In a move that has already sent some gearheads into a foaming rage, Nissan has unveiled a bit of smart engineering that will help encourage smarter, more fuel efficient driving. The trick is a pedal that pushes back a bit whenever a driver accelerates very aggressively. Such “jackrabbit starts” push the engine into a zone where it’s least fuel efficient. So-called hyper-milers even chase such smooth acceleration as a sport — verging on obsession — the goal, to accelerate silky-smoothly to maximize efficiency. Nissan aims to make such behavior second nature with a bit of technology that senses hard, sharp starts and makes it proportionally harder to press down the pedal. This won’t effect top speed: one can still accelerate smoothly to the same top speed. And the system can be turned off. All the same, car bloggers such as at Jalopnik, are banging their fist that this technology is practically a threat to the American way. Such protestations are predictable: they echo the plaintive cries issued when cruise control (another gas saving technology) and unleaded gas debuted. But they’re overblown too: drivers genuinely need to peel out onto entrance ramps far less than some believe. There’s a similar mismatch between the growth of engine power (horsepower) and mileage: automakers have developed and marketed ever-more muscular engines, but most drivers rarely use the power. The real pity is this same innovation could have been be used to boost mileage. But till recently mileage hasn’t been valued as highly. That’s changing.
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