consumer feedback.

But GM’s John Hughes says, don’t worry, the testing won’t be done on public highways.

JOHN HUGHES: It is with another GM engineer or GM person in the vehicle with them, so we’re not setting the vehicles loose to say, hey listen, here, take a car and let me know what you think.

So he says, GM isn’t putting the public at risk.

In Washington, I’m John Dimsdale for Marketplace.

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