FROM THE ARCHIVES: Motoring experts bust ‘SUA’ myth

To this day, the quips about “sudden unintended acceleration” or SUA continue to be part of any conversation whenever a sport utility vehicle (SUV) is involved in a vehicular crash.

The ‘myth’ may be said to have originated from a 2015 video clip that showed a Mitsubishi Montero Sport in a busy parking lot. 

The closed-circuit television footage showed two people switching places in a bid to park the SUV after the driver appeared to have difficulty maneuvering the vehicle into a parking spot. 

With the second driver on board, however, the SUV suddenly went on reverse, hitting motorcycles behind before accelerating forward and crashing into several parked vehicles.

The spate of vehicular accidents involving SUVs has resurrected the SUA issue once again. But does it hold water?

In a 2016 column, veteran motoring journalist and editor-in-chief Manny de los Reyes said that it’s impossible for any type of car to move on its own without the driver stepping on the accelerator.

“Any production car, from a tiny Toyota Wigo to a 600-plus-horsepower Ferrari or Lamborghini, will have brakes strong enough to keep the car from moving an inch if you step on the brake then floor the gas. I know – I’ve tried,” he said.

“The most that can happen is that you’ll have a spectacular burnout you see in Hollywood movies where the rear wheels are spinning and creating lots of tire smoke—but the car stays where it is. The brakes—especially the very powerful front brakes—will always win. People who swear their foot was firmly on the brake but the car still shot forward should go to back to driving school. Or at least just stop the BS,” he explained.

“If there are any design flaws in the afflicted cars, it might be the close positioning of the gas and brake pedals which may confuse a driver and the absence of a shift lock that prevents shifting into Drive or Reverse unless the driver’s foot is REALLY on the brake pedal,” he explained.

“…cars that accelerate on their own despite their owners’ best efforts to stop them SIMPLY. DON’T. EXIST,” De los Reyes further emphasized.

Meanwhile, a 2017 column by Cito Beltran bared the results of an independent probe into the alleged SUA cases of 2010-2015 models of Mitsubishi Montero, or part of the Gen 2 breed of Monteros.

According to HORIBA MIRA, a third party investigator tapped by Mitsubishi Motors Corp., it found no technical cause that can explain  incidents involving sudden unintended acceleration together with perceived inability to stop the vehicle.

“The investigation has found only one plausible root cause for sudden unintended acceleration, and inability to stop the Mitsubishi Montero Sport vehicle. Our hypothesis is that these incidents were caused by the driver mistakenly applying the accelerator, believing that they were pressing the brake pedal,” the report read.

“Other root cause hypotheses have been excluded because they would require simultaneous, but temporary, malfunction of both the engine control and the vehicle braking system without fault conditions being logged by any vehicle systems and DTCs (Diagnostic Trouble Code) being recorded. Since these are independent systems, the possibility of simultaneous failure is extremely low.

“There are other potential causes for undemanded acceleration that have not been ruled out by the investigation, but none of these would affect the braking system. If such a failure occurred, the driver would still have the opportunity to control the vehicle using the brakes or by disengaging the transmission.

A suite of EMC (Electromagnetic Compatibility) screening tests were performed on a vehicle that had previously been involved in a SUA claim. The results showed that the vehicle is extremely resilient at very high test levels of EMI (Electromagnetic Interference). … No adverse behaviour was observed during testing with levels corresponding to EU regulations and ISO standards.”

At the height of the issue in 2015, motoring journalist and now BusinessWorld Velocity editor-in-chief Kap Maceda Aguila reported that the MMPC cited four possible causes of the incident: pedal entrapment, pedal misapplication, mechanical and electronic failure.

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