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The Automobile Parking Brake – Disappearing Soon For Good?

car handbrakes going away
(Photo Illustration by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

They’ve been a part of virtually every make and model ever built around the world, but soon, they could be come extinct.

Some call it the hand brake, more commonly known as the parking break.   In many cars, it’s found in or around the center console between the two front seats.  In the 2007 Dodge crew cab we drive, and many trucks, it’s the pedal on the far left of the clutch, brake and gas.  But due to modern technology, that extra handle could be gone soon forever.

   As technology increases, more manufacturers are placing controls for the parking brake on the dash or console, and it is becoming increasingly activated electronically.    But this new technology is often causing issues with the DMV.   A number of states require driving tests for newbies and renewals to be done in a vehicle equipped with a manual handbrake-with a handle or foot pedal!  Old school laws meet new school technology.

  “Emergency brakes” as they are often mistakenly called, have been moved to foot pedals, or electronically to the dashboard by designers to increase room between the front seats for storage and cupholders.   Electronic brakes consist of a motor that upon activation, gently applies the brakes to enough degree to hold a vehicle steady and keep it from moving, even if it’s parked on a hill, up to a certain angle.  The brakes, by the way, were never intended for emergency stopping, only for holding a car in place, especially on hills.  As manual transmissions were replaced by automatics, the handbrake stayed and was never eliminated.

  There’s also one other area where electronic “hand brakes” are not being welcomed: the world of stunt driving.   From Fox News:

Tanner Foust, host of “Top Gear” on History and a leading Hollywood stunt driver, makes his living causing cars go sideways, backwards and upside down, often with a little help from a handbrake. A two-time champion in the motorsport of drifting, he’s one of a breed of drivers who have figured out how to use more than the steering wheel to control the direction of their vehicles with precision, but when it comes to electronic brakes, even he may have met his match.

“I have tried to adapt to electronically-activated handbrakes without much success,” Foust says. “I was attempting a 180-degree spin with one not more than a week ago, to no avail.”

When you pull the switch or hit the button, the systems still work like emergency brakes, but engage gradually and don’t lock up the tires, as is required for a stylish skid.

 Expect more and more models to employ this type of  parking-emergency-handbrake in the future.  But we at Newstalk 870 will always remember the old Chevy Chevette we drove years ago.  Equipped with a handbrake in the center console,  it never let you forget you applied the brake when you put it in gear, and the car wouldn’t move…oh, yeah! Take the brake off, dummy!

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