GM to install brake override software worldwide by ’12 image

General Motors Co., the world’s second-biggest automaker, plans to install brake override software in passenger vehicles worldwide by 2012, a year after Toyota Motor Corp. has pledged to offer the technology.

GM will add the software, which is aimed at curbing unintended acceleration, in all passenger cars with automatic transmissions and electronic throttle control, according to a statement today from the Detroit-based automaker.

“We know safety is top of mind for consumers, so we are applying additional technology to reassure them that they can count on the brakes in their GM vehicle,” Tom Stephens, vice chairman for global product operations, said in the statement.

Brake override technology cuts power when the brakes are applied with at least moderate force while the accelerator also is engaged. Toyota, whose vehicles are linked to at least 51 sudden-acceleration deaths, has said all models will have advanced brake-override systems starting in 2011.

Former National Highway Traffic Safety Administration head Joan Claybrook, now a Washington-based auto-safety advocate, has urged a federal rule requiring such override systems in all vehicles.

GM’s action is aimed at putting programs into place before any legislation takes effect, said John Wolkonowicz, an auto industry analyst at IHS Global Insight in Lexington, Massachusetts.

“It’s a smart move because the government will require it anyway,” Wolkonowicz said. “I think there is a lot of driver error in these claims. You have to fool-proof the cars.”