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back to article Satanic Renault takes hapless French bloke on 200km/h joyride

A disabled French driver was taken on a 200km/h white-knuckle ride by his "insane" Renault, as a quick shopping trip turned into a high-speed, 210 km jaunt to Belgium. Frank Lecerf, 36, left Pont-de-Metz, close to Amiens, in his Renault Laguna 3 to hit the shops in nearby Dury. His route took in a short section of the A16 …

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Re: So whats the guys problem?

Given that it was a newer car with a "Start/Stop button" - that wouldn't respond - I am assuming drive-by-wire, break-by-wire, and an automatic gearbox, if all of the -by-wires stopped taking input from the cabin, he should be glad it wasn't steer-by-wire.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: So whats the guys problem?

"break-by-wire"

Too true it seems.

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Re: So whats the guys problem?

The article did mention that the clutch pedal was inoperative.

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Re: So whats the guys problem?

Even anti-lock systems can only fail to be non-anti-lock rather than no-brakes

Sadly not - that was one of the things they discovered when they started to check just how easy it was to hack onboard car electronics. I can't remember which university it was, but the people researching this managed to disable the brakes in full - remotely. I found that *very* worrying.

This is why I like some form of kill switch - I have worked far too long with computers to let them have the last word unless the engineering is very well established (hello, Airbus). "Do no evil" doesn't quite cut it for me..

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Re: So whats the guys problem?

"I can't remember which university it was, but the people researching this managed to disable the brakes in full - remotely. I found that *very* worrying.

This is why I like some form of kill switch"

In some sense, the ability to remotely disable brakes is a kill switch, though not the type you might want.

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Re: So whats the guys problem?

"This is why I like some form of kill switch - I have worked far too long with computers to let them have the last word unless the engineering is very well established (hello, Airbus). "Do no evil" doesn't quite cut it for me.."

And for those who disbelieve this, the words "Therac-25" might be instructive.

To save you all some time: The Therac-25 was a software-controlled radiation therapy machine, with an interposable set of filters to produce X-rays instead of beta particles. In X-ray mode, the electron power was much higher than in beta particle mode. Unlike older (and newer) machines, however, the "full power" setting was not locked out electrically / mechanically when the filters were absent - instead, the software was expected to do it. A race condition in the software meant that it was possible to accidentally overcome the software interlocks and deliver an X-ray-sized dose of beta particles. Three people were killed, and a number of others had severe radiation poisoning. I first read about this in the aptly-titled book "Fatal Defect".

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Anonymous Coward

Re: "Breaks" etc

You do realise that no-one is going to take you seriously if you are too stupid to spell correctly the name of the component being discussed, despite it being written right in front of you?

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I never believe these stories

I think after the whole Toyota fiasco over here, consumer reports did a test to see whether stomping on the brake would stop the car, it did in all cases even at wide open throttle, it took longer but even worked on higher horsepower cars ( I even tried it on my older car to see how if it would work, not to mention a few rentals it has stopped the car every time)

if it was an auto, or even a manual they still normally let you drop them in neutral the laguna does have one of those annoying start button things, but it also has a regular looking gear selector I assume it is not locked in drive like the majority of other autos aren't.

I think the issue is that people panic, which is understandable and as was already mentioned we do not know his disability, maybe he had some special conversion so could not operate the vehicle like an able bodied person, maybe it was the customization that caused the issue, that's the only thing I can think of that would create situations like these.

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Re: I never believe these stories

It doesn't sound like this guy panicked. He seems to have calmly phoned the emergency services who gave him some advice which didn't work and so he agreed with them to end up in a ditch.

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Happy

Re: I never believe these stories

My bollocks detector was triggered by the association of "200Kph" and "Renault", particularly as the area described has no steep inclines.

Regardless, the story would have been cut short if the car had been electric.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: I never believe these stories / "Fly-by-wire" misunderstanding

Quick research indicates that both the clutch and the brakes in the Renault Laguna are, as expected, of standard hydraulic operation. As usual for any motoring-related story, there are lots of fools spouting rubbish on this thread without having a clue what they are talking about.

The "fly-by-wire" aspect applies only to the accelerator/throttle, in the same way as almost all other modern cars including my 2004 Golf. The choice of ignition security method (key/card) has nothing to do with this.

It is not desirable to have an electrically-operated manual clutch (it would be crap, harder to use, and unnecessary weight and expense) and in order to conform to EU safety standards the brakes must have a mechanical link.

Therefore in order to be in a position where use of the brakes and clutch were not possible there must be some additional factors at play that have not been mentioned by the news outlets.

As previously mentioned the brakes will always be able to provide enough force to stop the vehicle even if servo assist has failed and the engine is at full throttle.

Think about what they are designed for. It is necessary to stop a vehicle in a shorter space than is required for it to accelerate to any given speed. Otherwise they would not be drivable and there would be far more accidents!

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Anonymous Coward

To clarify the last paragraph

A vehicle's brakes are always stronger than the engine. They have to be.

Best to clarify what my point was there, as based on past experience commentards are not very good at inference. At least, not at inferring the correct meaning.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Downvotes

If you're going to vote a perfectly good post down you could at least give everyone the courtesy of indicating what was said that you don't agree with or are not happy about.

I know it would be completely off-the-wall but you could maybe even give some reasoning or references to back up your arguments...

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Re: I never believe these stories / "Fly-by-wire" misunderstanding

in order to conform to EU safety standards the brakes must have a mechanical link.

Yup - but it goes via ABS. Which is where UCSD found they could influence proceedings enough to kill that off.

However, in this case I agree up to a point. Once you're up to a certain speed you have an awful lot of kinetic energy stored in the vehicle, I'm not sure you could get it to stop completely when the engine was still going full tilt, also keeping in mind that an uncontrolled automatic will downshift as you go slower, thus giving the engine more torque to work against the brakes. This is why you should always retain mechanical control over at least one of them: if you cannot kill the engine because it's kept alive by malfunctioning gadgetry, you should be able to kick the gears into neutral. Having both "automated" appears to be begging all the Gods of chance on your knees for problems.

I can't see any of us trusting a computer enough to allow it to act on its own - so I wonder just how many people will trust their lives to Google driving tech..

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Headmaster

Herquelingue...

is near Boulogne, not Dunkerque

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No brakes?

The whole story sounds very odd. Not saying it's impossible, as I don't really know whether the Renaults have "brake by wire", but I find it strange that all the brakes (including the parking brake) were inoperative...

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JDX
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Re: No brakes?

Is it safe to put on your parking (hand?) brake at 100mph on a road with other cars?

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Re: No brakes?

Won't do much as it will only put mild pressure on the rear brakes. Net effect will be just like having to tow a dead weight, so might reduce acceleration. I do know of someone who managed to do a whole motorway journey in her Range Rover with the handbrake on - I think a new set of pads/disks was all that was required.

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Rob
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Re: No brakes?

Perfectly safe if your intention is to flip the car into your police escort.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: No brakes?

To paraphrase a comedian I once heard: "I accidentally drove five miles with my 'emergency brake' on, which makes me think it has the wrong name. It should be called the 'emergency make my car get bad gas mileage and smell funny after a while handle'"

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Anonymous Coward

Re: No brakes?

> Is it safe to put on your parking (hand?) brake at 100mph on a road with other cars?

Mine has a gadget that physically prevents the handbrake being applied, and sounds a buzzer alarm, if you try and use it while moving (as I found out when I tried to do a couple of handbrake turns in a snowy carpark recently - spoilsports)

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Re: No brakes?

"Is it safe to put on your parking (hand?) brake at 100mph on a road with other cars?"

Yes, it is. So long as you're driving in a straight line and apply it gently. It doesn't offer much in the way in braking capability, but it's better than nothing.

Try it sometime (CAREFULLY!), if for no other reason than to have another tool in your arsenal should you ever experience brake failure.

Handbrake turns work because the car is slewed sideways with a quick flick in one direction and then a turn in the opposite direction as the handbrake is applied. The rear wheels can then lock. The direction change is more down to the steering input.

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Re: No brakes? - Range Rover

Arnold Lieberman wrote:

I do know of someone who managed to do a whole motorway journey in her Range Rover with the handbrake on - I think a new set of pads/disks was all that was required.

It's probably safer to drive a Range Rover at speed with the handbrake applied than it would be a normal car, as the handbrake acts on a separate disk on the back of the gearbox, rather than on individual wheels.

The only danger is breaking the half shafts if you apply the handbrake suddenly whilst moving.

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Headmaster

Re: No brakes? - Range Rover

..as the handbrake acts on a separate disk on the back of the gearbox...

The seperate transmission brake on Land Rover vehicles is actually a drum brake. Apart from the obvious advantages in having all the vulnerable bits inside a drum casing rather than dangling exposed under the car, drums are superior to disks as hand / emergency brakes as they are, by nature, self-servoing.

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Happy

Re: No brakes? - Range Rover

"It's probably safer to drive a Range Rover at speed with the handbrake applied than it would be a normal car, as the handbrake acts on a separate disk on the back of the gearbox, rather than on individual wheels.

The only danger is breaking the half shafts if you apply the handbrake suddenly whilst moving."

The handbrake won't/shouldn't be able to cause enough of an upset to break half-shafts.

Generally it's fine to just drive off with a handbrake applied and drive around. It buggers the brake linings, but I've known of several people who have done it by accident.

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Re: No brakes? - Range Rover

>> ..as the handbrake acts on a separate disk on the back of the gearbox...

> The seperate transmission brake on Land Rover vehicles is actually a drum brake.

Actually, I believe most (all ?) of the new models no longer have this. DIscovery 3/4 have parking brakes which are a set of shoes that work inside a drum which is part of the disk hub - and applied electrically. My mate tells me they change a lot of the actuator assemblies when they seize up.

And in any case, if you do have a transmission brake, then you really do not want to be trying to use it at speed. I know people that have ripped the backplate off the gearbox, and if that doesn't happen, there's still the propshaft, diff, and driveshafts to let go. The transmission brake is usually not very smooth either - so you'd be applying not just the braking effort, but a lot of cyclic variation (ie vibration and shock) to the rear axle etc.

As to the "you can always turn it off" brigade. In theory you can, but if there's a computer/electronics fault then there is never any guarantee that "press and hold the start button" will actually turn off the engine. The only (almost) guaranteed method is to have a physical switch that will physically remove power to some required service (fuel supply or ignition).

Also, as pointed out, we don't know the extent of the driver's disability, and whether he would have been capable of taking a hand of the controls to press and hold a button for long enough to kill the engine.

As an aside, when the 'first' 'new' Range Rover (P38) came out, there were a couple of reports of people careering down hills, in neutral, with no brakes. Nothing wrong could ever be found, and there was never any proof either way - Land Rover never accepted any problem existed. It is thought the process went like :

Attempting steep/slippery hill. Fail with wheels spinning. Apply brakes and attempt to engage reverse. Car rolls backwards at speed.

The theory was that the spinning wheels confused the ABS into thinking it was skidding and so it took the brakes off to correct the skid - allowing the car to roll back down the hill. Meanwhile, the "fly by wire" gearbox refuses to engage reverse while the vehicle is moving. So no brakes, in neutral, on a hill steep enough that you failed to get up it.

I've seen how fast a vehicle can pick up speed on such hills. "Exciting" probably doesn't do justice to the experience !

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Re: No brakes?

The electronic parking brake on my car won't work whilst the vehicle is moving. It only works when the car is stopped.

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Re: No brakes? - Range Rover

Older range rovers have an inertia switch under the back of the passenger seat, its designed to shut the fuel pump off if the vehicle is in an accident, well within reach of the driver and can be tripped by pulling or pushing the plunger on the top (cant remember which) of flicking it with a finger.

unfortunately a lot of people found it can also be hit by children's feet from the back seat, it was quite common to see them "broken down" on the side of the road because a child had been waggling feet in the gap under the passenger seat

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Re: No brakes? - Range Rover

@ TeeCee

quote: The separate transmission brake on Land Rover vehicles is actually a drum brake. Apart from the obvious advantages in having all the vulnerable bits inside a drum casing rather than dangling exposed under the car, drums are superior to disks as hand / emergency brakes as they are, by nature, self-servoing.

Depends on what age of vehicle - my Series 2 and 3, and my early 110 had a drum transmission brake, but my later Ninety and later Range Rovers had a disk brake. In my experience, the drum brake filled with either water or oil from the transfer box, and became quite ineffectual, not a problem with the disc.

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Stop

Re: No brakes? - Range Rover

Ummm... OP said Range Rover, not Land Rover.

Of course, pulling on the handbrake of an old Land Rover while it's in motion really does break things! I snapped a shaft once trying to drive off with the handbrake on.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: No brakes?

An old auto Honda estate I once owned had messed up brakes, the rear brakes sometimes failed to disengage if the handbrake had been used ... many a journey ended seeing smoke rising from the rear ... the heat from those brakes was amazing.

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Vic
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Re: No brakes?

> Is it safe to put on your parking (hand?) brake at 100mph on a road with other cars?

Yes, if you do it judiciously. I used to do it on a regular basis

It was part of the test many years ago...

Vic.

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Coat

Get ready for rush hour

A French man must prevent a bomb exploding aboard a Renault by keeping its speed above 50 mph.

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Joke

Not satanic, just sanic!

"I had a full tank, it could have kept going for a long time. I didn't want to continue till I reached Holland."

Shurely someone who would have liked to have a Tesla.

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Coffee/keyboard

Shurely someone who would have liked to have a Tesla

There goes another keyboard, hahaha.

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Stop

Bonjour, Frank, je m'appelle 'Christine'.

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Anonymous Coward

I've got a Scenic 3. If you hold down the start/stop button it will stop the engine no matter if you're driving or not, my BMW does the same.

I've also got keyless entry, so this is particularly useful when you drive away from your wife who has the key and you don't. Cue lots of pleasedon'tstall prayers all the way home, followed by a dose of howdoiturnitoff.

The handbreak is electric.

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Law

"I've also got keyless entry, so this is particularly useful when you drive away from your wife who has the key and you don't. Cue lots of pleasedon'tstall prayers all the way home, followed by a dose of howdoiturnitoff"

I've gone to park and my wife has gotten out of the car before... had the same issue of "howdoiturnitoff". The one time I drove off without the key though it threatened me with some sort of "I'll turn the engine off so you might want to get off the road and park in 3....2....1" message - that was scary.

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WTF is

wrong with a "normal" key?

Why did they even invent keyless entry etc?

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Law

Re: WTF is

If you have kids it makes total sense, no messing with keys while carrying baby and/or toddler and their change bags.

Sadly my car has failed to auto lock a few times and some scroat stole my TomTom remote, which is the only way to control the unit in the car. Renault charge 60 for them, but the nice thieves will sell it back to you for 25 on eBay. :-)

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Re: WTF is

We used to have an old Granada Mk 1 (lovely old tank it was), and couldn't work out why it was that occasionally the engine would cut - only when my father was driving it with MY keys though. Eventually worked out that sometimes the long rigid fob on my keys would touch my father's knee with just enough pressure to turn the key in the ignition to the off position. Never happened with his keys as they had a different fob to mine, & didn't happen with me because my knee was in a slightly different position to his when driving.

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Re: WTF is

"Why did they even invent keyless entry etc?"

Key locks are easy to defeat. Keys themselves are trivially easy to copy. Governments put pressure on the car industry to make cars harder to steal. They removed the weakest point in car security - the keys and locks.

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Facepalm

Why not....

....just put a police 4x4 in front of him, and use it's not-inconsiderable braking power to slow down both cars. No way a Laguna could push a Land Cruiser (or similar) with brakes applied, unless their whole police force drives Renault 12s with comical sirens.

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Re: Why not....

Why risk it? Straight bit of motorway, mile or so ahead kept clear by police. Surely, rather than risk the lives of those involved in undertaking this, it is safer to just let the fuel run out which flat out couldn't take that long. Having to clear 000's of miles of motorway fast lane is still cheaper than at least 2 lives lost due to a 100mph+ accident.

However if we are thinking outside the box, a helicopter, with a winch, speed matched to the car, snatch it from the road and then just slow down, keeping the car 5 inches from the ground... The A-Team would have managed it!

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Devil

Re: Why not....

Or you could just shoot the engine, like in Blackhawk Down.

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Happy

Re: Why not....

how about Renault Dauphines.. driven by Clouseau look-alikes.

"Zat car is going like a berm...."

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Why not....

just put a police 4x4 in front of him, and use it's not-inconsiderable braking power to slow down both cars

That only works in the movies - you create a risky dependency on the abilities of the driver in question.

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Re: Why not....

No - a real movie plot would have the french guy from MI/Leon/Ronin hack into the car's computer with a laptop (that oddly has only a 16x4 character display) while dangling from a helicopter

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Re: Why not....

>just put a police 4x4 in front of him, and use it's not-inconsiderable braking power to slow down both cars

>That only works in the movies - you create a risky dependency on the abilities of the driver in question.

The driver *in front* has to be reasonably competent...all the guy in the demon car has to do is not turn suddenly. You need a long straight for the 'docking manoeuvre' and you want -ideally- a heavy, powerful car for the 'brake'; but it requires no extraordinary level of driving...all you do is get as close to the front of the demon car as possible; then slowly ease back on the accelerator until the cars are touching. Then either brake gently; or maybe just easing off the accelerator will cause enough drag to bring the duo down to safer (ditchable) speeds. Pretty sure I could do it.

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