Japanese Inventor Designs Common Gas, Brake Pedal. Disaster Looms.
Masuyuki Naruse always believed that the two pedal arrangement for the accelerator and brake pedals was a bad idea. In his eyes, it’s human nature to stomp downward in a panic situation, which led him to develop an innovative gas and brake pedal combination some 20 years ago. With Naruse’s design, there’s no way a driver can confuse the gas for the brake; in a conventional layout, this happens with some regularity, usually with disasterous results. You could ask the NHTSA for details about this, but don’t expect a straight answer since it might vindicate Toyota.
Naruse’s idea is relatively simple: the brake pedal remains as it is today, and a driver would continue to brake via downward pressure. The accelerator, on the other hand, is worked via the side of the foot. Rotating your foot to the right produces acceleration, while rotating your foot to the left backs off the throttle. Since acceleration is produced via a sideways motion and braking is produced via a downward motion, there’s no way to produce uninteded acceleration with Naruse’s design.
I have to admire Mr. Naruse for his innovative thinking, but I cringe when I think about the application of his design for the average driver. First, there’s nothing stopping you from riding the brake pedal as you accelerate. Even moderate brake pressure, which would likely go unnoticed by the average driver, is sufficient to generate dangerous heat levels in the braking system over time. Ride the brakes long enough and you risk boiling the brake fluid. What happens when you step on the brakes then? Other than the pedal going to the floor and a total lack of braking ability, not much.
Let’s think about fine motor skills as well. It’s not difficult to move the gas pedal downward in gradual increments, which allows precise control of acceleration even for average drivers. Try the same thing by rotating your foot to the right in a normal driving position. Not only is it not as precise, but it isn’t very comfortable, either. Can you imagine spending eight hours behind the wheel this way? I certainly can’t.
I’ve been saying for years that we have a problem in this country with driver’s education. Factor in a growing population of older drivers who may or may not have the skills necessary to be safe behind the wheel, and you have a problem that simply will not go away. The best solution, in my opinion, is additional training and regular testing of drivers over the age of 65. I fail to see where simplifying the control system will provide any benefit; in fact, I see it as a recipe for disaster.