With the unintended acceleration debacle now in its rearview mirror, automaker Toyota is employing technology to ensure that this won’t happen on future models. Intelligent Clearance Sonar and Drive-Start Control will (hopefully) eliminate accidents caused by pedal confusion or improper gear selection.

Intelligent Clearance Sonar detects objects that may be out of the driver’s line of sight, and automatically brakes the car to avoid a collision. Drivers are first warned by an alarm, followed by a loss of engine power and an application of the brakes, to a complete stop if necessary.

Drive-Start Control prevents incorrect gear selection under full-throttle conditions. Toyota’s example cites a driver backing into an object, inadvertently applying full throttle instead of full brake, then selecting drive.

In this instance, Drive-Start Control would intervene, flashing a warning to the driver and then cutting engine output to limit acceleration. Presumably, the autonomous braking feature of Intelligent Clearance Sonar would then take over, stopping the car before the driver could do further damage.

Toyota isn’t the first automaker to announce systems designed to combat unintended acceleration; last month, Nissan announced a sonar-based system that links to its “Around View Monitor” to determine a driver’s surroundings. In a crowded parking lot, for example, full-throttle applications (presumably inadvertent) would be prevented.

Nissan has also demonstrated a Predictive Forward Collision Warning System that will detect when a driver is closing on an object with an inappropriate amount of speed. If a collision is predicted, the system will give a visual and auditory warning before applying the brakes and tightening seat belts.

We’re all for safer cars, but we still believe that safety starts with the driver. Would better driver training, or more frequent testing of licensed drivers lessen the chance of unintended acceleration accidents? We suspect the answer is yes, but (sadly) the old cliche applies here: its easier to treat the symptoms than it is to treat the disease.