Is 'Auto Park' the Cure for Runaway Jeeps?
A software fix issued to Jeep dealers sheds light on how Fiat Chrysler Automobiles plans to stop the accidental rollaways plaguing many of its vehicles.
The dealer service document, issued for recalled 2014-2015 Jeep Grand Cherokees with the confusing Monostable shift lever, was obtained and published by Jalopnik.
FCA voluntarily recalled 1.1 million vehicles in April after the shifter, which sometimes stays in gear after drivers think they’ve shifted into “park,” was linked to hundreds of rollaways and 41 injuries. That was before the shifter became the focus in the recent death of actor Anton Yelchin.
Yelchin died this past weekend after his 2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee apparently rolled down his driveway and pinned him against a brick gatepost. The vehicle — one of the models equipped with the problematic shift lever — was found in neutral, with the engine running.
FCA didn’t exactly say what the fix would be at the time of the recall. In a statement, it mentioned that a warning chime (which sounds when the driver’s door is ajar and the transmission is out of “park”) would be upgraded and combined with “a transmission-shift strategy to automatically prevent a vehicle from moving, under certain circumstances, even if the driver fails to select ‘PARK.'”
The Jalopnik document provides details on the bigger fix. Called “Auto Park,” the feature updates the software of the transmission control module, powertrain control module, radio frequency hub and instrument panel cluster. The four modules must be reprogrammed in a certain order, with the fix taking about two hours to complete.
Once installed, the “Auto Park” feature “eliminates the possibility of the driver inadvertently failing to place the transmission into ‘PARK’ prior to exiting the vehicle,” according to the manufacturer.
Because the Monostable shifter on FCA’s eight-speed automatics is electronic, a vehicle could be programmed to automatically shift into “park” under certain conditions.
On Monday, FCA said it would investigate whether the shifter issue was a factor in Yelchin’s death.
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