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Driver Gets Stuck On Cruise Control 38

Benaiah writes "In something seemingly out of a Keanu Reeves movie, an Australian driver was unable to make his freeway exit when his car failed to slow down as he applied the brake. For those of you too lazy to RTFA he tried everything to stop the car including turning off the ignition but to no avail, the computer was in control. Police at one point escorted him down the wrong side of the road at 80km/h(50mp/h) until he eventually was able to stop it by repeatedly stepping on the brake pedal. Ford Australia spokeswoman Sinead McAlary said there has been a recall on that make of car but for a different reason."


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Driver Gets Stuck On Cruise Control

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  • by tsalmark ( 1265778 ) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @02:40PM (#30461286) Homepage
    Every time I see one of these stories I wonder, what about shifting to Neutral. I only drive standard, so am not sure, but don't Automatics still have a Neutral setting for the transmission, or are these drivers in need of another round of drivers ed?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Yvan256 ( 722131 )

      It's called panic.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The article pretty clearly states he tried.

      • NO, no it does not. Given that he tried other options, and he seems to have remained calm for at least the first few KM of the problem, he probably did. from comments in the article and below, it does seem that at least some modern automatics are completely fly by wire affairs.
        • NO, no it does not. Given that he tried other options, and he seems to have remained calm for at least the first few KM of the problem, he probably did. from comments in the article and below, it does seem that at least some modern automatics are completely fly by wire affairs.

          The article said it was a 2002 Ford Explorer. They're not drive by wire. He could have shifted to neutral and there's pretty much no mechanical failure that can prevent that. If it were a manual transmission and it was stuck in gear (kind of an unlikely failure at the same time the brakes and throttle mysteriously fail) then he could have still disengaged the clutch by holding the clutch pedal down.

          The are several controls that can be used to stop or at least prevent further acceleration: The ignition ke

          • by rrrhys ( 1475013 )
            Also - if the car wouldn't turn off or shift into neutral when he was moving, how did he turn it off/drop it out of gear when he stopped it through mashing the pedal? Did it magically let him turn the key then? He's just a crying retard.
          • by Tolkien ( 664315 )
            We aren't all car mechanics, nor may we not have the prerequisit interest to learn how it works. I understand your point of view in the context of computers (I'm a software developer) but I don't drive and don't know, beyond what you see on tv, nor care to know how they work.
        • Yeah, it didn't say he tried dropping it into neutral. I'm not totally familiar with the Australian version of an '02 Explorer, but I doubt (based on the model year) that it had drive-by-wire. I also very much doubt that it did not have a direct mechanical connection between the shifter linkage and the transmission. Therefore, if that was the case, dropping into neutral would have saved him earlier.

          BTW, he probably lost power assist to the brakes because if hte throttle was jammed open, there's no vaccuum a

        • From the article:

          I tried changing the gear shift

          It doesn't say "neutral", but I bet it's one he tried.

    • It's worse than that. Many of these cars are "fly by wire" now with no direct mechanical connection between the pedals, shifter, and the engine.

      I suppose I would have tried the hand brake- but that could also be really just a signal to the computer to slow down.

      • Well, I would think using a hand break while a front wheel drive car is trying to maintain highway speeds is probably a recipe for disaster. The article does make it seem the driver did try a few obvious ways of disengaging the engine. I just find it hard to believe, and scary, that they make cars with out some fail-safe, mechanical way of disengaging the engine.
        • Being a mechanical device, the hand brake is not "all or nothing". I drive at 50mph all the time with one hand and my handbrake is to my right between the seats.

          It is scary that you don't have a failsafe. "Pull this red button to disconnect the wires from the engine" or something.

          • I was thinking the locked on cruise control would put up a big enough fight that the handbrake would be all but useless, but perhaps not. I had been thinking about a CVT for my next car, I'll make sure to do a lot more research on the ability to disengage the drive-train.
          • Many mechanical devices are all-or-nothing, although you are right about a hand brake not being one of those (ever seen a sprag clutch?). If you think THAT'S scary, you should see how little material there actually is in items like your wheel spindles, wheel bearing contact surface area, etc. We put a lot of power and weight through just a few small bits of metal that are all there is between our backsides and a grisly death. The materials science involved is a really amazing thing.. The way most vehicles a
    • Wow even when it says "for those too lazy to RTFA" in the summary, people still ignore it.

      He tried putting it in neutral. He tried turning the ignition off. He tried all manner of brake pumping. Pretty much, he tried everything that you could conceivably try.

  • Yet another case of Rise of the Machines (RotM) []

  • by g00ey ( 1494205 ) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @05:18PM (#30464042)
    Many modern cars have electronic ignition which consists of a cassette that is inserted into a slot. The system feeds this cassette electrically into the slot like the tray of a CD player, and scans the chip inside the cassette (this chip is also known as RFID chip). When the ID is verified the driver can push a button to start the car. So the good old mechanical key is gone on these models and the ignition control relies entirely on computer controlled semi-conductor relays.

    The parking brake, or the hand brake is not strong enough to brake a moving car, at least not at speeds above 30 kph. At 80 kph the hand brake is most likely to take considerable damage and/or premature wear and even further disable its operation when trying to use it at that speed.

    When it comes to the brakes, cars have what is known as ABS. ABS is an electronically controlled braking system which neutralizes the braking force on the wheels that are starting to spin, when you hit the brakes hard or you hit them when the road is slippery. It is technically possible for the electronic control unit (ECU) to hang and force all brake calipers open no matter how strong pressure is applied on the brake pedal.

    Even the automatic transmission gearbox is controlled electronically consisting of electronically controlled actuator valves that reroute hydraulic fluid in the box in order to switch operating mode of the gearbox. It is fully possible for the ECU of the automatic transmission to stop responding to "shifting commands" from the shift stick.

    Usually there is redundancy in those systems and the systems at least used to be isolated from each other, i.e. they operate independently from each other using their own circuitry and wiring except for perhaps the diagnostics interface (OBD, OBDII, et al). The ABS-system used to be this way on most cars until the TRACS feature came where the ABS system sends commands to the fuel injection box forcing the engine to rev down in order to prevent spin when accelerating. This is also used to enhance the effect of the ABS control when braking.

    But my bets are, since the invention of the CCAM bus that all electronic components have become more and more integrated into each other and the manufacturers do what they can to cut their production costs and save copper wire by letting all components communicate over the same CCAM bus which goes around the car in a loop. If this bus breaks, gets congested or overloaded then things don't look good for the driver.

    So, all in all, I think this is possible to happen and the cruise control may have overloaded the CCAM bus disabling all electronically controlled operation of the vehicle.
    • It did happen. It was on all the TV news in Australia last night, with television footage of the travelling car, and interviews with the driver and police (who were were called in while he was stuck on 100 km/hr).
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by wtfbill ( 1408123 )
      Sorry, g00ey, that's not how electronic transmissions and abs systems work. I know, I work on them all the time. And while there are a lot of cars that use RFID to start up, I've never seen one of those that's like anything you describe either. ABS works by pulsing the system pressure and bleeding it off. It doesn't fail in a hold-open mode, but hold-close. That's both for mechanical and electronic failures in the actual ABS part of the brake system. And typically, when a transmission controller stops worki
      • by g00ey ( 1494205 )
        I'm not a professional car mechanic with many years of experience but I'm interested in car technology and I work on cars for leisure. I also have been working in car manufacturing plants on occasion.

        All of the cars I've been working with (during my leisure time) is from before the era when the car manufacturers started using the CCAN bus. It's near impossible to find useful information about it on the internet, but I've managed to come over some brief but technical articles from an automotive engineerin
        • You make some very valid, well-thought-out points. Didn't consider boiling brake fluid (shame on me). Much of what I said applies to the vehicle in question, and is not accurate for some newer vehicles. A lot of what you said is exactly why I'm not a fan of drive-by-wire. An electrical failure can stop being an inconvenience and become life-threatening in a hurry if the situation goes sour. While it's true that there is double or triple redundancy in these systems (for instance, multiple potentiometers rea
          • by g00ey ( 1494205 )
            I'm willing to admit that a human factor probably has been involved too, contributing to the situation. I also understand that many of us have experienced women panicking for no apparent reason and many times I agree with the disapproval of that kind of behavior in such situations. However, I feel that people are a little too conclusive calling this guy an idiot. If I were on a highway with a lot of cars and in all of a sudden the car started accelerating putting me out of control, I would get freaked out f
    • I wondered about pulling fuses. Probably a dangerous thing to try while in motion because you would have to feel for the fuse box and then pull stuff at random.

  • by archangel9 ( 1499897 ) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @05:41PM (#30464446)
    so this is their ploy to get into the underwear stain removal business.
  • Don't you guys get it! He had to stay at cruise control or the bomb in the engine will blow up!! What other explanation do you need?
  • the left hand side of the road is the CORRECT side here in Australia. The police escorted him off the main body of the road, not down the wrong side.
    • clearly didn’t read TFA either.

      The car left the freeway at Frankston and went through the Cranbourne Road intersection onto the Moorooduc Highway before approaching banked up traffic near the Monash University Peninsula Campus. At that point Mr Weir was forced to steer the car into oncoming traffic.

      “That’s pretty much when I thought I’m dead,” Mr Weir told the Nine Network.

      “All I could see was traffic lights ahead. There was just cars and traffic in every lane.

      • Mr Weir eventually stopped the car ... by jumping up and down on the foot brake and pulling the hand brake.

        So why didn't he just do that to begin with?

  • First, turning off the ignition switch physically opens the circuit between the car's electrical system and fuel/ignition systems. This would have either deprived the engine of fuel by cutting off the fuel pump or of spark by disabling the ignition system. Either way, the car stops.

    Second, I don't see why he couldn't have thrown it into a lower gear to slow down or into neutral or even park to stop. American carmakers aren't known for their technological innovations at the best of times. SUVs are their

    • My 1995 Skylark had a gearshift that was not physically attached to the transmission, and my Alero has an RFID chip in the ignition key. Your rant against US automakers is amusing, but wrong. That being said, GM is smart enough that the fail condition in tranny-by-wire is to go to neutral (which I found out with the Skylark, unfortunately) and I expect Ford is the same.
      • Actually, the Skylark uses a steel shift cable, so yeah, it's mechanically linked. Just not by a more traditional hard linkage. Most cars have done that for a LONG time. The trans options on that vehicle are a 4T40E or a 4T60E, depending on the engine. Both are electronically controlled, but both use a steel shift cable to move the manual valve (that's what determines what range you're in). Look under the hood/bonnet, driver's side, on top of the trans, you'll see it. If it fails, you could be left in any r
  • Aha. Australia is in the SOUTHERN hemisphere. Everyone knows water goes down the toilet backwards there. I'm going to assume that you need to press the break to speed up and use the cruise control to slow down. Maybe he just forgot about that.

  • I call bullshit on all "out of control and I can't stop" cars out there.

    Turn off the ignition. Put it in neutral. And if you can't manage that, then first we cut off your head, then we execute you in the name of mankind. You are too stupid to risk having your genes perpetuated.

    In Arizona about a decade ago a brainless cunt did this stunt in her Hyundai not once, but twice. The mechanics said it wasn't her car, so the police got suspicious. She was convicted of something, probably of extreme cuntery and enda

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