By on June 19, 2016

Anton Yelchin

According to multiple news reports, promising young actor Anton Yelchin, known for his portrayal of Chekhov in the reborn Star Trek movie series, was killed when his Jeep Grand Cherokee pinned him against his mailbox at his driveway security gate.

The Jeep was parked on a steep hill but found in neutral gear when he was discovered dead.

Considering recent recalls with Fiat Chrysler Automobile shifters, could a badly designed shifter have killed the 27 year old? And could this be the first death attributable to the design flaw?

FCA’s Monostable shift lever acts unlike a traditional gear shifter. When it’s shifted into park, the lever returns to the middle position, regardless of whether it was placed in park or not.

The design flaw prompted a recall that included 2014-15 Jeep Grand Cherokees as well as 2012-14 Dodge Chargers and Chrysler 300s as affected models. At the time of the recall, 121 accidents and 41 injuries were attributed to the flaw.

The model year of the Jeep Grand Cherokee in this unfortunate incident has not been detailed by police or friends of Yelchin.

Update: CBS News is reporting the following:

Los Angeles police told CBS News the vehicle involved was a 2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee.

GC Shifter

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

Recommended

144 Comments on “Did a Defective Jeep Kill Anton Yelchin? (Update)...”


  • avatar
    NoID

    Sigh…

  • avatar
    GeneralMalaise

    He shouldn’t have left it parked on a grassy knoll…

  • avatar

    It’s a Jeep thing.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      “It’s a Jeep thing.”

      Not just Jeep. Mark Stevenson correctly included ” 2014-15 Jeep Grand Cherokees as well as 2012-14 Dodge Chargers and Chrysler 300s as affected models.”

      The Monostable shift lever was but one of the irritants of the 2014 and 2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee. The unstable transmission firmware tuning and clunky drive train caused more irritation than concern.

      But the electrical glitches were the most worrisome and alarming, especially while running down the road.

  • avatar
    TopsyTurvy

    This was the first thing that came to mind when I read that he was driving a Grand Cherokee: the faulty shifters.

    • 0 avatar
      Sgt Beavis

      I described what happened to him to my wife and she almost immediately wondered if he might be driving an FCA product with that shifter. She has a 2015 GC and had a minor incident where she thought it was in Park when it was instead in Neutral. Fortunately she was paying attention beyond that and slammed on the breaks. Since this she eyeballs the indicator to make sure it’s in park…

      • 0 avatar
        flyingkiwi12

        Sorry but that is incompetence not the shifter. Aside from the tactile feedback the shifter DOES provide IF you know what you are doing, there are 2 indicators to check. That aside the park brake (foot or hand brake) should be engaged, unless you always get out of your manual/stick in neutral or just in gear with no brake??

    • 0 avatar
      FerrariLaFerrariFace

      “Poor design” does not equate to “faulty”. These shifters operated as intended.

      • 0 avatar
        Jack Denver

        A design that kills people is faulty by definition. Cars are not supposed to kill people in their own driveways.

        What if the “intended” operation of the Jeep’s steering wheel was that it would turn left when you turned the steering wheel right and vice versa? Or if they put the gas pedal on the left and the brake on the right? Would that be OK? You would explain this in the owner’s manual and anyone who didn’t read the book closely and messed up – it would be there own fault, right?

        The PRNDL interface with a selector lever is a time proven design that all drivers are familiar with. You mess with such a design at your peril. Anything that departs, even slightly, from the familiar interface (and what good justification is there for doing so?) is likely to cause trouble.

        • 0 avatar
          flyingkiwi12

          I am sorry but are you kidding? Do you have a clue how to actually drive? The shifter doesn’t kill people, stupidity and/or incompetence does.

          As an owner and driver vs armchair critic with no clue, the risk is MUCH less than leaving my manual (stick) in neutral while running and getting out without the park brake on and standing where in its tracks without paying attention. Most would suggest that is sheer stupidity, I have no idea why an auto transmission is any different. I have as much chance of leaving my 2104 in neutral as my 2 x 2012 GCs, actually I did make the mistake on the 2012 once (mechanical transmission let me)… I haven’t in my 14!!

          I love the design in my 2014 SRT. It is miles better than the previous (and I had 2) and better than a couple of merc and bmw interfaces I have used. You do realise than Audi, Mercedes, BMW, Ferarri, Lambourgini… and the list goes on, all have different transmission interfaces or are developing them?

          It is progressive, which is why I guess most in the slow lane do not like it… progress and change are hard to deal with.

          If you cannot figure out how to push up for up and down for down, do not drive. If you cannot check a shifter or dash to CONFIRM it is park, do not drive. Transmission Park is NOT a bloody brake! If you think it is, do not drive. The park brake is a brake to be used while parked, which is why it is called a park brake, almost everywhere except the US anyway. If you are not smart enough to check the path of any vehicle, do not drive. As you can see it takes a lot of inattention or stupidity or incompetence for the shifter to be an issue.

  • avatar

    OH MY GOD I’VE BEEN SAYING THIS FOR OVER 5 YEARS AND NO ONE IS LISTENING…

    I MADE VIDEOS AND EVERYTHING

    AND NOW CHEKOV IS DEAD

    OH MY GOD

    youtu.be/uGa0q6K2G8c

    • 0 avatar
      ToddAtlasF1

      This is why people who aren’t slated for natural selection buy Hondas and Toyotas. I enjoy your perspective on world events and the economy, but you’ve got pernicious taste in cars.

      • 0 avatar

        I just want to drive really really fast in a straight line.

        What’s wrong with that?

        What’s pernicious about that?

        I’ll have you know I have a 5-year good driver discount from Geico despite my habitual speeding.

        Saabkyle has a Chiron review up BTW.

      • 0 avatar
        raph

        “This is why people who aren’t slated for natural selection buy Hondas and Toyotas.”

        I would simply disagree since owning a device designed to slowly suck the soul from your body might let you live longer but is ultimately a more devastating and cruel death.

        Given the choice I’d rather burn twice as bright and live half as long.

      • 0 avatar
        ajla

        “This is why people who aren’t slated for natural selection buy Hondas and Toyotas.”

        Thanks for being an insufferable d*ck.

        • 0 avatar
          JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

          Agreed, and he wonders why import drivers tend to get a reputation for being smug, self-absorbed @$$holes.

          “I’m right, and your opinion doesn’t matter because its different than mine. You’re an idiot if you make a different choice than me.”

          • 0 avatar
            truecarhipsterdouche

            It’s not smug if its truth. Well state ToddAtlasF1.

            As for the Jeep auto transmission thing….does FCA even make their own transmissions or are they outsourced? Are they made in China or Hecho en Mexico?

      • 0 avatar
        Big Al From 'Murica

        Yeah….because no Toyota product ever moved forward in a manner not intended by the driver. Did FCA at least manage to get the accelerator pedal and floor mats to interact in a manner that doesn’t kill the driver?

        • 0 avatar
          rpn453

          There are still people who think Toyota is to blame for people pushing the wrong pedal, for dealers installing floor mats improperly, and for people not understanding the concept of neutral, huh. Wacky.

          • 0 avatar
            Big Al From 'Murica

            So, all of those things = driver fault but someone who can’t be bothered to check if the car is actually in park by glancing at the dash = American Cars Suck. Got it and yes, you guys are dicks.

      • 0 avatar
        legacygt

        This is just a silly comment. There is no reason to give FCA (or BMW or Audi) a pass for this type of shifter design. The design is different from what drivers are used to, provides insufficient feedback and really offers no benefit beyond a “gee whiz” moment in the dealership. (I imagine it’s also cheaper.) We can learn to do things differently in the name of progress. But this shifter is not progress. It has no real benefit and plenty of downsides.

    • 0 avatar
      Superdessucke

      Well, if you Mopar macho men could drive a stick, this might not have occurred. Not only can car buyers not drive a manual, but apparently they can’t shift an ordinary automatic detent transmission lever anymore either. Random glitches like this are going to happen more as we become more reliant on electronics.

  • avatar

    TMZ

    “As we reported, Yelchin’s driveway is on a steep incline from the house to the street. It appears the “Star Trek” star had just left his home and cleared the security gate … but for some reason it appears he got out and left the vehicle in neutral.
    Yelchin’s 5,000 pound Jeep Grand Cherokee rolled backwards and pinned him against the gate with such force, it bent the metal.”

    My JEEP SRT weighs 5200 pounds

    The WK1 didn’t weight that much. considering this dude was basically rich, I must assume he had a newer model between 2014 and present.

  • avatar

    I am uploading a video about this.

    TTAC – I’m giving you a big shoutout.

    We’re going straight to the top and I’m taking you with me.

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    He obviously missed Park, but on a steep uphill driveway, as soon as he took his foot off the brake, the truck should rolled back immediately. So if “Hill Start Assist” was active, it allowed him a couple seconds to get out, get behind the truck when the brakes finally released. Yes I know HSA in not supposed to remain active in Neutral.

    Something went wrong but it’s not clear it was completely his fault.

  • avatar
    NickS

    How could it be the driver’s fault? Only if he had left the car in a flat spot when he got out and afterwards the car rolled down, or if he was really in a hurry and completely absent-minded. If the car was on a hill you can’t be in neutral and not notice the car rolling back the instant you barely ease off the brake pedal.

    For me personally, a standard handbrake is essential. I can do my own hill-hold, thankyouverymuch.

    What a cluster. When I read they were going to mail a whole bloody essay to the owners on how to use the shifter I thought April 1st had come really early.

    • 0 avatar
      NickS

      And I will add that if any OEM wants to take the traditional auto trans shifter to the next level, start by making the damn thing smart and safe. Bare minimum, if the car is on a grade and not in park, automatically shift to park and apply the ebrake when a door opens.

      If this shifter is associated with so many accidents and injuries, it needs to be fixed. Any newer tech is supposed to be MORE intuitive and safe, not less.

      • 0 avatar
        MBella

        Most cars with similar shifters do something similar. I’m surprised Chrysler doesn’t. I don’t think the average Mercedes driver even knows there is a button for park. Park is just something that happens when you shut off the ignition or open the driver’s door.

  • avatar
    markogts

    What about the handbrake? What about the dashboard indicator? How come is a design fault if someone bypasses not one but two safety checks?

    • 0 avatar
      markogts

      PS The Outlander PHEV has a joystick shifter too, the park position cannot be determined by the lever position. There is however a check light on the “P” switch.

    • 0 avatar
      Big Al from Oz

      markogts,
      Exactly.

      Why wasn’t this guy given adequate training in the basic operation of a motor vehicle.

      Modern vehicles even base models are fitted with Warning, Caution and Advisory lights and even aural prompts.

    • 0 avatar
      sirwired

      A) Few A/T drivers use the handbrake. Yes, they should, and I do, but they don’t.
      B) Dashboard indicator? Yes, the car has one (as do most cars), but checking said indicator is not routine if you are used to most A/T’s, where you can determine the current gear by feel.
      C) If an issue is SO widespread that it causes THIS MANY accidents, I’d say that even if it is the “fault” of the driver, it’s still a design defect.

  • avatar

    Finally, the clear-cut yellow journalism at TTAC. Can’t say it came as a surprise, the way things were going recently.

  • avatar
    jkross22

    This looks exactly like the shifter in Audi A8’s. Do the A8’s have the same issues as those in FCA cars?

  • avatar
    Tstag

    Strikes me that Jaguar and Land Rover are the only company in the world with a sensible gearbox which in my view should be adopted as the industry standard. If you turn off a Jaguar in drive or neutral it will automatically rotate to the park position as it powers down. Surely this has to be the best gear selector in the world right now?

    Gutted My favourite Star Trek character has died, just wish he’d bought a safe 4×4

  • avatar
    Tandoor

    The difference between park and neutral: a small piece of metal in a notch. If your butt’s not in the driver’s seat, set the parking brake.

  • avatar
    Spartan

    Perhaps you guys can help me understand. With these cars, are people just not putting them in park or are they attempting to put them in park and the shifter is faulty?

    My XC90 has a shifter that returns to a central position and I haven’t had any issues with it, neither has my wife who drives it more than I do. Is this a case of natural selection taking its course or did FCA just design a crappy shifter?

    • 0 avatar
      bryanska

      The shifter makes a series of bumps that feel like slapping an automatic into park. They don’t quite match the feel and sound. So when you think you’ve shifted into park, it’s entirely possible you thought you felt all the “bumps” but missed one. The system always works but the human factor is the variable.

      I have this shifter. Happens a lot. I have to watch the dash indicator to be sure. I have had mostly auto cars before and this is the first time I haven’t been able to shift by feel.

      • 0 avatar
        Willyam

        Excellent comment from experience. Thanks.

        I own an old WJ, where all the controls are a bit heavier and larger than other Jeeps (my old XJ shifter and such always felt a bit flimsy).

        As much as I do love newer Chrysler products, and even worked for a Dodge dealer for a while, I don’t understand how rolling the dice on this shifter would have helped sales. Going all the way back to the pushbutton era (had I been able to) I’m not sure I would have been able to buy one just to be THAT different.

        The dial shifter in the trucks strikes me the same way. To me, truck shifters need to be on the column, so no matter how many are in your fleet they all drive essentially the same, no learning curve required for renters, employees, etc.

  • avatar
    Ltd1983

    “Did a Defective Jeep Kill Anton Yelchin?”

    Nope, and that’s not even what’s being speculated on. It wasn’t defective, he left it in neutral, and it rolled. The issue is is the shifter too confusing, not that it didn’t function.

    I guess:

    “Did a Consumer Fail to Operate a 5000 LB Machine with Due Care and Death Resulted from their Own Error?”

    isn’t as enticing of a clickbait headline…

    • 0 avatar

      If a part is poorly designed and engineered, but works as designed (poorly), does that not mean it’s a defective part?

      • 0 avatar
        turf3

        Semantics.

        The product worked as designed.

        The design did not take into proper consideration 75 years of human factors engineering knowledge and practice (see my screed below). Therefore it was a BAD DESIGN.

        The term “Defective Jeep” in this case is insufficiently precise to describe the situation.

      • 0 avatar
        hubcap

        “If a part is poorly designed and engineered, but works as designed (poorly), does that not mean it’s a defective part?”

        You’re a writer with some knowledge of the automobile industry. Words matter. Words have meaning. How do you not understand this?

      • 0 avatar
        Willyam

        Audi said no…but it darn near ended their presence in the US, and made some very nice holes in garage walls.

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    Some assumptions have been made without much information given.

    All I can say isn’t it against the law in the US to leave a vehicle running and unattended?

    Isn’t it against the law to leave a vehicle without the park brake engaged?

    I have noticed in my many trips to the US people aren’t not as safety conscious as in other nations. Even my friends with autos will leave a vehicle and rely on the auto being in park to hold the vehicle.

    It comes down to inadequate training, assessing and in the end licencing of ill trained operators of vehicles.

    I have had this discussion previously on these sites and people more or less state “we only use the park brake when we are on a hill”. This is poor. You really need to use the park brake habitually, not when you think.

    I remember when I bought my XJ Cherokee in 95 the park brake release button broke after several months. The dealer explained that it was a problem with Aussie Cherokees because in the US people just don’t use the park brake. I suppose like most components it wasn’t designed to last many cycles of operation.

    Decent driver training combined with harsher licencing standards would go a long way in reducing fatalities and injuries caused by motor vehicles.

    Driving and operating a motor vehicle isn’t a god given right.

    It’s sad this guy most likely had poor training and even a poor attitude in owning and operating a vehicle. He could still be around.

    It amazes me that the US has such high motor vehicle fatality rates for a first world nation.

    • 0 avatar

      Oddly enough, I couldn’t find a single picture of Anton’s Jeep.

      If it turns out he had a monostatic shifter, then the reSon becomes immediately clear what happened.

      No it is not against the law to leave a running vehicle attended here. We have REMOTE START. Unlike some other countries. Remote start typically locks a vehicle- and typically they can’t be disengaged from P to D without the key Fob in the car.

      What most likely happened is he got out of the car which was in N- to open the gate- and the truck rolled into him- gaining enough momentum down the incline to crush him.

      More details will help paint the picture.

      People who don’t drive manuals don’t typically use the “parking brake” (foot pedal). Putting the automatic transmission into P mode is absolutely enough for most situations.

      If it does turn out that what I am saying is true then it is completely the fault of whoever designed the shifter because I’ve been saying it for years since testing the shifter in the Audi A8 that it was a bad design .

      • 0 avatar
        Carfan94

        It amazes me how many people don’t use the parking brake. I drive an automatic, and I always set my parking brake before shifting into park, even if I’m parked on flat ground. I don’t even think about it. It’s second nature just like putting on my seat belt.

      • 0 avatar
        Willyam

        What are your feelings regarding the rotary knob in the trucks? Will we see trucks left in reverse, or some similar hijinks?

    • 0 avatar
      turf3

      Well that’s a silly question. The guy – it appears – was in his own driveway; he got out of the car, probably believing it was in P but it was actually in N, and it rolled back on him. How would “making it against the law” have affected this? For that matter, he could have turned the car off while in N (I assume, as I’m not familiar with 2016 model Jeep interlocks) and the accident would still have happened as described.

  • avatar
    mazdaman007

    I’m trying to understand the rationale in the choice to use this type of gear selector. From the picture in the article is doesn’t seem to save any space in the console. Is it merely a case of ‘we can, so let’s do it to be different’ ?

    I don’t think it’s fair to say it’s a defective design. As far as I can tell the problem appears to be more about the operator incorrectly using it, based on their previous automotive experience and muscle memory.

    However drawing a parallel with airline safety, the NTSB investigators don’t just say ah well ‘pilot error’ caused the crash and close the book. They take the approach that if a properly qualified and experienced airline pilot made this mistake then other airline pilots could probably also make the same mistake and perhaps we should look at *why* that pilot made the mistake he/she did and correct the deficiency. Of course the average automobile driver does not possess the training and experience of a commercial pilot but both can be considered *normal/average* users of the specific vehicle that they are operating.

    • 0 avatar

      #1 Do you own a car with this shifter?

      I’ve owned 2 of em.

      Driven 4.

      They chose it because it looked cool – like something out of a German car (Audi A8).

      The problem is simple:

      a) its detents are too soft to provide RESISTANCE to shifting into Park or Reverse

      b) it’s too easy to SKIP reverse and go directly into Park.

      c) nudging it while in D…even when at highway speed, will drop you into N – which can be dangerous.

      This is BAD DESIGN pure and simple.

      I get lots of arguments on Jeep forums but I don’t really care. It’s a BAD DESIGN.

      • 0 avatar
        mazdaman007

        I perhaps should have been clearer. When I said it’s not defective design I meant that it appears to be working as intended. I was just attempting to bring some balance to the argument, that is to say there is blame on both sides here, the operator and the manufacturer. I thought my last paragraph had done that (obviously not).

        On a personal level I think the implementation is retarded.

        PS
        #1 I’m the *LAST* guy on earth that would buy an FCA automobile :)

        • 0 avatar
          Vulpine

          @mazdaman: I’ll agree that it’s not a “defective” design; it’s more like a not-intelligent design considering how many drivers are automatons behind the wheel and simply don’t pay attention when something changes. Humans are creatures of habit and they simply abhor change… until that change proves itself and becomes the new ‘normal.’

          Me? I like my FCA vehicles. Both of them. A Jeep and a Fiat 500.

      • 0 avatar
        Vulpine

        a) Detents really shouldn’t matter unless you are so used to automatics that you simply don’t pay attention to your shifter any more. I guess as long as I drive stick, I don’t need to worry about carjackers, hmmm? I’m an “old man”, I should be complaining about ‘change’, shouldn’t I? Personally, I embrace change because it forces you to think.

        b) Better to accidentally hit Park than to accidentally hit Reverse. Believe it or not, that IS as safety factor.

        c) Can be? Perhaps. But all automatics tend to be easy to drop into neutral. It CAN be a safety item to reduce the danger if for some reason the engine does go into ‘unintended acceleration’.

        It’s not “bad design”, it’s really quite elegant. Unfortunately it’s not a very intelligent design because the average driver simply doesn’t pay attention the way they should. Those are the drivers who need a fully-autonomous car that takes all responsibility out of the users’ hands.

        And hey, I owned one of those Fords that was so notorious in the ’70s for running away in reverse when people thought they’d shifted into Park. I never had the issue because I always double-checked that I was all the way into Park before climbing out of the car.

      • 0 avatar
        roverv8i

        All autos can be nudged into n from d and always have. If you could nudge it into reverse that would be an issue

      • 0 avatar
        roverv8i

        Other that that I agree. The real point I think is that electronic shifters have become the Wild West and what we need is some basic requirements that must be met no different than crash test requirements, etc.

      • 0 avatar
        ixim

        +1,000,000

    • 0 avatar

      Considering the design was recalled, I think it’s fair to call it a defective design.

      • 0 avatar
        mazdaman007

        A recall where nothing was changed ?

        As far as I understand the only change made was a ‘dear stupid owner’ notification placard for the visor. How does that help ? If the owner initially didn’t RTFM how likely are they to read the placard ?

        If the design was so egregiously bad in the first place why weren’t mechanical changes made ?

        Don’t get me wrong, I’ve clearly noted above that I think the implementation is dumb, but it just seems strange that while everyone is saying it’s a terrible design it also seems like it’s not terrible enough to require any changes.

    • 0 avatar
      roverv8i

      An investigation for a plane accident also leads to requirements for how something must work. The gas and brake are always in the same place maybe it’s time to set requirements for shifters

      • 0 avatar
        mazdaman007

        @roverv8i

        I think that is where this will go eventually (shifter standards). As with plane crashes it’s too bad these rules usually have to be written in blood.

  • avatar
    shaker

    The lack of a true mechanical connection between the driver and the parking pawl in the auto trans removes a critical feedback element from operation, and the driver has to be crucially aware of this fact.

    In my Volt, the shift selector physically engages the pawl – on a grade, you learn to also engage the electric parking brake, as it’s difficult to get the vehicle out of “park” when the pawl is loaded.

  • avatar
    sirwired

    Every time TTAC talks about this shifter, I am struck by the number of the B&B who just go: “Bah; it’s user error. There’s an indicator on the shifter and the dash. And there’s the parking brake! What more do you want! There’s nothing to fix!”

    Yes, this is user-error. But when SO many people keep making the exact same “error” (including commenters, their spouses, friends, etc.), it’s baffling that anybody could say that it is NOT a defective design.

    Certainly, if you’ve grown up with a “regular” A/T, you don’t NEED to look at either the shifter or the dash when exiting the car, because the gear position is obvious by feel. You hold the button, push the lever upward until it stops, and get out of the car; you need look at or check nothing. Now you are presented with a lever where “push it upwards until it stops” simply doesn’t work any more, even though it’s a “shift lever in the console” and to a brain used to patterns, “feels” just like any other shift lever. I doubt that the knob used in some Rams has the same issue, because it looks/feels different enough from a console shifter that it forces you to pay attention. (Personally, I wonder why everybody hasn’t shifted to a knob; why do we keep wasting valuable console space with a pseudo-mechanical throwback?)

    I mean, if FCA had swapped the turn-signal and wiper stalk for no particular reason, would you say the same thing? I mean, of course they’d be labeled as to which was which, so how could you complain? What about swapping the gas pedal and the brake; they are shaped different, after all!

    • 0 avatar
      jansob

      No kidding. A good designer will take into account the likely habits and actions of human users, not assume them to be perfectly rational robots who can simply delete years of reflex as if it were an obsolete subroutine.To require the user to pay active attention to something they’ve never had to before is bad design. Period. Good design removes mental load from the driver, it doesn’t add to it. Why not replace the horn button with a motion sensor that requires one short and two long waves? As long as you document it, I suppose it would be fine.
      I remember a Russian pilot telling me that the reason Russian planes were so heavy is that they were engineered to handle the neglect they were certain to suffer, not the careful maintenance they were officially required to have. And they are durable and seldom crash due to mechanical problems (underqualified/drunk pilots are the usual reason…hard to design for that).

    • 0 avatar
      Carfan94

      Yes, But these horrible tragedies would be prevented if people would just learn to use the PARKING BRAKE! It’s there for a reason. Just like wearing seat belt’s, people should engage the parking brake when parking.

      • 0 avatar
        bball40dtw

        So I should engage my parking brake while in park in my flat garage?

        • 0 avatar
          Vulpine

          Yes. In some states it is the LAW.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            Those states are dumb. If I’m on a hill, sure, I’ll set my brake. But in my garage, hahahah, no.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            Are they? Are they really? You don’t think the parking brake might have saved Yeltchin’s life?

        • 0 avatar
          Carfan94

          Yes, I always use my parking brake, even in my flat garage. I feel safer knowing that the parking brake is engaged AND in park. I never exit a vehicle without doing so. There’s no downside to using the parking brake. I don’t care whether it’s the law or not, I just do it.

          • 0 avatar
            roverv8i

            Guess what people, use the parking brake and unless it fails also you will not get ran over. It’s there so just use it. Seriously people! Clearly if you don’t then you’ve never experienced a car who’s parking cog failed. I even test drove a new car once that started to roll away. Apparently the cog was missing or had fallen out in the transmission.

            If it’s one of those electronic parking brakes, well good luck I guess ;/

  • avatar
    87 Morgan

    I have rented multiple FCA products with this shift mechanism as well as the dial. I thought I would dislike the dial and found that it does not bother me at all. However, the shifter that returns to center as pictured is the most loathsome I have ever used. I would not purchase any vehicle that had one like it.
    I am certain that FCA bought it off the shelf from a supplier who was trying to take the gear selection mechanism to the ‘next level’ but in reality some wheels don’t need to be reinvented.

    • 0 avatar
      jansob

      Same here…the dial had good feedback and stayed where you put it. I didn’t really like it, but it didn’t require me to ignore my natural assumptions about how car controls act.

    • 0 avatar
      SC5door

      BINGO!

      It’s an off the shelf unit either from ZF or another supplier. Chrysler was in a mad dash to get the 8 speed units into the cars; the cheapest way possible was to use an off the shelf unit.

      I’ve driven them a bunch of times and I didn’t have a problem but because they were not my personal cars I took the extra time to ensure they were in the gear that I wanted.

      Chrysler could have implemented a fix that included an audible and visual warnings via a software update. They did fix the issue with the indicator light being too bright at night, but not this.

  • avatar
    Maymar

    Goddamn it, this isn’t The Unsubstantiated Speculation About Cars. This is useless garbage to drive up page views unless you’ve put forth an honest effort to determine the year of the Grand Cherokee involved, or do some legitimate journalism that isn’t just a rehash of a very well documented issue.

    TRY HARDER

    • 0 avatar

      We’ve been looking. The police aren’t talking because it’s an active investigation and there are no photos of the Grand Cherokee in question. But I doubt that Anton was driving a first-generation Grand Cherokee.

      • 0 avatar
        Maymar

        Yes, but if you don’t know, yo don’t rrally have a story, do you? Just latching on to a news story you can vaguely connect to something that’s been covered ad nauseum here? It’s almost definitely a late model Grand Cherokee in question, but that still doesn’t rule out something with a normal shifter. If someone famous dies of respiratory failure, are you going to start looking into if any of their neighbours drives diesel VWs or Audis?

        Also, isn’t the accepted rule (and one that TTAC has taken other outlets to task for, rightfully so), that if your headline asks a question, the answer is no?

        But nope, IF IT BLEEDS, IT LEADS.

        • 0 avatar

          I get your criticisms, but when a designed-in flaw of a vehicle possibly causes the death of someone, I think it’s our duty to report on that.

          Also, the answer isn’t “no” yet. The answer is we aren’t 100-percent sure. All evidence so far points to his death being caused by a designed-in flaw of the shifter.

  • avatar
    Troggie42

    99% of the time, I lurk here and don’t comment, mostly because I don’t want to have to deal with getting in to arguments with people such as certain bombastic youtube aficionados in here.

    Come on TTAC. I, and many others I am sure, come here because you guys seem to be above articles like this. This site is higher caliber than the tabloid style crap of other websites, you shouldn’t have to stoop to putting out stuff like this for clicks.

    You guys run a really good site here, and I love coming here to read all the stuff you put out, but it would be a shame if you started going down the road of clickbaity bullshit, for lack of better terminology. I realize you have bills to pay, but surely there are better ways.

    • 0 avatar

      What exactly do you take exception to with this piece?

      • 0 avatar
        Troggie42

        The existence of it, if I’m honest. You and the other writers put out really good, quality content. This reeks of “a celebrity died, and a car was involved, maybe there’s a way we can work that in to pageviews.” I mean, it IS still well written and all, just the fact that it is written leaves a sour taste in my mouth. This is the kind of article I’d expect from Gawker, not TTAC.

        That said, I’m not saying the theory is wrong or even impossible, because it totally is, I just wouldn’t expect to see an article about it on TTAC until there was actually an investigation of some kind to confirm the facts as opposed to speculation.

        • 0 avatar
          JimZ

          I don’t see what your problem is. Someone notable was killed under circumstances that an open recall on the model of car might have contributed to.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            “I don’t see what your problem is. Someone notable was killed under circumstances that an open recall on the model of car might have contributed to.”

            Except that we didn’t know, until just recently, that it WAS one of the particular model cars with the questionable shifter. Prior to that moment, this article was nothing more than sensationalism. NOW the question is valid.

          • 0 avatar
            Troggie42

            Vulpine pretty much nailed my reservations about this. It’s better to ask these questions when you have all the facts than it is before you do, otherwise you can get stuff wrong, and when deaths are involved, spreading possibly wrong information is really not a great idea.

      • 0 avatar
        NickS

        Mark, I’ll strike a middle chord here.

        The criticism is valid in my opinion. Try to add value to whatever is widely reported that is often simply speculation. I am particularly annoyed about media outlets that create stories on mere suppositions, I guess they have to fill their space with printed/spoken words but that is not news, or truth.

        That said you clearly don’t have the resources of a well staffed and funded media outlet to add even some incremental facts, so maybe that is okay.

        TL;DR, we demand value for $0 down, 0% indefinite financing. And we don’t want ads.

  • avatar
    Vulpine

    We don’t know, yet, if this is even the truth. I agree that circumstantial evidence makes it the probable cause, but until we know for sure we can’t assume it is.

    Personally, I don’t understand the problem with this as long as the driver is attentive and ensures they put the vehicle into park properly. The real issue to me is that far too many drivers simply don’t pay attention to their driving. However, I do agree that an audible warning tone when somebody tries to get out of the car with it in anything but Park is helpful. Since I drive both manual and automatic transmissions I do occasionally leave the automatic in Drive when I shut off the engine. The car lets me know with both an audible tone AND doesn’t let me remove the key until it’s in park. So maybe the issue isn’t the shifter itself but rather the push-button starter, hmmm?

    Another possible fix, since the system is now proximity sensitive would be to A: Shut off the engine when the key fob gets more than five feet away, B: Automatically shift to Park and C: set the parking brake. That would make it nearly idiot proof, though then it would declare most drivers as idiots. Do you want to be considered an idiot because the car has to do your thinking for you?

    • 0 avatar
      sirwired

      The issue is that with the A/T shift lever most of us grew up with, you don’t HAVE to pay attention to what gear the car says it’s in: You hold the button, push the lever until it stops, and get out of the car.

      It’s VERY difficult for your brain to change it’s routine for something that otherwise looks and feels like the same-old, same-old. Imagine a different (less harmful) example: A car radio still has two knobs, but the tuning knob and volume knob are swapped. How long do you think it would take to stop turning the wrong knob? How loudly do you think you’d be cursing the idiots who decided to swap the two (especially since the new design would make the more commonly-used feature farther away.)

      • 0 avatar
        Vulpine

        @sirwired: Not a very good simile, however it’s good enough. So tell me this: how do pilots go from flying with a wheel in front of them to a control stick under their left/right hand? How do pilots go from analog instruments to an all-glass cockpit? Flying is one heck of a lot harder than driving even though the only real difference is in adding a third dimension to the travel.

        How long did it take mankind to learn how to ride an animal for transportation? How long did it take them to realize said animal could pull a contraption so they could carry more? How long did it take man to realize putting that contraption on wheels made it easier to pull? How long did it take man to realize putting those wheels on tracks–eventually steel rails–to make them even easier to pull? How long did it take man to realize that some kind of engine was faster and stronger than the animal? How long did it tame man to put that engine ONTO the wagon?

        See my point yet? In so many cases each change was resisted by somebody–often a majority. When steam-powered trains first came into being they were practically anathema; practically a religious outcry that the high speed would kill the passengers. When airplanes were invented it did become religious, as one of the loudest arguments against it was, “If Man were meant to fly, God would have given us wings!”

        Change is not necessarily bad. Rather, individuals resist change because it forces them to THINK. It forces them to re-train themselves with each change. It keeps them alert and hopefully makes things easier on them in the long run. Maybe that volume control is NOT the most-used control; then again, maybe it is. But what is more distracting, changing volume or trying to find a station to listen to while you’re driving because the control was 8″ farther away?

        I’m not saying all change is good; it has to be put into everyday use at least for a while to determine its functionality. Some things work well right off the bat. Other things work well once the user is re-trained for it. Some things never succeed. To me, this shifter issue is a matter of training, not a matter of poor design OR defective manufacture/materials. But it’s a moot point; even FCA has already abandoned the shifter just as Chrysler and so many others abandoned the push-button shifter back in the ’60s. Nobody ever called it defective and as far as I know, nobody was ever sued for them even when those buttons sometimes got pushed all the way through the dashboard. “This too, will pass.”

        • 0 avatar
          sirwired

          Yes, flying an aircraft with a joystick isn’t the same as using a yoke. But that’s a terrible analogy… A joystick looks and feels totally different from a yoke; this shifter looks and feels like the same shift lever that’s been in use since forever, but it works totally differently.

          If this had been a pair of buttons on the dash, or a dial, it would force the driver to pay attention to the new mechanism. But that’s not what they did. It’s not a matter of “training”; that helps you do something correctly the first time. It doesn’t change ingrained habits. (Assuming we don’t force drivers to go through simulator training every time they buy a new car…)

          It’d be like a plane where pulling back on the joystick/yoke now pitched the plane downwards instead of up; it’d be a horrible decision that would kill people, even if there was a huge sticker that said “Controls are reversed on this aircraft!”

          Your long paragraph about the March of Human Progress was irrelevant. This change wasn’t even functional… it takes up console space for a pseudo-mechanical lever where a dial on the dash would be superior in every way. And even if they wanted to stay with a lever for aesthetic reasons, a normal shift-gate would not have taken any more space.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            Compare the P-38 Lightning to the P-40 Warhawk. Both served the same purpose as fighter aircraft during WWII yet the Lightning used a yoke and the warhawk used a stick. Arguably, the P-38 was the far superior aircraft despite “sticks” used in nearly all other fighters of the day.

            This new, now-discontinued shifter is still a joystick compared to an older-style stick. They save the same purpose but they work differently, just as the stick between the feet in the F-15 was replaced by a side-mounted stick in the F-16. And don’t even begin to tell me about the complaints when that first came out. Pilots coming from older jets massively overcontrolled their F-16s in the simulators until they got used to them. Yes, they did have to be trained for the differences and that is very specifically my point.

          • 0 avatar
            sirwired

            Your example is still terrible. You simply don’t get it. A side-mounted stick vs. a floor-mounted stick is still a stick. Pull it towards you, the nose goes up, push it away, the nose goes down. Yeah, each plane responds differently, but the basic action remains the same.

            The gearshift equivalent would be one with PRNDL vs. PRND2L… you gotta pay attention to shifting from L back into D, but the difference isn’t going to kill you (because the button or gate prevents you from doing something stupid.)

            With this, “Push the (or weave the lever) and ram the lever to the stops” USED to put the car in park, now “Push the button and ram the lever to the stops” performs an action you can only verify by looking at the shifter or the dash, even though the action feels identical.

            Maybe new Kia’s do something funny to the steering wheel at a stop or slow, but turning it clockwise still makes the car go right, and turning it counterclockwise still makes it go left, and pushing the huge thing in the center makes it honk. Imagine if the former horn button now canceled the cruise control, and the horn moved to a button on the turn signal lever. Even if it were labeled, and the dealer reviewed it all before you drove off, it’d still be a stupid design.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            “Your example is still terrible. You simply don’t get it. A side-mounted stick vs. a floor-mounted stick is still a stick. Pull it towards you, the nose goes up, push it away, the nose goes down. Yeah, each plane responds differently, but the basic action remains the same.”

            Did you know that having the pilot even TOUCH the stick was a cause of many warjet crashes back in the ’60s? The pilots had to be emphatically trained to NOT touch the stick under certain circumstances. A later redesign triggered an immediate maximum-rate climb before they eliminated the crashes entirely for that reason.

        • 0 avatar
          hubcap

          @Vulpine

          You’re not understanding what siriwred is saying. Google NASA and human factors. You can get a good intro on how NASA (and aerospace manufacturers) use human factors when designing a human-machine interface.

          To you, it might be a matter of poor training but I can tell you this. I’ve spent a good deal of time in military and commercial aviation.

          We have considerably more training than your average driver and even in that environment designs exists designs that don’t , for whatever reason(s), put enough emphasis on human factors.

          These designs make it to the fleet and inevitably a workaround needs to be put in place. Sometimes it’s something trivial, like an extra placard, but sometimes its not.

          Human factors is a relatively new discipline and can be nuanced but it is real and should not be overlooked in the design process.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            It seems, hubcap, that you’re not understanding MY point. The point is that people need to be trained on their cars, not just given a quick, “Oh, you know how these things work,” from the salesman on delivery. I had a dedicated ‘trainer’ give me a complete walk-through on my 2002 Saturn Vue when I bought it and never had any issues until it was over 12 years old and one of the computers started to act up. You go to ‘most any other dealership and they say, “It’s out front with the keys in it. Enjoy your new car!”

            Which, really, is right when you consider today’s new cars have so many new technologies in them? Did you know that the Kia Forte’s steering wheel ‘pulses’ in your hand when sitting at a stoplight or driving very slowly? Why? Could it be one of those ‘drive by wire’ cars or is that just a normal factor of their particular electric power steering pump? I’ve had other cars with electric power steering (my Vue) and I never felt that before.

            So think about it. Could not proper training–as I’ve been saying all along–have mitigated the circumstances which caused this accident?

          • 0 avatar
            hubcap

            “Could not proper training–as I’ve been saying all along–have mitigated the circumstances which caused this accident?”

            Maybe. It’s difficult to say.

            What I’m saying is that there are people who are highly trained who still have accidents/incidents which seemingly should be easy to avoid.

            Sometimes additional training isn’t the answer. Sometimes a design that takes human factors into account is.

            For this particular case, I have no clue what happened but it does sound like the shifter could’ve been designed better. Was that the ultimate cause of the accident?

            I don’t know.

  • avatar
    jfm

    On my car, a shift selector that I push fully forward and stays fully forward confirms that I have put my car in park.

    With the “monostable” shifter, the position of the shifter tells the driver nothing about what gear they have selected.

    Why change a commonly understood control feature that has been in use for at least 50 years?

    • 0 avatar
      mcs

      My monostable shifter uses the same pattern as my non-paddle shifting manual cars. It sort of replicates a manual stick shift. Same motion/pattern to put the six-speed manuals into reverse and first. For park, I have a pushbutton with a big P where the shift diagram is on the manuals. My car will also automatically put the car in park when I hit the power-down button.

      I think the shifter I have is much better and more reliable than the old mechanical PRNDL front to rear shifters. I’ve had plenty of problems with those old school shifters in the past. Mechanical failures, and accidentally knocking them out of position.

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    BMWs have similar shifter junk, but they slam themselves into Park when you open the door. It makes it difficult to push one out of an intersection, with drivability issues. It can be done, and there’s an override lever somewhere, but too, if you disco the battery, it’ll slam itself into Park somehow.

  • avatar
    JimZ

    Ars Technica is saying it’s supposedly a 2016 Grand Cherokee.

    http://arstechnica.com/the-multiverse/2016/06/star-trek-actor-anton-yelchin-dead-freak-accident/

    • 0 avatar

      It looks like Ars Technica is taking that information from The Mirror tabloid in the UK. The Mirror has a “2016 Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit California Edition” featured in its piece as an example of the type of vehicle Anton owned, not the exact vehicle.

  • avatar
    manny_c44

    This situation is either an elaborately staged cover up for a murder or a defective car. Nobody, and I mean nobody, gets run over by their own car.

    • 0 avatar
      Vulpine

      “This situation is either an elaborately staged cover up for a murder or a defective car. Nobody, and I mean nobody, gets run over by their own car.”

      Really? “Look up Ford cars shift into reverse when parked.” Look at how many people were injured and even killed by their own cars back in the ’70s.

    • 0 avatar

      As a two time owner of the Jeep Grand Cherokee with this shifter – YES I CAN SEE IT HAPPENING.

      It’s more likely than not – in fact.

  • avatar
    turf3

    There seem to be two threads here:

    1) Was this guy killed when a Jeep with the particular shifter design rolled into him? Looks like this is speculation for now, and I see no need to comment.

    2) Is the shifter an example of bad design, or are users at fault?

    This one, I can comment on. I can tell you that in well-designed machinery, controls: a) look like they do what they do, in other words they don’t require explanation; b) are consistent with the way similar controls on similar equipment work. You do not change this without an overriding reason.

    As an example, there’s really no reason why turning the steering wheel clockwise should make the car turn to the right. It would be just as easy mechanically to have it work the other way. But there is no reason to do so and a big reason not to – i.e., it would be incredibly dangerous to have half the cars turning one way and half the cars turning the other way.

    A shift lever isn’t quite as immediate safety matter as a steering wheel, but it does have a safety component. There is NO REASON to change the well established ways these work, whether console or steering column. Therefore, changing the design is a BAD DESIGN DECISION.

    In the olden days, there were teams that worked on establishing ergonomic standards for vehicle controls. I have somewhere in my files a lengthy paper on how GM set up the ergonomics of their HVAC controls (the ones with the cable operated sliders). It appears that some car companies, in their never ending quest to fix what ain’t broke, have tossed several generations worth of human factors design knowledge into the toilet.

    Of course I would expect this from Chrysler, the people who never know when to quit. All the way back to the left hand threaded lug nuts in the 60s, Chrysler and their subdivisions have consistently set aside reliability and robustness in favor of complexity and devising solutions in search of problems.

    I remember reading about how it was decided to steer certain models of tanks (WW2 era, maybe?). The military knew they were going to get a lot of minimally trained men that would need to drive tanks reliably. As a tracked vehicle, there was no particular mechanical reason to pick one steering mechanism over another. A pair of levers to brake one track or the other would work fine. But in the end a steering wheel was chosen – why? Because the vast majority of young American men already knew how to use a steering wheel to steer a vehicle, and the feedback is simple – turn the wheel more, and the vehicle turns sharper.

    Way back when, I had a friend who alternately drove a BMW 2002, and his mom’s big American barge. The BMW had the exact setup someone described above: the turn signal on the RIGHT of the column rather than the left like all American cars. Sure enough, when he got into the American barge after driving his BMW for a few weeks, he would invariably throw the column shifter into neutral or low when making his first turn or lane change.

    • 0 avatar
      sirwired

      Well, technically, it does make sense for the car to go to the right when cranking the wheel. The steering wheel rotates clockwise, and the car’s wheels then turn clockwise…

      But yes, I agree that this was a horrible design decision that ignored the fact that console-mounted A/T shifters since forever have done “Push the button and lever to the stops” to put the thing in park since forever. Using the same mechanism, but having it work differently, was really stupid.

    • 0 avatar

      Try going from a motorcycle with left shift to one with right shift…D’Oh !!!

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Terrible.

  • avatar

    Update: CBS News is reporting the following:

    Los Angeles police told CBS News the vehicle involved was a 2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee.

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    And to think, commenters here were getting ragged on recently for complaining about this shifter. Maybe this is the thing that will get some attention on this problem, to get it fixed.

  • avatar
    mtmmo

    Why wasn’t he driving a Prius!? I think he would have survived if that was the case.

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    When I first heard about this yesterday, I assumed it was some car with a manual, and that he’d left it in neutral and didn’t give it enough handbrake, or the handbrake failed.

  • avatar
    truecarhipsterdouche

    I mean it is terrible news. This can happen to any assault-Jeep owner or FCA owner. I’m calling my Senator and Congressman for an immediate inquistion and perma-ban on all Jeeps. Clearly, what we have here, is a need for Jeep-free zones to stop the killings. Why do people need these things? They are dangerous…very, very dangerous….high-center of gravity easily prone to tipping, dangerous build quality, very fuel inefficient…and they have a high-capacity for douchery. Ban them all I say….ban them all. Jeeps are just the civilian version of those WWII killing machines we sent to Germany. I’m sure all holocaust victims and jews born thereafter get flashbacks to Auschwitz every time they even see a Jeep….ban them all.

  • avatar

    #1 I doubt many of the COMMENTERS actually owned one of these vehicles with this shifter.

    I’ve owned: 2014 Jeep SRT and 2015 Jeep SRT

    #2 THERE IS NO ARGUMENT ABOUT THIS TOLERATED as FCA has ALREADY recalled the shifter – acknowledging “a problem”.

    The shifter does not work as expected because the spring action always returns it to the center position and it doesn’t follow the dynamics of a traditional automatic.

    A traditional automatic – such as the new one found in the 2016 JGC – works FLAWLESSLY.

    FLAWLESSLY.

    The monostatic shifter was bad from day one – when it was in the AUDI A8.

    I’ve complained for YEARS.

  • avatar
    Fie on Fiasler

    I’m glad to see this being covered by TTAC. Given the recent coverage of this shifter’s flaws, I wondered the moment I saw the unfortunate news yesterday if the vehicle in question was a Fiasler product.

    It will be very interesting to see how this plays out in the court of public opinion, especially since so many Americans already tend to hold a very low opinion of the brand.

    • 0 avatar
      Vulpine

      “It will be very interesting to see how this plays out in the court of public opinion, especially since much of the population already tends to hold a very low opinion of Chrysler.”

      That’s exactly why the “court of public opinion” needs to be ignored. Ford had an almost exactly similar experience in the early ’70s and it didn’t affect people’s opinions of Ford in the least.

      We know now (but didn’t when this article was written) that it was one of the Grand Cherokees affected by the recent recall. People jumped to conclusions on insufficient data to ASSUME it was from the outset. That’s what the “court of public opinion” does; it jumps to conclusions on insufficient data. It’s also why so many things have gone sour in this country over the last 100 years and more. People rely on opinions more than facts and those opinions are killing people. Opinions have even started totally unnecessary wars, at least since the explosion of the Maine in Havana harbor back in 1898.

      It is good to question news; no matter what news it may be.

      • 0 avatar
        Fie on Fiasler

        Vulpine, you sound rather irritated that TTAC’s informed speculation proved to be completely accurate. There just isn’t a realistic scenario here that doesn’t somehow involve a shifter design already known to be faulty; it really doesn’t matter to me (or most) how we got there.

        Anyway, Ford benefited from a much stronger reputation going into 1970s than Fiasler (or any “domestic” automaker) does now. Fiasler simply doesn’t have much farther to fall.

    • 0 avatar

      Well – it’s being covered on TTAC and Youtube (by me).

  • avatar

    What a way to go. Poor Guy.

    I once had a Firebird start up in Drive, while the front was on jack stands. It shot out of the garage, and luckily, no one was hurt….

    Between that and the scene in Phantasm, where a Hemi’Cuda Convertible is dropped on a guy working under it, I’ve always been super paranoid about stopping my car or working on it raised. Even in my AT cars, everyone has been taught to use the parking brakes.

    In a desire for product differentiation, shift knobs, a simple thing, have been made stupid. The roto dial in a recent FCA rental, or the beer tap in BMW cars….PRNDL wasn’t broken, we all know it, and my Caddy click-click-clicks, as does my Acura.

    He was killed by a combination of inattention (and we all have two seconds where we aren’t ON IT) and poor design.

Read all comments

Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Recent Comments

  • SCE to AUX: I was tempted by the Alfa Romeo Stelvio until I drove one.
  • jack4x: As was discussed ad nauseum in yesterday’s Ford decontenting article, most of the features that...
  • Rnaboz: Have you considered the Mahindra Roxor?
  • Goatshadow: Infinite scrolling is one of the really bad parts of Kinja though. Seriously this site needs to ditch...
  • dukeisduke: Does he own an old Beetle with one of those faux Rolls Royce front ends?

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Staff

  • Contributors

  • Timothy Cain, Canada
  • Matthew Guy, Canada
  • Ronnie Schreiber, United States
  • Bozi Tatarevic, United States
  • Chris Tonn, United States
  • Corey Lewis, United States
  • Mark Baruth, United States