It used to be that Bimmers were showcases for cutting-edge automotive technology. Were you to draw comparisons to grocery stores, BMW would be a Whole Foods (organic, grass-fed, hormone-free), and Detroit’s Big 3 would be 7-11s (pre-packaged, corn syrup-fortified, jerkyed). However, Washington is tossing around the idea of making one of BMW’s standard safety features mandatory in all North American cars: brake override systems.
Simply put, a brake override system automatically switches off the accelerator if both the brake and accelerator pedals are engaged simultaneously. For most drivers, the effects of a brake override system would never be directly felt because we usually only use one foot for both the gas and brake. However, if you’re in an emergency (read, in a Toyota) and your accelerator is stuck in the GOOOOOO! position, hitting the brake pedal would force the accelerator to deactivate. Hopefully, future versions of this technology will intuit if the driver of the vehicle intentionally drives with two feet and will then auto-pilot the car into the closest body of water.
BMWs already have this technology, and other auto manufacturers have also incorporated it into their vehicles. If the current administration has its druthers, all cars sold in the US would have brake overrides, too. On March 2, 2010, Ray LaHood, Secretary of the United States Department of Transportation, stated that the Obama Administration is considering recommending that automakers add brake override systems into their vehicles in the wake of the expansive Toyota recalls.
Watching a brake override in action is pretty spectacular (and pretty nauseating). Check out this footage shot by noticeably shaken NYTimes contributor Jim Motavalli: