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A conversation with Robert Davis, Mazda’s Senior VP in charge of Product Development and Quality, about the issue of unintended acceleration.
Q:Robert, there has been a lot of concern in the media and with customers about unintended acceleration. Is this a problem for Mazda cars?
A:No, it's not a problem for Mazda. Like every manufacturer in the world, we've had reports of concerns, but we have reviewed each of them and have found no issues in our throttle systems, nor concerns over floor mat positioning interfering with the pedals.
Q:What would you recommend a driver do if they were in an unintended acceleration situation?
A:Since Mazda designs its vehicles to be easy and intuitive to operate, it should always be possible to shift the gear selector of your vehicle into the neutral position; you can then steer to a safe location, turn off the ignition and exit the vehicle. In manual transmission vehicles, simply engage the clutch, shift to neutral, slow the vehicle and steer to a safe location, turn off the ignition and exit the vehicle. The engine in all Mazda models is equipped with a rev-limiter that will protect it from over-revving.
Alternatively, if, for some reason, you are unable to shift the vehicle into neutral, or such action fails to disengage the engine, for cars with conventional keys or turn-to-go ignitions, you should then switch off the engine. For keyless-entry models equipped with start/stop buttons, simply press the engine start/stop button three times. Note that whenever the engine is shut off, power brake- and steering-assist will be greatly reduced, so we recommend selecting neutral first, and turning off the engine only if selecting neutral fails to disengage the engine. Once the engine is shut off, apply firm steady pressure to the brakes (do not pump the brakes), steer to a safe location, and exit the vehicle.
Q:Does Mazda have a brake override feature that disconnects or closes the throttle if the brake is pressed simultaneously?
A:At this time, no, we do not. While we do not feel that such a system is necessary on a vehicle with intuitive, easy-to-operate controls, we are nevertheless intending to introduce brake override on all 2011 model-year vehicles in North America, beginning with the new MAZDA2.
Q:Will owners of existing Mazdas be able to have their vehicles modified to include this override feature?
A:At this moment, no. Mazda R&D is studying the possibility of retrofitting the system on Mazda vehicles in operation. As we discussed earlier, we have reviewed each concern raised, and have found no issues in our throttle systems. Simply selecting neutral and bringing the car to a stop on the side of the road is the easiest, safest and best way to respond should any driver experience an unintended acceleration situation.
Q:Does Mazda have electronic data recorders – the so-called "black boxes" - in its cars?
A:Yes, Mazda vehicles are equipped with EDRs, and we state this clearly at the front of each vehicle's owner's manual. They capture a very limited amount of data for a very short period of time before and after airbags are deployed in the event of a collision. If we are requested by law enforcement agencies or other authorities, we will assist as necessary with accessing recorded EDR data for use in accident investigations.
The reason the data these EDRs collect is not widely distributed is that it varies between vehicles and EDR manufacturers.
Q:Robert, can Mazda's EDRs be read by anyone, or does it take special tools or readers to access them?
A:Whenever we are requested to provide the information to law enforcement or other government entities, we promptly offer EDR data. That's been about 10 times a year. This data is collected by the EDR makers' data reader – not a Mazda-specific unit – and is only downloadable with those specific readers.
Q:Lastly, if you were to leave your customers with one thought over this issue, what would it be?
A:In the very unlikely situation that this would occur, my response is simple: don't panic. Like the regular maintenance you already do on your car - checking tire pressure, cleaning windows of dirt or snow, oil changes and brake checks – every driver should check the placement of their floor mats. Read your owner's manual to know how to operate the various systems in your car. Know how to engage the neutral position in automatic transmission vehicles – in every Mazda it's a simple and intuitive push forwards on the lever. Know how every manufacturer has set up a start/stop button to operate - in a Mazda, it's a simple, logical three-press of the button, or an extended three-second single press.