A simple foot operated mechanism for controlling both throttle and brakes of a motor vehicle is proposed. The throttle is controlled by pivoting foot at the ankle. A locking mechanism is used, which provides rigid support for the driver's foot while operating the throttle. The brakes are applied by pushing the heel down to release the locking mechanism, and straightening the knee. The leg movement from accelerating to braking is a natural and smooth one, and in a natural way cuts the fuel to the engine before brakes are applied. Once brakes are applied it is possible to open the throttle valve without necessarily releasing brakes—if desired.
The advantages of a single controlling element for both accelerating and braking are numerous and have been recognized and appreciated since the dawn of motor industry. The most important advantage of a single-pedal control over the conventional two-pedal design is that the driver's foot travels shorter distance when transitioning from accelerating to braking. As a result, less time is needed to start braking after a period of accelerating or maintaining constant speed. Thus, the time from perception of emergency to engaging brakes is reduced, thereby increasing chances of avoiding an accident or lessening its severity.
In the proposed mechanism the motion of the driver's foot to actuate throttle is identical to the motion involved in a conventional automobile, and the motion of the driver's leg to apply brakes is similar to a natural emergency reflex; the movement of the driver's foot from accelerating to braking is a natural and smooth one and in a natural way cuts fuel to the engine.
It also allows for simultaneous application of brakes and accelerator, provided that the brakes are actuated first. This allows for a relatively easy start of a vehicle uphill when operating a vehicle equipped with manual transmission.
At the same time, driver’s foot is provided rigid support during normal driving when accelerator is operated. This reduces strain to the driver's leg and prevents `riding` the brakes.
Furthermore, the mechanism is so arranged that the pressure of the driver's foot against the control member is always substantially perpendicular to the surface engaged by the operator's foot. This minimizes the chance of the driver's foot slipping off the pedal.
In addition, the conventional brake pedal can be retained alongside the proposed mechanism to allow easy transition for drivers who are used to the conventional two-pedal design. In this case, gas is operated as usual, by pivoting the ankle, whereas breaks can be engaged either conventionally—by shifting the foot to the independent pedal—or by operating the proposed mechanism as described here.
When mass-produced, the cost of this mechanism is miniscule compared to the potential savings in property damage, and human life and suffering that would result from avoiding and lessening the severity of automobile crashes. More than 6 million auto accidents that claim over 40 thousand lives and cost over $200 billion happen on US roads every year.