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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Swede Combines Gas, Brake Pedals Into One

LUND, Sweden -- For 30 years Swede Sven Gustafsson drove buses and trucks throughout Europe. Over the years one thing puzzled him: Why waste so much effort shifting your foot between the gas and brake pedals?

Now, at the age of 57, Gustafsson has the solution.

At first glance his car looks like an ordinary Saab 9-5. It is only when you look underneath the steering wheel that you realize something is missing.

Instead of the traditional three pedals, or two with automatic shift, it has only one, a reserve brake pedal, with a foot-sized cradle hanging next to it.

"This is my combined accelerator/brake pedal," explains Gustafsson, stirring his right foot in the cradle.

The idea is simple -- pressing the cradle downward with your toes accelerates the car, while straightening your knee and pushing forward with your heel makes it brake.

To prevent accidental braking, the cradle is held in place by an adjustable electromagnet.

The reserve brake pedal, linked to the combined cradle, is there for incorrigible drivers who instinctively lift their foot and move it sideways to brake.

The current three-pedal system was invented by Henry Ford in 1928 to prevent drivers from accelerating and braking at the same time, and has not been seriously challenged since.

"I was driving a forklift when I was 20 years old, and I had to move my foot between the pedals very often. So I thought: Why not combine these two pedals, because you will gain a lot of reaction time," said Gustafsson.

"You don't have two steering wheels to turn left and right. So why two pedals?" he asked as he drove his one-pedal Saab around his hometown of Lund, a scientific research center and university town in southern Sweden.

According to tests carried out at Sweden's Uppsala University, the system saves a vital 0.2 seconds that are usually lost while moving your foot from one pedal to another. That means 5 extra meters for a car driving at 90 kilometers per hour.

"There is also no risk of pressing the wrong pedal in an emergency," said Rickard Nilsson, researcher in traffic behavior at Uppsala's department of psychology.

The study showed that it would be very easy to adapt the one-pedal car for most drivers. But most people are so used to the current system that they find any change unnecessary.

The two Swedish carmakers, Volvo and Saab, have tested the one-pedal system but currently have no plans to exploit it commercially.

"We found it interesting but I do not think that this pedal is ready for mass production yet," said Uno Dahl, manager at the advanced engineering department of Saab. "It is too different to what people are using now. It needs more research."

But Gustafsson has not given up on his invention, and he recently rolled out a new gadget that will make it even easier to decide whether to accelerate or brake.

Gustafsson's speed adviser, currently undergoing tests in Lund, tells the driver which speed zone he is in. If the speed of the vehicle is above the legal limit, the device makes it hard for the driver to press the accelerator pedal further.