At higher-than-legal speed, the Lexus driver smashed into another vehicle on a San Diego freeway. The car eventually landed in a raving, killing all four inside. Two years and a month later, Toyota settled out of court with the family's relatives. An estimated 90 people died in Toyota and Lexus vehicles in similar fashion, and guess what? Come 2014, the company avoided prosecution for covering up information about this worrying issue by paying a whopping $1.2 billion.
Millions over millions of Toyota and Lexus vehicles were recalled. In addition to replacement accelerator pedals and floor mats, the Japanese manufacturer ultimately addressed the unintended acceleration problem by rolling out a software update. Said update is designed to override the accelerator when both the brake pedal and accelerator pedal are applied.
What is a brake override system?
How does the brake override system cut off engine power when simultaneously pressing both pedals? Software alone cannot do it without the help of a myriad of sensors, including speed sensors and the accelerator pedal position sensors. Even the brake light circuitry is taken into account. By cutting fuel off from the internal combustion engine, brake overriding brings engine speed down, therefore reducing vehicle speed.
It should be noted that B.O.S. does not reduce engine speed to zero revolutions per minute because a stalled engine equals no power steering. The brake override system activates only if the accelerator pedal is pressed before the brake pedal. Drivers are required to keep both pedals pressed for half a second, at speeds higher than 5 miles per hour (8 kilometers per hour).
Is B.O.S. mandatory in new vehicles?
When safety boffins and consumers like you and me advocated for mandatory brake overriding back in 2012, the federal watchdog found that few automakers had committed to making this life-saving feature standard. In 2019, when Trump was calling the shots at the White House, the NHTSA discovered that every single automaker present in the United States of America had introduced brake override systems.
Light trucks (think Ford Maverick to the F-150), not only passenger vehicles and sport utility vehicles, also come standard with this feature. On the other hand, not mandating B.O.S. means that performance requirements vary from automaker to automaker. The NHTSA is only interested in the B.O.S. cutting fuel when both pedals are pressed simultaneously. As long as the vehicle coasts to a stop, we agree that performance requirements aren't really necessary.
Brake override systems from other automakers
BMW rolled out B.O.S. to every single model line in 2001. Manual-equipped Bimmers also use it, and the software is written in such a way that brake overriding doesn't activate during heel-and-toe downshift in preparation for cornering.
Although the brake override system is of no use in cases of butter-fingered drivers confusing the brake pedal and loud pedal, the feature is extremely useful. Especially in the aftermath of Toyota's unintended acceleration blunder, brake overriding has proven itself as an essential safety technology.