Protecting Us from Us: NHTSA Throttle Cut-off.
by Zack Klapman
The announcement of the NHTSA’s proposal to have every new car, van, truck and bus fitted with throttle override systems, has me torn. Not because I don’t understand why; it’ll save lives. It eliminates the human error that caused people to cry
wolf “stuck throttle.” Done. (Although it will kill the art of the “brake stand.”)
But in my cynical, senseless little world this a further weakening of our species. These systems are easy to implement, prevent stupid lawsuits and keep David Arkansas from accidentally jumping the Grand Canyon with his family screaming from the first exciting thing they’ve done that whole damn trip. But I’m still annoyed, because 1. We’re continuing to child-proof the road, rather than have the children (drivers) learn not to touch the sockets, and 2. How the hell can we say pedals are dangerous, but a system the reads completely trivial Tweets and Facebook updates to you while you drive a heavy, moving auto-mother-fucking-bile, is totally ok?
“The NHTSA proposal aims to minimize the risk that drivers will lose control of their vehicles as a result of either accelerator control system disconnections or accelerator pedal sticking or floor mat entrapment.”
First of all, “floor mat entrapment” sounds like a shitty horror movie. I know it’s just a technical term created for the sake of brevity, but it sounds like there’s a population of gnomes hiding under floor mats, waiting to snag gas pedals. I don’t know what the gnomes’ end game is, but like the gnomes below, they aren’t planners.
Anyway, all this means is the car knows when you’re trying to stop and cuts off the throttle. With electronic throttles it’s probably easy to program, and many companies have already implemented the system. In the future, if you press the gas and brake at the same time, or if the throttle is “stuck”
under your foot and you hit the brake, the car stops. Although, in the cases where people pressed only the evil gas pedal, they will still hurtle to possible doom. So look for all gas pedals to be removed by 2017.
“America’s drivers should feel confident that anytime they get behind the wheel they can easily maintain control of their vehicles – especially in the event of an emergency,”
They could maintain control, by putting their foot on the correct pedal. Dick move, I know, but I can’t believe they’ll propose this, but allow MINI’s Connect App. What’s more dangerous, having 2 pedals, one that makes car go, and one that makes car stop (yikes!) or having your car shoot distractions at you like, “Steve said ‘lol’ to Jamie’s picture”? Don’t tell me fireworks are illegal because they’re dangerous, but sell bazookas over the counter (As opopsed to a prescription bazooka, which is legit.)
Driving is already mindless to many, and although this system makes complete logical sense, as an attentive driver (and brake stand artist) it just bugs me that a few cases of bad driving, sensationalized into “unintended acceleration”, has gone this far. Besides, couldn’t we use a thinning of the herd? We’re at 7B people and running out of resources. Back in the day you had to be able to kill a Wooly Mammoth (archaeologist flame suit, on) but nowadays you don’t even need to remember right versus left. In defense of the accidental speeders, our driver education is as thorough and challenging as the instructions for a boogie board.
I understand that to most people a car is an appliance, and they operate it with the attention they do the dishwasher. Like any appliance, advancements are part of the evolution. Maybe early dishwashers threw out kitchen knives and impaled family members against the opposite wall. And when they wanted to fix the problem, cynics like me opposed the changes. “Why can’t people just wear a suit of armor in the kitchen? I don’t get it.”
But normal people don’t want to wear armor. They want a car that is dummy-proof. People (understandably) want the guess work taken out of a panic situation. That Nissan Quest owner isn’t an adrenaline junkie, they’re just people. I get it, I do. I wouldn’t turn down a system that auto-deploys my parachute if something goes wrong. If they hit the brakes, it means they want to stop.
I’m just annoyed at how easy everything is becoming. I saw an ad the other day in SkyMall for a 360 degree neck pillow. Not just for sleeping, just to make it easier to hold your head up when you sit. WTF. You shouldn’t need help holding your head up unless you broke your neck. It didn’t say, “While recovering from brain stem surgery”, or “good for recent car crash survivors.” I checked the cover of the magazine….nope, it isn’t Physical Therapists Monthly. It’s SkyMall. This wasn’t for sleep, it was for going about your day, or the strenuous gauntlet that is long hours at the computer. I swear, we’re 3 years out from having an optional body cast.
Seriously. We’re going to buy suits made of CRFP, which dangle from the ceiling, holding us as the perfect position to sit at a desk and stare and a glowing square. Our hands will be held just above the keyboard, and we will peck at keys without exerting the excruciating, life-threatening, world’s strongest man contest-like chore known as sitting up.
The public has 60 days to comment on the proposal, so speak if you will. I won’t, because there’s a lot of drivers out there that need this, otherwise they’ll accidentally kill smart people like us. I just hope the system is good enough to tell the difference between my left-foot braking and “Mother of god we’re going to DIE!” braking.
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