Abramson Smith Waldsmith LLP

Proposal to prevent unintended acceleration halted

The Los Angeles Times reports that previous plans to obligate mandatory safety features to prevent the unintended acceleration of vehicles are no longer in motion. The change comes after automakers voluntarily installed safety systems, which were implemented because of issues with Toyota accelerators that caused numerous accidents from 2009 to 2012. Automakers claim that all vehicles currently being manufactured have override systems that prevent acceleration if both the brakes and the gas are pressed at the same time. As a result, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has rescinded their previous request for an official requirement for such safety systems. 

The issue began in 2010 amidst claims that some Toyota vehicles had electronic defects that caused accidental acceleration. In other cases, acceleration was blamed on operator error or occurred as a result of gas pedals becoming stuck by floor mats or carpeting. In one incident, four people were killed in San Diego after the gas pedal of a Lexus was trapped by the floor mat. This led to a recall of 2.17 million cars, as well as a $50 million fine assessed to Toyota for not acting swiftly enough. 

The official legislation would have been applied to all vehicles under 10,000 pounds and stated that all applicable vehicles must return to idle when whenever the driver stops pressing the gas. However, there were concerns about the specifics of electronic control systems, which played an integral role in the design of safety systems. While new vehicles will contain enhanced safety features, there are concerns about whether these features will stick. Some claim that automakers might make throttle override systems an optional feature in the future, which would mean that many passenger vehicles would be without them depending on the cost. 

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