While the technical issues involved in Toyota’s sticky-pedal recalls are still being debated, one factor in many unintended acceleration incidents — Toyota or otherwise — is human error.
Since the Toyota pedal incident, the Obama administration has mandated “smart pedals,” which cut off the fuel supply and turn off acceleration if the brake pedal is pressed. However, smart pedals wouldn't help a driver who are unintentionally accelerating but never hit the brakes. According to Masuyuki Naruse, a 74-year-old Japanese inventor, there's a better alternative.
Instead of having two pedals that you stomp on, Naruse says there should only be one: a brake pedal. Our natural inclination is to “stomp down when we panic,” so only having one pedal that you push to brake is virtually dummy proof, Naruse said. But how would you accelerate?
With Naruse’s design, you accelerate by tilting your foot sideways onto another pedal that’s mounted for left-right operation. Naruse has tested his “Naruse Pedal,” also called a unified pedal, in more than 130 cars in Japan. Regulators there have declared the pedal street-legal. Retrofitting a car only costs $1,156 and requires no big mechanical changes to the vehicles, he said.
In 2009 the Japanese government reported that nearly 6,700 traffic accidents and 37 deaths in Japan were the result of driver error, which is when the accelerator was hit instead of the brake. Even Naruse has hit the accelerator when he intended to hit the brakes.
Naruse says Toyota actually took interest in his unified pedal in 2000 but wasn't satisfied with the design.Gas-and-Brake Pedal Gets New Look After Recalls (New York Times)