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A Note on Automobile Cruise Control Faults and Sudden or Unintended Acceleration

by Dr Antony Anderson C.Eng FIEE


Land Rover


The case of the mad Vel Satis "Vel Satis Folle" outlined below is unique. The incident started just before midnight on October 3rd 2004. The driver telephoned the police on his mobile to tell them that he could not slow down the vehicle. It seems that someone was listening to the police radio and informed the press who immediately took up the story. Meanwhile the driver, having eventually stopped the vehicle, and not knowing anything about this media interest, arranged to have the car taken to a repair garage and took a taxi home to get some sleep. Renault "collected" the car in the early hours of the 4th October, without the owners permission, and took it to their research laboratories for tests and promply took legal action against the driver for allegedly causing damage to the company.  How the matter was eventually settled is not known.
Par Christophe Labédan le 23 mai 2005 : lire également/ Also read:
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  • October 3rd 2004 Renault Vel Satis - Alleged sudden acceleration incident on A71 between Bourges and Clermont Ferrand, France on Sunday 3rd October 2004
    • Story according to Reuters Oct 2004: Cruise control issue [L'histoire de la Vel Satis folle] French carmaker Renault challenged a driver's statement that a fault in one of its top-of-the-range cars had embarked its panic-stricken owner on an involuntary 200 km per hour motorway dash.Renault said its engineers had given a clean bill of health to the 40,000 euro ($49,190) Vel Satis, whose owner Hicham Dequiedt <<Draa,not Dequiedt>> told police a malfunction in the electronic cruise control was to blame for Sunday's high-speed incident. The company said in a statement it wanted a judge to appoint an independent expert to audit the car's systems and confirm the findings of its own engineers who inspected the vehicle. Renault said it could take legal action "without prejudice to other legal actions taken in compensation for any damage suffered by the company." A spokesman said the company had not decided whether to pursue legal action against Dequiedt personally. Dequiedt was not immediately available for comment.Police said a panicked Dequiedt, convinced he was going to die, had called them several times on his mobile telephone on Sunday as his car tore down the A71 motorway toward a toll station. The police officer who took the calls said Dequiedt was forced to veer left and right to avoid traffic and switched to the hard shoulder reserved for rescue vehicles to avoid traffic. Police attempting to escort him along the motorway found they were quickly overtaken. Eventually the driver managed to bring his car to a halt around 20 km (12 miles) from the toll station, which had been evacuated as a precaution. No one was injured in the incident.
    • Justice - Expertise de la Vel Satis : nouveau report. Par Philippe MATHON, le 01 juin 2005 Les deux spécialistes, mandatés par la justice pour comprendre pourquoi le véhicule se serait mis à rouler à 200 km/h durant près d'une heure, ont obtenu mercredi matin un second report. Le délai d'un mois supplémentaire devrait leur permettre de "finaliser la rédaction de leur rapport".
  • March 22 2005: Speed Regulators : A motorist takes out proceedings against Renault after an accident. BORDEAUX ( AP) - A Bordeaux motorist has  filed emergency proceedings against the Renault Company in the County Court of Bordeaux (Gironde) after an accident which she considers due to a failure of the speed regulator of her Renault Clio or to the failure of the braking system, it was  learnt on Tuesday from her lawyer, Me. Scarlett Berrebi. The accident occurred on March 12th on the highway A63 to Cestas, to the South of Bordeaux. Christine Mourtier had set the speed regulator to 110 kph  when traffic slowed down in front of her. She asserts that she was not able to free the regulator, in spite of using the brake. She  collided with the vehicle ahead. In the accident, she was hurt  in the neck. She will be off work and have to wear a neck brace for 13 days. Her son and the driver of the car with which she collided were slightly hurt. Christine Mourtier asks for a technical examination of the Renault Clio which she was driving and the provision of a replacement car for work. On Monday, CEO of Renault Louis Schweitzer indicated that there are around thirty cases in France where the function of the speed regulator has been called into question. He dismisses the hypothesis of a failure in the electronic system, which he attributes to incorrect use by the drivers, to whom Renault offers free sessions where they can learn how to master this device. AP REF: Régulateurs de vitesse: une automobiliste se retourne contre Renault après un accident.


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Last updated May 15th 2012

Antony Anderson