What Toyota Should Have Done: Brake Override

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Toyota’s (Stock Quote: TM) accidental acceleration issue, and the accompanying deaths, could have been prevented if the automaker had a “brake override” feature built into its throttle software.

What is brake override, exactly? According to CNN, it’s a “software algorithm that acts as a tie-breaker between the gas pedal and the brake pedal. Once you step on the brakes, even if the gas pedal is pressed down at the same time, the car assumes you no longer want to accelerate.”

Some other leading automakers, including Mercedes-Benz (Stock Quote: DAI), Volkswagen and Chrysler Group, reportedly already use some form of brake override software technology.

But Toyota didn’t. Moving forward, however, Toyota plans to do so. The company’s president, Akio Toyoda, announced during a press conference today that brake override will be added to all of its new cars.

If you are going to use software to power a vehicle, as Toyota does, then make sure there are fail-safes built in: a brake override system would be one of those fail-safes.

And let’s hope it works correctly, because it’s one thing when your desktop computer crashes and you splash coffee on the monitor, scream at co-workers and then wait for 30 seconds in a state of unbridled rage as it reboots. It’s another thing when your car’s software malfunctions, and as a result you and your entire family end up in body bags. The company should dedicate some major R&D money to building a Toyota Time Machine, because brake override should have been standard in all models, years ago.

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