How to Stop This Crazy Ride

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A Florida man claims his BMW X3 accelerated unintentionally – contrary to his intentions, that is. News story here.

The reasons why are being debated. Could it have been a glitch with the BMW’s “drive by wire” electronically-controlled throttle? Possibly. Many new cars no longer have a cable that connects the gas pedal to the engine. Instead, sensors translate the degree to which the gas pedal is depressed into how much the engine revs – and how fast you go.

It is certainly creepy to realize that basic functions such as throttle (and also – in newer cars – steering) are controlled by a computer.

Thus – at least potentially – not by you.

If the computer goes haywire, what then?

BMW – like Toyota, after similar incidents – claims that run-amok acceleration caused by a defective electronic accelerator pedal is impossible. That it had to be the driver’s inadvertent foot (as when Audi was accused of the same thing – and nearly destroyed by the false accusation – back in the ’80s) or a misaligned floor mat that was the cause of the trouble.

It’s being looked into.

Meanwhile, why aren’t people being taught how to deal with problems such as this? It is telling that neither Joseph Cooper – the BMW’s owner – nor the Florida State Police, who were communicating with Cooper via phone in real time as these events unfolded –  knew how to slow down and stop a car with a stuck accelerator – whether stuck electronically or otherwise.

There is this thing called the ignition switch, for openers. The same switch that one uses to turn the engine on can also be used to turn the engine off. This will cause the car to slow down.

Cooper’s BMW may not have had an old-school ignition switch/key. Many late-model cars also use electronics to turn the engine on, too. But there is still an On – and an Off – button. If you push the button for Off, the engine will generally turn Off.

This is the intended purpose of Off.

Of course – for saaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaafety – it is often the case that one must press and continue to press the Off button in order to override the saaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaafety protocol built into the thing by the manufacturer. It can take several long-feeling seconds between the pressing and the shutting off.

Still, the fact remains: The engine will probably turn off. Unless HAL 9000, of course.

Drivers are not told this – and few (apparently) exert the initiative needed to cause the owner’s manual to convey the protocol to them, so that in the event their vehicle accelerates in an unwanted manner, they will know how to put an end to the show.

Instead, they touch the button, briefly – and nothing happens. Cue mess in pants.

A second method – in the event the engine cannot be turned off due to some evil electronic genie – is to disconnect the engine from the transmission  – and thus, from being able to continue imparting force to the wheels, thereby causing the vehicle to cease accelerating – even if the engine still is.

This is achieved by moving the gear selector into neutral. It works the same whether the car has an automatic or manual transmission. The problem here, though, is that gear selection is also often no longer mechanical in many – most – new and late-model cars. A sensor detects the range selector being moved from Drive to Neutral or some other range. Then the computer signals the transmission to shift to the range selected.

But what if the sensors do not detect it?

It’s at least worth a try.

You can also depress the clutch – if the car is equipped with a manual transmission. That one is evil genie proof. 

Incidentally, this will not blow up the engine – unless the car is extremely old.

Every car built since the late 1980s has computer controls and one of these controls is a rev limiter. It prevents the engine from being over-revved (we used to call this red-lining it) for the express purpose of keeping the engine from over-revving, with the attendant mechanical catastrophe in the event it did.

Try it yourself and see. With the engine warmed up, and the transmission in Neutral (or Park – assuming the car is not moving) floor the accelerator pedal and hold it down. The engine will rev to near redline but the electronics will prevent it from exceeding redline.

In any event, Cooper could have put the transmission of his X3 into Neutral. The BMW would then have coasted safely to rest. He could also have geared down, to reduce his speed. By moving the shift selector from Drive to 4 then 3 then 2 then 1, he could have used mechanical leverage to whoah nelly! the BMW.

It appears this is becoming a lost art, too. Which is ironic, given that almost all late-model cars with automatics have a manual shift control function, specifically designed to let the driver control when the transmission shifts up and down.

He also could have applied the brakes.

Really applied them.

One wonders why he did not.

Even at 80 or 90-something MPH – the speeds reached by Cooper in his supposedly run-amok BMW – the high-performance four-wheel disc brakes the X3 was fitted with ought to have been sufficient to at least ramp it down to a manageable speed such that he could have safely driven into an earth berm or similar to scrub off the remainder of the speed.

He might have fried the brakes in the process, it’s true – assuming an engine that was actually fighting him – but they should have had bite enough to bring the BMW’s speed down to a lot less than 80-90 MPH and safely, too – because his BMW had ABS and so no matter how hard he applied the brakes, the wheels (and tires) wouldn’t stop rotating completely, lock up – and send the thing into a skid.

This is supposition, but perhaps Cooper was too afraid to apply the brakes. Hard, that is. All the way to the floor – both feet, if need be.

People are not taught such “aggressive” tactics anymore, despite such tactics occasionally still being very necessary.   

Which brings us to the Last Resort – the emergency brake. There is a reason why it is called the emergency brake.  It is not there just to hold the car in place when it is parked.

It is there specifically to be used in the event of . . . an emergency. Such as a run-amok vehicle.

Cooper could have pulled the lever up, which would have slowed the car down. The emergency pull-up brake is a mechanical fail safe. It does not rely on electronics. When the driver yanks the lever up, a cable is tightened and this cable applies tension to the brakes, which are then applied – and the car slows down.

There is the possibility that the wheels might lock up (no ABS) and the car therefore skids. But it will slow, too. A skilled driver knows this – and knows how to modulate the force he applies via increasing and decreasing (if need be) how much is applied via the emergency brake lever.

Cooper did not know this. Neither – apparently – did the cops.

Passivity is encouraged instead. Death grip on the wheel, dial 911 and talk to an operator who has even less clue what to to. The kind of active driving needed to be able to cope with situations such as this – whether caused by run-amok computers or a bunched up floor mat – has been practically equated with pederasty for a generation and the results are blossoming all around us.

People used to know how to deal.

Nowadays, they mostly squeal.

. . .

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  1. I really think the push button ignition is retarded. My neighbor (upholstery shop) here at the auto center ask me to put his 2015 Ram pick-up on the lift to check something and after bringing the truck into the shop I tried to turn the engine off with the trans in neutral (so that I can center the truck for the lift arms) and it wouldn’t shut off, it just kept yelling at me to put it in park.

  2. Maybe there ARE some people for whom self-driving cars are really recommended.

    Until the self-driving features stop working, that is.

    I didn’t know whether to laugh or shriek when I read this article, since I usually go at least a month before I see the totality of such ineptness. Don’t these people learn anything before they are eligible to get a drivers’ license anymore?

    I can understand that there are some people unwilling to sit down to read a 900-page owner’s manual that they have to download and print from the internet. But at least, read the parts about common emergency situations.

    Or don’t the vehicle manufacturers expect emergency situations to occur anymore?

  3. I recently bought a car with a push button start, the first I’ve ever owned or even driven. I was stopped at a light and rummaging around in my little console tray for a tiny little USB data thingy (what ARE those things called? It escapes me right now) to play mp3 music and accidentally hit the “off” button. The car just started ding-donging at me about the transmission not being in park. I had no idea I’d done this since the radio was blasting and I didn’t hear the engine quit. I finally noticed the RPMs were on O and realized what I’d done.
    I then wondered what would happen if I did the same thing going 80 mph on the interstate. Would the engine shut down? Would I be able to start it back up while still speeding on the interstate or would I need to pull over and put it in park?
    So thanks for telling me it would do nothing unless I continuously pushed it. I generally don’t like these nanny measures, but this one sounds pretty good. I’m not a fan of the push-button start (I want my key back), but if they’re going to put it right above a little storage tray where we keep pencils, lipgloss, data storage (thumb drive … now I remember), our smokes or weed or whatever, I’m glad my accidental bump won’t cause an issue.

  4. I was waiting for the light to change and noticed the driver next to me was revving his engine. Then I looked down at my tach and realized that it was MY engine that was revving. MY EEEE foot was pushing down on both the brake and the accelerator simultaneously. Good thing I have a manual transmission and my left foot was on the clutch. This has happened several times. Someone should tell Ford to increase the spacing between the pedals.

    • Someone else would then complain they can’t do heel and toe because the pedals are too far apart.

      This is where an engineer just can win.

          • Eric,
            One would have to wonder why more of them don’t all have the feature now that the linkage wouldn’t complicate the placement of the pedal wherever one likes.
            Control by wire is likely to make joysticks popular with hobbyists before they pass regulatory muster.

          • The absurdity of such BS and poppycock as the VSA thingy hit home the last snow ice event, my driveway is steep and you need to make a 90 degree turn to hit my last stretch( I am usually the only one that can get a 2 wd up my driveway) The wife was stuck and chickened out with the Accord( now this Accord has a snow gear and pretty good weight over the drive wheels) pulled back in second zoom( a good engine) I turned for the 90 feathering and applying to the limit of momentum and traction, Mush! a yellow triangle appeared on the dash (no power) POS! , off the Hill backwards.Okay this time wide open in first (zoom!) going like a Bat! 90 degrees mush out( yellow triangle
            0again. Finally, on the third attempt, I managed to get enough traction and momentum to make it( just eased up enough for the yellow triangle to go out) and lo and behold power again, wheels caught and made it to the top of the driveway. It finally occurred to me what happened, the dang stability control was shutting Me down, I don’t know if that car has a switch to cut it off or not.I could make it up the hill fine in the “Fit” with All season tires on it ( apparently it doesn’t have this numbskull feature)
            Tell you what, like Jonah Hex said:” Ain’t my Country no more” or something to that effect. As an old country boy who cut his teeth on one wheel drive Ford pickups in bad conditions ,I sort of have an idea about how to drive in the bad stuff and it obviously runs counter to what the “safety Mavens ” think-GOOD GREIF”! please don’t try to save me from myself and dont get me started on ABS in the snow

    • Somebody should tell Chevy the same thing. I did the same thing trying to stop and the harder I was on the brake the more the engine revved. There’s not enough room in most vehicles for my dogs down there anyway and the damned Z 1 has a vent that sticks out near the kick panel on the firewall restricting my footroom even more……drives me batty.

    • If Ford did that, it would impair those who have well-trained but smaller feet. Have you ever thought of test driving a vehicle before you buy it instead of trying it on for size after the transaction is completed? I suspect that you’d find widely-spaced pedals in cars in direct relation to how many shoe stores you’ll find EEEE shoes. You try on shoes before you buy them, don’t you?

      • Seriously Bill, don’t you think all “trucks” would be made for work boots? People in this country have big feet….now….since they have big everything else. I used to be average height at 5 10 but now I feel like a midget.

        But getting back to pickups, it’s a damn work vehicle for god’s sake. And yes, I have EEEE feet…..but it was never a problem on any other pickup. I loved the pedals that were very small on my ’93 Chevy but to be honest, heel and toeing a diesel one ton pickup really wasn’t my forte and heel and toeing an automatic shouldn’t be part of the game in any way. But having that brake pedal right over there nearly on top of the accelerator is bullshit.

        They tried that downsizing bs for years and then reverted back to making real pickups. Now you get in one and the floorboard doesn’t represent the transmission and transfer case . It’s all well above that crap.

        • 8,
          All of the class 8 trucks I have driven have had plenty of room for steel-toed boots, but very few of the long-haul drivers I have encountered had any on. I honestly don’t remember what I wore before I became a construction trucker, but I’m certain it wasn’t open-toed, at least. Since my first truck driving job started me out throwing frozen food loads off at local grocery warehouses, I probably wore something that offered some protection from stray pallets and jacks.

  5. A friend’s son had his VW turbo diesel blow the seal from the turbo to the compressor input. The diesel didn’t care that the oil was motor oil. My friend was an engineer and the boys mom was a judge. It was when cell phones were new, the kid called the police to tell them what was happening, shouting the ignition did nothing. After the engine blew VW said it wasn’t possible but “it’s on tv and I recorded it”. We were all engineers and we figured it out. The kid was 18 so go figure. I asked him in private and he said it was great.

    • That’s why the old Detroit Diesel 2 strokes had an emergency shut down flap mounted between the supercharger and the block, although they were prone to seizing up, and not ready to function, if not regularly exercised.

      Two best ways to stop a runaway diesel: discharge a CO2 fire extinguisher directly into the air intake or physically block the air intake with a rag, pillow, insulation etc.

      Further reading:


        • 99 percent of my diesel experience is with marine/stationary engines, so I never had that option, but you’re right, that will work as well.

            • That won’t do any good, because in a “runaway” situation, the “fuel” is being pulled from another source: usually blowby crankcase gasses or lube oil from a blown turbo seal, supercharger or cracked block, liner or head. Or a combination of all of the above. Or sometimes outside gasses. That’s what blew up the Deepwater Horizon: generators running away from ingesting gas vapors from the well blow out.

                • The control mud blew out, when that happens gas and crude are released from the exposed open wellhead where the drill pipe goes in. Those gasses found their way to the engine rooms, the diesel generators ran away, exploded, and that triggered the larger explosion that consumed the drilling rig.

                    • Not arguing that point. The well never should have been displaced, once it became clear that the cement plugs were failing.
                      All I’m saying is, by anybody’s best guess, it was the runaway MDGs that triggered the explosion and fire that destroyed the rig and led to the spill.

      • Back when 2 cycle Detroits were my engine of choice I tried to remember to activate my emergency shut off when I was servicing the engine. It was sort of a pain to reset but I was young and limber at the time.

        A guy recently told me about a trucker of old who had a 12V71 and locks on his hood. A bunch of guys talked him into showing it one day. He had 4 superchargers rigged up on it. It was a screamer.

        That was back when an 8V71 could be mighty salty and the T version had a turbo as well. Cat also made a 3408 which was a hoss itself although it sounded like there were 100 monkeys with hammers in it as one guy described it.

        • Owned a boat with a 343 CAT in it. Best damn diesel I ever ran across, was still going strong with 35,000 hours on it when I sold it.

          It also sounded like a 100 monkeys with a hundred hammers.

          If it was “crackling” it was running correctly.

  6. Unfortunately none of the above would work on a modern electronically controlled piece of garbage.
    I have a 2007 Nissan Frontier truck. The fuel gauge quit working about the time I had a brake job done.
    It still acts crazy because they use 4 sensors instead of the older more reliable float system.
    I have since looked records up on a number of cars and trucks. Most with sensors have electrical problems. That is dually recorded in consumer magazines and on line.
    Our Oriental neighbors are producing faulty electronic parts in an effort to squeeze more money out for profit. That includes some very popular cars and trucks.
    The dealers want $90 plus per hour to work on this truck.
    They also put a transmission line through the radiator to keep it cooled off.
    It eventually leaks and causes the owner to replace the transmission to the tune of about 3500 dollars.
    China had capacitor problem. And all the capacitors on computer motherboards were burning up.
    I suggest that computers in cars might have the same problem.
    Getting the transmission in Drive to disengage at 120 mph might not be possible. Especially if the trans is burning up the clutch control.
    The ignition may be locked on while the car is in motion.
    Depends on the car.
    Putting it in neutral may blow up the transmission.
    And the engine.
    Computers go wrong all the time.
    Go out on any parking lot in the country and count how many cars actually have more than a cosmetic bumper. SO what is a ding in a real bumper totals a modern car.
    Our government controls are out to lunch. Otherwise no car would have a decoration instead of a real bumper. By the way there is no recall on that transmission on the Frontier. Yet complaints have come in all over the country about it. So why isn’t there a recall?
    No accusation but I would look to see who pays who.

    • Hi J,

      Not unless the steering column locks – which would only happen if the key were turned all the way to lock. Yes, you will lose power assist for the steering, but you will still be able to steer it. It will take more effort to turn the wheel, but unless the car is crawling, the effort will not be huge. It doesn’t take much to ease a car off the road, etc.

    • So the computer will step in and use the electric parking brake if there is a hydraulic failure. So as a result the moron majority will shrug ‘car still stops’ and keep driving with a failed hydraulic system.

  7. Eric,

    Great piece! However, even newer cars are starting to not have even an emergency brake. It’s now some flip switch that illuminates when pulled up (and goes back into position), and disengages when pushed down. I’ve seen this in the newer Outbacks.

  8. Maybe it was a fake news story just to keep the gullible public entertained and feeling a whole lot smarter than the hapless BMW driver. This goes hand in hand with the phony photo at the top of the article.

  9. Two observations:

    Men now drive to keep women comfortable, and they are trained to heed the directions of them. Hence, we men now seek input external to their reality. “This is supposition, but perhaps Cooper was too afraid to apply the brakes. Hard, that is. All the way to the floor – both feet, if need be.”, expresses this condition. Team driving is not conducive to autonomy. This psychological condition is clearly illustrated in the use of GPS systems. Their purpose is to stop arguments about destination seeking.

    Men (some) no longer say, “Get in, sit down, and shut up…”

    Second observation, my 2005 VW TDI Passat kills the motor when the brake pedal is pushed, regardless of the position of the electronic accelerator pedal.

    Of course, all this could be hacked, and that is why we need to exterminate the regulations that are killing us, by any means necessary.

    Ere all else fails, my 1988 Citroen will still run if I can get gasoline…

  10. Most braking systems are stronger than the engine, stand on it and you will stop…eventually.

    Also, in some vehicles, when ABS engages it also puts the trans in neutral. This is the case at least with Kia, the cars we use in Doug Herbert’s B.R.A.K.E.S. teen driving school. When we teach ABS use we always have to pause a second after coming to a complete stop to allow the car to go back into gear.

    The only time I ever experienced a stuck gas pedal was on my new ’74 Fiat X-1/9. I was chasing an XKE convert through some twisties outside of Akron, OH. (I’ll never forget the joy on the kid’s face who was riding in the Jag as he kept looking back at me during the romp) It was a classic, “beat him through the turns and lose him on the straights” battle. The braided accelerator cable knotted up in the tube it ran through back to the carb. I popped it into neutral and in trying to free up the pedal I broke the PLASTIC pedal mount. Made it back home after I set the throttle to about 3000 rpm. It took several weeks for the dealer to get the mount and cable from It’ly (h/t Henry N. Manney III)

  11. We had a similar incident here in the UK. Surprisingly very under reported (relative to say the emissions “cheating”). One of the last reported bits at an inquest is that it got stuck when he switched to sports mode. Search the story, is quite scary to think (the latest from the inquest here -

    • Unfortunately, the guy died. As you hilight Eric, the guy, along with emergency services had no idea what to do. When he asked them if he should pull the hand brake (he was at approximately 120 MPH) – they didnt know what to say. Then he crashed.

    • Morning, Nasir!

      It’s worrisome to me that, increasingly, cars are literally out of our control – and under the control of electronics. Even the last redoubt – the emergency brake – is being systematically done away with in favor of the parking brake, electronically engaged.

      • Do you have any recommendations Eric on this (perhaps another article). Right now, I myself have an X3, though (not sure which one this is) mine is the E83 on a basic spec with a proper manual gear box and a key to turn it on and off. Now its almost 11 years old, and I love it quite a bit as its big enough to haul stuff around when I need, but small enough to get into places a bigger SUV wont. And it drives like a car when you want to push it. Fine it wont win races but its real enjoyable to drive on bendy country roads. Which I like.

        Now however at 11, this car is reaching the point when any mechanical failure will basically mean its scrapped (ashamedly im not as mechanically well versed as a lot of your readers here, hence, apart from the very basics it goes to a garage). The main think that keeps turning me off getting a new one is that everything is so automated. And apart from taking a lot of the fun out of the drive, its scary. What happens when it doesnt work?? Thinking a bit ahead, I think what will happen is a lot of these accidents will be ultimately blamed on the driver, and that will be another excuse to force us into self driving cars….

  12. When I was just a kid, teens or maybe 20, I was whizzing round some country lanes in my old MGB Sportster when I punched the throttle coming out of a bend… and it didn’t come back up. Eek…

    It was a simple matter to put it in neutral, indicate, check the (much newer) car I was racing with wasn’t too close behind and then pull into the car park of a quaint old English pub. All those enjoying a cold beer that summer day turned to look at the young hooligan revving the nuts off his old sports car, then I turned the ignition off.

    It sat there burbling and hissing while still running for a few seconds on “over-run” from overheating and then spluttered to a stop. Everyone went back to their beer, I went under the bonnet and found a frayed cable. And the car was simple enough that having got a lift into town I was able to return and fit the new cable myself. I don’t even know which bit is the throttle on a new car but I know this – one of the reasons for buying an out-going 2016 model Subaru this year, instead of the new one, is that the new one has an electric parking brake. It’s a little thing but a deal-breaker for me.

    Besides, new models often have teething trouble, so I’m happy with my brand new “old” VX.

    • Hi Alan,

      I’ve also enjoyed that “ride” – in my old (1973) VW. They were famous for sticking (and snapped) throttle/clutch cables. I also agree in re the electronic parking brake – vs. a mechanical emergency brake.

      I won’t have that, either.

      • My 1980 E-150 came with a one-barrel carburetor on it (a Purolator courier fleet vehicle) that would never let me get above 55 on the highway. Thanks to Clifford Performance, it wound up with a new intake manifold and headers. It also had a 4-barrel that was too big, regardless of what was tried, and was replaced with a Holley Pro-Jection 2D that worked well aside from requiring constant adjustments when changing altitude. When the throttle linkage fell apart, and was found to be unreplaceable (fleet custom part), I did a bit of african engineering and replaced it with box pulleys and large ball chain. Sometimes this was a problem because the spring wasn’t on the throttle body and when the ball chain would break, it would strand the TPS and butterfly valve. I subsequently added a small spring on the throttle body that wouldn’t have retracted the ball chain. Since the ignition switch had previously been replaced by a toggle switch, shutting it down meant flipping the one switch to the Holley. The starter was a horn button.

  13. What else can we expect? I just read a review of the $100K Jeep Trackhawk which comes with not only parallel parking assist but also–drum roll please–“perpendicular parking assist,” in case the driver doesn’t know how to park between the painted lines or pull between two cars. With this kind of pure incompetence self-driving cars are not only inevitable but probably necessary.

    In less than a generation the ability to actually drive will be as quaint as buggy whips.

    • Hi Ross,

      That god-awful perpendicular parking thing is becoming very common. That it is even offered in a vehicle like that Jeep is telling about the state of things; about the incompetent buffoons who want to pose rather than drive.

      Yesterday, I was attempting to merge onto the Interstate from a tight-radius on ramp. Ahead of me is a new Chevy Tahoe. The imbecile “driving” it slows to a near stop and puts on his signal, preparatory to creeping on the Interstate at walking pace with traffic closing at 60-70 MPH.

      I broke left and punched it to get around this moron – who of course flashed his lights at me in great indignation!


  14. Most people won’t get it because of their age, but loved the picture of the Eloi (which you typoed as wloi). A great film that still stands up today.

    • The film was a coldwar reimaging of the book.

      The book is where the separation of the upper class and the lower class divides the human race into two species. The upper class becomes dependent and ignorant and the lower class adapts to life underground, in factories, and so on ends up dominating.

      Of course the ending is much the same with the ‘hero’ off to rebuild upper class England. That 19th century idea that the upper class to lead must still be able to do everything. That a leader must still know how to do every job below him. And perhaps that was the book’s point. Of course today it is the upper class using mechanical and electronic morlocs to control the middle and lower classes. Which probably wouldn’t reimage well. It would be some other dystopian film instead.

  15. I don’t understand the run away car thing.
    Twice in my life I’ve had a single rear drum lock up and the cars could barely be moved. Brakes will always win unless they are badly broken. The ignition switch turns the car off. Slamming the automatic transmission into park or reverse will stop the car. It will wreck the trans but that’s better than dying.

    There are so many ways to make a car stop and only a few to make it go.

    • Hi Brent,

      Agreed. I have (and I bet you do, too) experience the stuck cable, an accelerating wildly engine; our generation generally knew (learned) how to deal with such. But the people coming up do not – generally – know how. They are Eloi…

      • Yep, but when the car was moving a pedal tap would free it. On a couple occasions while moving the car or parking it got stuck where I had to get out and lift the hood to free it. Actually my mazda right now has some condition where the throttle cable won’t let it go off high idle to low idle for some damn reason. It refuses to happen for me when I have the hood up so I’ve just lubed the cable and it happens much less frequently. A pedal tap usually solves it when I am at traffic light.

        And maybe the issue is that with modern cars they are still designed to where the failure modes are where the same things that worked for carbs are what you do. Problem is so many fewer people ever learned that way. For me its instinctive as it is for you.

  16. I had a close call like this when I first bought a Thunderbird – fn floor mat slid forward and jammed the accelerator. I was pushing the brakes as hard as possible, but still headed for an intersection, when my brother calmly turned off the ignition.

    If you haven’t been told to do this, it might not be obvious enough to a non-mechanic.

    Good article!

  17. And once again: do not call cops.

    Spike strips at almost a 100mph with an SUV?

    Kid’s lucky he didn’t flip and get killed.

    Thanks Police!

  18. Great article as always Eric, but I see almost all of those fail safes being gone in the next five years, overridden by onboard confusers.

    All you’ll be allowed to do is call 911 and wait under the cops show up with their universal shut down device, and hope you or somebody else doesn’t die in the meantime.

  19. It’s all about “ergonomics”…
    The solution to the “unintended acceleration” problem is to increase the space between the accelerator pedal and brake pedal and to increase the height of the brake pedal in relation to the accelerator pedal.. I experienced this personally, (I forget what vehicle it was, but it was a foreign car). I inadvertently had the right portion of my right foot on the accelerator pedal and at the same time had the left portion of my right foot on the brake pedal, pushing the brake pedal in an attempt to stop. It turns out, I was pushing BOTH the accelerator and the brake at the same time. I believe that 99% of the “unintended acceleration” scenarios are caused by pushing both the accelerator and brake at the same time. Simple…

  20. Here’s a story- this happened to me in a 2003 Chevy malibu. I accelerated up a hill, then crested, and the engine acted the same (accelerating) when I took my foot off the gas and stabbed it to get it loose. Red light was coming up fast, so I threw it in neutral. Engine revved way high. I turned it off and coasted to a side street to figure out what the hell was going on. Turns out a squirrel or some animal put a piece of stale french bread on top of the wheel that opens the throttle valve with the accelerator cable. When I went up the hill, the bread fell into a notch in that wheel and kept it open. I took the bread out and everything was fine! Had my friend been driving that day, she would have panicked and crashed though.