Sat | Apr 21, 2018

Crash control - Automotive safety device invented by Jamaican in the US to save lives

Published:Sunday | July 2, 2017 | 12:00 AMMelinda Renuart
A prototype of the Emergency Forced Idle Device patented in the US by Jamaican Colin Chambers.

A Jamaican living in the United States has filed a patent for a motor vehicle safety feature that could save thousands of lives.

Colin Chambers has labelled his invention the Emergency Forced Idle Device (EFID) and is confident that it will be well received in the automotive industry.

The EFID responds to the problem of 'Sudden Unintended Acceleration' which occurs when a car's accelerator is stuck to the floor of the vehicle or a person's foot is accidentally touching both the brake and gas pedals simultaneously. In these cases where both pedals are pressed, the EFID deactivates the gas pedal.

"It works on a mechanical principle and also an electronic principle. The mechanical side of it blocks the air, and the electronic side of it sends a new message to the computer ... It does it in two separate ways, and each of them will stop the car."

According to Chambers, with his device a car can stop just as fast with its gas pedal down as it could normally.


Invention Inspiration


The invention was inspired one rainy night while Chambers was working at his job fixing cars for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

"I was working on a big truck and I decided to park the vehicle and the vehicle would not stop ... I selected reverse to get some time to figure out why the vehicle would not stop. Then I go forward again and the vehicle still would not stop, so I switched off the ignition. When I put on my flashlight, look around, part of my right shoe was on both the pedals."

This moment stuck with Chambers for 10 years, and he decided to work on a solution after his friend experienced something similar.

Chambers said the problem is more than driver error. He argued that one of the reasons why cars unexpectedly accelerate is because the gas and brake pedals are placed closely together to avoid trapping the foot underneath the gas pedal. "But in so doing, they created another problem."

Now retired, Chambers says he has a garage at his house where he developed the device. From his home computer, he ordered parts from all over the world. After he had created a prototype of the EFID and tested it thoroughly, he wrote up his patent, which took him over a year.


Primary concern


Although money is not Chambers' primary concern, his son, a doctor in North Carolina, thinks that the patent could be very profitable. Whether auto companies such as Toyota will buy his design, however, depends on their engineers failing to "invent around it".

If they cannot, Chambers thinks that auto companies will still profit greatly from his device.

"It's a bargain for Toyota to get this thing. Considering what they've paid in compensation fees and damages so far, it's a bargain to them."

The device cost Chambers less than US$200 to create, and he says it would be cheaper to manufacture on a mass basis.

For now, he is waiting to negotiate until August 10, the day that his patent will be published in the official bulletin and be visible to manufacturers "all over the world".

Chambers, a graduate of Campion College, left Jamaica in 1973 after four years of working as a clerical officer in the Ministry of Local Government.