Panic or Too Many Gadgets?

In a case of out of control cruse control, a man in France got quite a shock when his Renault suddenly accelerated to 120mph and wouldn’t slow down.

A motorist in France went a little faster than he wanted when he claimed his cruise control got stuck, leaving him barreling down a busy highway at 120 mph and forcing police to help clear a route.

The Le Parisien newspaper quoted Hicham Dequiedt saying he was overtaking a truck when his Renault Vel Satis started to accelerate with a life of its own. He couldn’t cut the ignition, he said, because his car has a magnetic card instead of a key.

“It was impossible to slow down! Stomping on the brakes proved pointless, nothing worked. I avoided one car after another by flashing my lights at them,” the 29-year-old was quoted as saying.

Alternately, he could just be a really crafty speeder, getting the cops to clear the way for him.  Actually, according to a post in the Slashdot discussion, it sounds like a case of too many electronic gadgets that came together to take away control from the driver.  The ignition used an electronic key card, which he wasn’t able to remove.  Further, with this kind of electronic ignition, the computer takes your command to start or kill the engine as a mere suggestion.  The computer actually makes the decision.  Likewise with the transmission.  If it would overspeed the engine, the electronic transmission controls will not allow downshifting or going to neutral.  You can then imagine how useful the brakes would be in a car at 120mph with the engine going all out and the transmission in gear.  I would imagine that brake fade would occur pretty quickly. 

He eventually managed to remove the key card and the car stopped.  There’s speculation that he could have gotten the key out sooner, but panic had set in.  Alternately, there could have been a bug in the controller software that wedged the controller.  After a while a watchdog timer would likely have restored the system to a semi-normal state.  Given all this, you can bet that they’ll never be able to recreate it back at the factory. 


  1. Outlaw3 says:

    It was made in France, so enough said there, except I am surprised 120kph was considered high – it is the speed limit on their main highways.

    Obviously, the French political system should call for mechanical governors that render the car inoperative when tampered with, to limit the maximum speed to about 60kph for the safety of the citizenry.  It does fit the nanny-state plan.  Then you shorten the length of a kilometer so it appears you are going faster, even though everything is further away.  So society really benefits on the whole.

    Paves the way for weak electric cars too.

  2. Actually, it turns out he was really going that fast (or almost that fast).  I found another article ( with a quote from the driver.

    “I accelerated to overtake a lorry and the speed controller pushed the car up to 190kph (114mph),” M. Dequeidt said. “Nothing would bring the speed down, not even pushing hard on the brakes.”

    I suspect the use of 120 in the other news article was a case of journalists who wanted to use a nice round number.