Toyota to Add Brake Override System on All 2011 Models

Toyota will roll out a new brake override system on all 2011 models, beginning with the redesigned 2011 Sienna minivan this month, followed by the 2011 Avalon sedan. In April, which is when the automaker begins building certain 2011 models, “the plan is to start upgrading all new Toyota, Lexus and Scion vehicles coming out of the plants with this upgrade,” spokesman Curt McAllister said. The brake override system cuts engine power and allows braking even if the accelerator pedal is depressed.

While the system will be new for several Toyota models, a number of automakers have adopted brake override systems — some for as long as a decade — as a last-ditch measure against unintended acceleration. All Toyota hybrids already employ the system, Toyota says; the company says as part of its ongoing recall for floormat entrapment, which was announced in September 2009, it will install the brake override systems onto all model years of the Toyota Camry and Avalon and Lexus ES and IS models included in that recall. The company has not added the brake override system as part of its remedy for the 2.3 million vehicles recalled last month due to sticky accelerator pedals, and there have been “no discussions on upgrading [other] vehicles already on the road,” McAllister said.

The 2011 Sienna minivan, which hits dealerships this month, is the first all-new model to include it standard. We’ve pulled together a Q&A below.
Is there a specific date after which all Toyotas will have a brake override system?
No. Rather, all 2011 models will have the system, Toyota spokesman David Lee told us. With the exception of the redesigned 2011 Sienna, which arrives this month, other 2011s should trickle onto dealer lots beginning in April. By late in the year, nearly all Toyota, Lexus and Scion models rolling off the factory line will be 2011 models — and thus include a brake override system.

Will Toyota install the system on any 2010 or older models?
No, except for the 2005-2010 Avalon, 2007-2010 Camry and Lexus ES, and 2006-2010 Lexus IS models under the current floormat recall. Although the retrofit is a software upgrade, there are no current plans to install it elsewhere — even among models under the sticking accelerator pedal recall. However, those vehicles “are under study at this point,” Lee said.

How does Toyota’s brake override system work?
It’s an electronic system that engages when both accelerator and brake pedals are depressed, then the system cuts engine power: “When the vehicle is moving and both the gas and brake pedal are pushed at the same time, this software forces the vehicle to respond to the brake only,” Toyota explains in its recall FAQ. Lee said it will work under all conditions — not just in extreme situations — so those who drive with a left foot on the brake pedal will have to learn not to do that.

How widespread are brake override systems?
They’re widespread but not universal. According to the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times, brake override systems — called “smart pedals” within the auto industry — are employed by Chrysler, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Volkswagen/Audi and Nissan, although not all of those automakers’ cars have them. Hyundai is reportedly installing smart pedals across its entire lineup this month, and Ford plans to roll it out across its lineup, as well. General Motors installs it on certain models, too.
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