WASHINGTON -- The federal government is likely to order brake-override systems on all light vehicles because of Toyota Motor Corp.'s unintended-acceleration problems, and observers say General Motors Co. and Honda Motor Co. probably will feel the biggest impact.
GM and Honda are the only major automakers without brake-override systems in most vehicles or without firm plans to install the systems on a widespread basis.
"It's nothing that will harm their bottom line," said Dan Edmunds, an engineer and director of vehicle testing at Edmunds.com. "Most ingredients are already there in the car."
The two companies would have to develop software to tell engines to ignore acceleration commands if the brake pedal is depressed.
U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said last week that his agency was considering a proposal to require the systems on all new vehicles.
Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, said the panel also might introduce legislation with a brake-override requirement.
"It's quite likely to be mandated," said Honda's chief Washington lobbyist, Ed Cohen. "At the same time, our customers are going to demand it in light of the publicity about Toyota."
Honda plans to install the systems in all U.S. vehicles but hasn't decided when, Cohen said.
At GM, only the Chevrolet Corvette and Malibu L4 and the Cadillac CTS-V and STS-V have brake-override systems, said GM spokesman Alan Adler.
"Remaining GM models have brakes that are stronger than the engine," Adler said. "If you stood on the brake and the accelerator pedals simultaneously, the brake would win every time."
Electronic brake-override systems automatically cut engine power when the gas and brake pedals are both depressed.
Clarence Ditlow, executive director of the Center for Auto Safety, said the government would have to address when the rule should go into effect and what performance standard to establish.
One issue, for example, will be whether to allow half a second, a second or two seconds to elapse between the activation of both the gas and brake pedals and the slowing of the engine, he said.
Toyota is installing brake-override systems on seven current models and has said it plans to introduce the system on all U.S. models by 2011. About 20 percent of its U.S. vehicles now have the systems.