[SystemSafety] FW: Another runaway car

From: Robin Cook < >
Date: Fri, 15 Feb 2013 22:12:47 -0000


I have had two driving experiences that are relevant: 1. A stuck throttle - I went through the options in my head, completed the overtaking manoeuvre, switched off the engine and pulled in to the side. 2. 2 tons of Buick on hire in the USA where a stall (at low speed) gave the only option of straightening both legs between the seat back and the (large) brake pedal - the car was designed for power assisted brakes. Both of these were with an engineer driving.

The example Peter brings to our attention is of a car that has been modified for a disabled driver. Therefore it is more reliant than normal on power assistance. I suspect that the driver was unaware of which systems would remain available and which would not with the engine off and the police would be unable to find this information in time (they talked to the manufacturer but probably not the modifier). The crash in a ditch at the end suggests that the power steering failed during the non-powered rolling time from 125mph once the engine stopped due to fuel starvation.

I was surprised several years ago at the lack of oversight on lorry modifications in the UK. I was working on a modification for the MOD at the time. Therefore I would not be surprised if the regulations governing the modification of cars for disabled drivers included very little provision for safety in the event of a system failure.

In addition, aircraft manuals include a section on what to do in various emergency situations such a door open in flight or burst tyre. Also much training time goes into engine stopping. I don't recall attention to similar emergencies in car driver manuals or training. It is one thing for this engineering community to consider what we would do but many drivers don't have our engineering approach and background knowledge and have to deal with the emergency in their own way.

Good marks to the driver for calling the police for help.

It will be interesting to see what the inquiry recommends. I suspect that the infrequency of such incidents means that the cost of changes to driver training or to regulation of vehicle modifications would be grossly disproportionate to the benefit gained.

Best regards
Robin Cook

-----Original Message-----
From: systemsafety-bounces_at_xxxxxx [mailto:systemsafety-bounces_at_xxxxxx Bertrand (SAGEM DEFENSE SECURITE)
Sent: 14 February 2013 15:15
To: systemsafety_at_xxxxxx Subject: Re: [SystemSafety] Another runaway car

I guess that in this type of situation the average "idiot" driving the car have little time and concentration to start testing all the combinations between buttons, pedals and keys (with timers) to check if they have any effect. There might be even be a hidden maintenance acces like for lifts or beverage distributors (while ceiling light on press brake and turn radio on...).

Bertrand RICQUE
Program Manager, Optronics and Defense Division  
T +33 (0)1 58 11 96 82
M +33 (0)6 87 47 84 64
23 avenue Carnot

-----Original Message-----
From: systemsafety-bounces_at_xxxxxx [mailto:systemsafety-bounces_at_xxxxxx Sieker
Sent: Thursday, February 14, 2013 4:09 PM To: systemsafety_at_xxxxxx Subject: Re: [SystemSafety] Another runaway car

On 14.02.13 15:24, David Crocker wrote:
> How does this requirement translate to cars that don't use a
> conventional key? On my BMW 3-series, the electronic key does not
> rotate, instead I insert it into a hole in the dashboard. I am fairly
> sure it is locked in place when the engine is running. I guess the
> start/stop button should turn the engine off, but I haven't tried
> pressing it while the car is moving.

My information is from talks with people from different car manufacturers during meetings for an EU project some years ago.

As I reacll it was specifically for cars licensed for Germany; it may be different for other countries, or it may have been "harmonised" within the EU since then, allowing electronic "ignition locks".

Our Peugeots' locks "feel" mechanical and have always worked as expected so far, but I really don't know.

In the previous case where a Lexus's accelerator was "jammed", the start/stop-button would not turn off the engine when the gear was not in neutral, unless it was held down for 5 seconds, much like the "soft" power buttons on many PCs.

> David Crocker, Escher Technologies Ltd.


On 14.02.13 15:32, Simon Struck wrote:
> Turning the key into off-position mechanically locks the steering, does
> it? So simply turning the engine of might lead to further problems...

Depends on the car, some have in intermediate position which will turn 
off the engine, but leave most other systems on (radio, lights, etc.) 
and the steering wheel unlocked.

> Simon

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