I was thinking about a recent question here as well as that 2009 Toyota incident. I'm not particularly paranoid of this happening, as it's highly unlikely, but I do like to mentally run through sticky situations so I'm prepared if they do happen (this has helped me out in the past a few times, e.g. a popped brake line in tight high speed traffic).
So consider a passenger car accelerating out of control. Let's assume:
- Worst case: For whatever reason, turning the ignition switch off has no effect. Also turning off ignition has risk of power steering and power brake loss, as well as risk of engaging steering lock, so it isn't plan A.
- Everything else in the vehicle is functioning correctly, in particular the transmission has no issues.
- The engine can overpower the brakes (e.g. due to vacuum loss at WOT affecting brake assist / power brakes).
- It doesn't matter why this is happening, it just is.
- The priority is to stop the vehicle without putting the driver, passengers, or other people in danger. Doing permanent damage to the vehicle is fine.
In a manual, which my car is, I figure if something ever causes uncontrolled acceleration plan A would be to pop the car into neutral and handle it from there.
But I don't have an automatic to play with, and I'm not really familiar with them. So my questions are:
- Will I always be able to throw an automatic into neutral at any speed? Or can the shifter get stuck (sort of like in a manual how it's hard to pop it out of gear with the clutch closed).
- What about in a fully drive-by-wire vehicle? Is there some regulation that says switching to neutral must still be a direct mechanical/hydraulic action, or otherwise states that a request to shift to neutral must not fail, or is it possible that a reasonable ECU may e.g. refuse to go into neutral because of some condition that may result from a stuck throttle?
And a subquestion: Would there be a better way? I'm just stuck on the neutral thought train.
This isn't a question about why this would happen or how unlikely it is to happen (very unlikely), it's a question about being prepared for a really weird situation and having a strategy to handle it safely.
I'd be able to answer this on my own if I had another car to play with, but unfortunately, I don't.