Photo/IllutrationMasuyuki Naruse says tilting One Pedal's accelerator lever with the driver's toes does not require much power. (Ayaka Kibi)

  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion

TAMANA, Kumamoto Prefecture--Masuyuki Naruse found a simple way to prevent motorists from mistakenly hitting the gas pedal instead of the brake: Get rid of the accelerator.

In hopes of ending the series of fatal accidents caused by driver’s errors, Naruse, 83, president of Naruse Machinery Co., created One Pedal, a device with which motorists “can never make mistakes,” 30 years ago.

It is placed on the brake pedal while the gas pedal is removed. Both the brake and accelerator can be used through the all-in-one pedal.

If the large foot-shaped One Pedal is pushed with the right foot, the vehicle brakes. A lever on the right works as the accelerator when it is tilted horizontally to the right by the driver’s toes.

If the driver steps on One Pedal when the lever is tilted, the accelerator function is canceled. So pressing One Pedal only activates the brake feature, eliminating the possibility of hitting the accelerator by mistake.

Around 2,000 car models can be equipped with One Pedal. The company also produces a version for those who want to use their left foot.

In April, a mother and her daughter were killed by a speeding vehicle in Tokyo’s Ikebukuro district. Police strongly suspect the elderly motorist continued applying the gas pedal instead of the brake.

Following that fatal accident, Naruse Machinery was flooded with requests for the product and interviews from the media. Customers currently have to wait two months before One Pedal is delivered.

“It is regrettable that such accidents never stop,” Naruse said. “The pedal was developed so long ago, but people continue to be killed in preventable accidents.”

Naruse began thinking of developing the safety feature about 30 years ago, after he drove out of a parking lot at a store. When one of the vehicle’s wheels hit a curbstone, Naruse mistakenly stepped on the gas pedal and suddenly entered the road.

“I might have died had another vehicle been running on the road,” Naruse said.

He felt a key reason behind such errors was that the driver has to press two different pedals with one foot, so he repeatedly created and tested a mechanism that eliminates the need for the driver to switch from one pedal to the other.

Around three years later, he learned that an electronic organ player changes the timbre of the instrument by kicking levers on both sides of the tip of the right foot pedal.

He decided to use a similar method for accelerator operations.

After One Pedal was completed, Naruse toured car dealerships to promote what he touted as a life-saving product.

One Pedal can be installed at some dealerships. And consumers can also mount their automobiles with One Pedal for 170,000 yen ($1,565) at Naruse Machinery.

According to the National Police Agency, 4,431 accidents caused by drivers mistaking the accelerator for the brake were reported in 2018, leading to at least one death in 53 cases.

Around 50 such fatal accidents have occurred every year since 2015.

Naruse has been reaching out to automakers with the aim of making One Pedal compatible with all automatic transmission vehicles available in the market.

Although mistaking the accelerator for the brake is typically viewed as an issue of elderly drivers, Naruse said anyone can make the error.

“Even young people and those who are good at driving may make the mistake,” he said. “The problem should be regarded as one involving motorists of all generations.”