The interface between human and machine are often as much art as they are science. A prime example is the way automobiles are controlled, in particular acceleration and braking. While nearly all vehicles over the last several decades have used a pair of adjacent foot pedals to manage those operations (with a shrinking proportion using a third for manual clutches), a third setup hasn’t gained any traction in the marketplace.
As both Audi and Toyota can attest, this arrangement is less than ideal for many drivers. In an emergency situation, when you can’t even see the pedals, it’s all too easy to hit the throttle when you meant to lay on the brake.
Japanese inventor Masuyuki Naruse has developed a single pedal solution that should eliminate the possibility of misapplication. Naruse’s system consists of an accelerator operated by rotating the right foot clockwise while the brakes are operated by pushing down in the traditional manner. While the idea of a single pedal solution is certainly appealing, the side press for acceleration seems like it could be problematic from an ergonomic standpoint – particularly over an extended period of time.
With the arrival of electric vehicles, regenerative brakes and even brake-by-wire systems, a single pedal operation with braking coming simply by releasing the pedal is a possibility. The Mini E almost does this through the use of a very aggressive regenerative braking system, allowing drivers to slow the electric Cooper quickly without ever touching the brake pedal. There’s little doubt that over the next few years we’ll be seeing more innovation in this area with the hope of eliminating unintended acceleration, but building a better mousetrap – one that stands up to the test of time – is going to be difficult to implement across all vehicles.