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Toyota to add new anti-acceleration feature

The Yomiuri Shimbun

The Yomiuri ShimbunToyota Motor Corp. is planning to roll out a new feature aimed at preventing accidents caused by mix-ups between the accelerator and brake pedal, it has been learned.

The new function will suppress engine output if the gas is mistakenly pressed when there is a person in front of the vehicle, thereby preventing sudden acceleration toward pedestrians. According to sources, it may be added before the end of the year to vehicles that have already been sold to customers.

Retrofit safety devices that can suppress mistaken acceleration caused by pressing the wrong pedal are already available on the market, but these devices only work when sensors detect an obstacle such as a wall or another car in the direction the vehicle is traveling. These systems often do not respond to pedestrians or bicycles, and therefore have failed to prevent serious accidents.

Toyota’s new feature would gradually decelerate the vehicle when the accelerator is pressed suddenly, even if there are no obstacles out in front. It would be the first major domestic automaker to incorporate this kind of function.

Toyota intends to allow the new feature to be retrofitted into already sold vehicles for a fee, which the company aims to set at ¥50,000 or less, as it believes such a product will not be widely adopted if it is too expensive, the sources said.

The feature is to be introduced starting with models such as the Prius and Aqua hybrids, which are popular among elderly drivers, and would eventually be compatible with most models.

It is not technically difficult to create a mechanism for reducing engine output when the accelerator is suddenly pressed with great force. However, many in the auto industry have so far believed that suppressing engine output could be dangerous when rapid acceleration is needed, such as moving from an on-ramp to the main lanes on an expressway or trying to avoid a crash in an emergency situation.

Amid a spate of high-profile accidents involving elderly people who made mistakes using the gas and brake pedals, however, Toyota has concluded that such a function to suppress engine output is necessary to prevent accidents involving pedestrians and bicycles. The automaker believes the new feature won’t cause much confusion as long as it is installed only for those who want it, according to the sources.

A decision to introduce this feature by Toyota — the nation’s largest automaker — could prompt other manufacturers to take similar steps.

The Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry on July 5 asked Toyota and seven other major domestic automakers to take urgent action regarding sudden acceleration caused by mistakenly pressing the accelerator.

According to National Police Agency data released in July, 149 fatal accidents were caused by drivers aged 75 or older from January to June this year. Of these, 17 accidents, or 11 percent, are believed to have caused by mistakes between the accelerator and brake. This percentage decreases to 0.7 percent among drivers younger than 75 years old.

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