On That New Japanese Pedal Design
A number of people have written in to tell me about the new pedal design in the New York Times (as an aside, I always chuckle a bit when I get NYT links, as I have essentially read the paper seven days a week cover to cover since the late 1980s, when a college professor haughtily advised me it “would make a better person” — but I digress). One even reminded me that I was “harsh” on driver behavior (e.g., in this post).
What I had raised objections to in the whole debate over unintentional acceleration was its actual importance in the overall traffic safety picture; and whether our innovative energies wouldn’t be better focused on things like better impaired driving interventions.
That said, as someone who has written quite a bit on design, I’m always in favor of design that makes everyday life better, or eliminates simple human errors all of us, on one occasion or another, are bound to make. We can chastise the “idiots” who leave their card behind in an ATM, or designers can install a simple intervention, the beep that won’t stop sounding until you’ve removed your card. Of course, there are social issues here as well: Given the older demographic that seemed to be particularly implicated in the unintentional acceleration cases, is it a question of improving the car’s design to accommodate older drivers (in essence making a “Jitterbug” version of the car), or of more closely monitoring and perhaps restricting older drivers?
The bigger issue here, as the article notes, is changing the ingrained mass muscle memory of hundreds of millions of worldwide drivers; i.e., would the shift to a new pedal actually cause more injuries than reducing the (rare) instances of accidental acceleration. After all, the new pedal is just one of a number of design tweaks that have been proposed to improve traffic safety (e.g., changing the colors of brake lights or having them give a special display when they are fully depressed), but as the CHIMSIL showed, it takes years of research and testing to actually get these things implemented — and even then the predicted safety benefits might not meet expectations.
Curious to hear what you human factors folks have to say.
This entry was posted on Wednesday, August 4th, 2010 at 8:06 am and is filed under Cars, Cyclists, Traffic safety. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.