First off, the definition of sudden unintended acceleration (SUA), from Wikipedia – is the unintended, unexpected, uncontrolled acceleration of a vehicle, often accompanied by an apparent loss of braking effectiveness. Such problems may be caused by driver error (e.g., pedal misapplication), mechanical or electrical problems, or some combination of these factors. Personally, I feel bad about Mitsubishi motors having to deal with this kind of issue in the midst of the release of their upcoming Monterosport. At the same time, I sympathize also to the victims of this seeming automotive malfunction.
I would just like to voice out my opinion on the matter. I am really surprised while watching some of the videos of the said cases that there are common denominators to all of them.
- The vehicle emits black smoke before its acceleration be it forward or reverse. In diesel engines, this is an indication of overfueling, the same as suddenly stepping on the accelerator pedal full-on, meaning wide open throttle (WOT), pedal to the metal kind of thing.
- Brake lights not coming on before during and after the acceleration (usually their brake lights come on only after the accident). This can only mean one thing – the driver did not step on the brake pedals. Let me state as early as now that the brake lights in almost all vehicles are controlled by a switch directly on the brake pedal mechanism and does not involve any computer wizardry to make it light or to even apply the brakes.
- This happens only on the automatic transmission equipped car.
With the above points, I cannot help to deduct the following:
- Emission of black smoke can only happen when the accelerator pedal is suddenly depressed by the driver (unintended or intended). The case that the people who allege that there was a malfunction with the car’s system do not know the basics of drive by wire. This system deletes the need for a mechanical cable and has in its place the TPS (throttle position sensor). This is much like your volume control on your old transistor radio but more solid state (i.e., more resistant to dust, moisture, extreme temperatures). Its main purpose is to tell the (Engine Control Unit) ECU how far the driver has depressed the accelerator pedal. For this to go wrong the car would have been subjected to extreme conditions for a considerable amount of time and the most probable trouble after that would be no signal transmitted – or no more vroom vroom (loose contact). We can still argue that for some strange reason it has sent the wrong signals to the ECU but still we have:
- Brakes lights should come on instantly after a few millimetres of brake pedal action. This also gives signal to the ECU that the brake pedals have been depressed and the system should get ready to decelerate (i.e., ignition timing retards, fuel supply returns to idle volume, etc.) Even if, let’s say that, the ECU malfunctions and ignores the brake signals, even then you will not be losing any brake on any wheel and the brakes are conservatively designed to overcome the weight of the car plus much much much more, which only means that the car should stop anytime immediately. Brakes are one of the most heavily engineered parts of the car, and brake failure on a relatively new car would be the same chances as winning the lotto.
- It is quite evident on the videos, even though the drivers claim that they are experienced drivers, that they are not fully aware of driving an AT vehicle. One fact which supports this is the failure to step on the brakes while changing gears – very common mistake. This is evident in some of the videos because the brake lights did not light up in the instance that they are supposed to change gear, i.e. after driver change, coming from neutral, etc.
In conclusion, nobody would accept the fact that they mistakenly stepped on the accelerator instead of the brakes when you have just caused multi vehicle damages and/or death/injuries to pedestrians, especially with the Pinoys who are fond of “iwas pusoy”. And to the Pinoy driver, the “blame others” mentality trumps humility and all reason and logic. Instead of saying “I am sorry, I made a mistake”, the Pinoy would rather point to something else or someone for his predicament. Apparently, Pinoys find it hard to accept mistakes, especially when you have the opportunity to ride the SUA bandwagon. Add to that our low quality media sensationalizing the said incidents, they should not be feasting on it like houseflies on s__t without any conclusive information. The government for its part should have their mechanism set in place for similar incidents, all I see is a bunch of people who really do not know squat how and where to begin their “investigation”. They approved it being sold in the country, they should know how to handle this.
The case of SUA on the said maker/model is also highly suspicious as only vehicles in the Philippines suffers from it while all Monterosport supplied to other countries are also made in the same plant in Thailand. Moreover, car makers would be using similar parts to other makes and models, why are there no cases of SUA for those models then? And if drive by wire was so unreliable why is it so widely used for decades now not only in the car industry? All other big name car manufacturers are using the same drive by wire system which only proves that this system is reliable and safe.
[Photo courtesy PhilNewsDaily.com.]