By on June 20, 2016

2015 Jeep® Grand Cherokee Overland

Less than two days after Star Trek actor Anton Yelchin died in a bizarre vehicle crash in his Los Angeles driveway, the maker of his 2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee says it will investigate the incident.

Yelchin, 27, was found crushed between his SUV and a brick gatepost two nights ago. The vehicle, which was found in neutral with the engine still running, apparently rolled backwards down the steep driveway and hit him.

Police reports identified his Grand Cherokee as one of the models recalled due to its confusing Monostable shift lever, with Reuters now reporting that Fiat Chrysler Automobiles promises to conduct a “thorough investigation.”

The Monostable shift level was used in three models equipped with FCA’s eight-speed automatic transmission. In April, FCA voluntarily recalled 1.1 million vehicles to correct the issue, which caused some drivers to think their vehicle was in “park” when it was actually still in gear, or neutral.

Unlike conventional automatic transmission shift levers, the Monostable shift knob returns to the same central spot after gear changes. This provides little visual indication of what gear the vehicle is actually in.

In response to questions swirling around the circumstances that led to Yelchin’s death, the automaker issued a statement saying, “It is premature to speculate on its cause at this time.”

When the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration investigated owner complaints last summer, it logged 41 injuries related to vehicles rolling away from their owners, but no deaths. At least 700 roll-away incidents are linked to the shifters. Models affected are certain 2012-2014 Dodge Chargers and Chrysler 300s, and 2014-2015 Jeep Grand Cherokees.

It isn’t known whether Yelchin’s vehicle was serviced after the recall was issued.

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129 Comments on “Fiat Chrysler Will Investigate Anton Yelchin’s Fatal Jeep Crash...”


  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    Yeah, I’ll bet they will. With their fingers crossed behind their back.

    • 0 avatar
      dadude53

      And off course never try to use the parking brake when you leave the car-never ever. Especially when you leave the car on a steep incline, don`t push the pedal or pull the lever. Just take a chance! No risk no fun-right?

  • avatar
    Jack Denver

    I’ll repeat my comment that came late in the last thread:

    A design that kills people is faulty by definition. Cars are not supposed to kill people in their own driveways. If hundreds (probably thousands) of people have had the same issue, it isn’t because they are all stupid for failing to follow directions, it’s because the design is defective.

    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. The Jeep interface was particularly poor because it not only took away the visual/tactile interface that drivers are used to, it did so without adding any intelligent functionality. What were they thinking?

    • 0 avatar
      SC5door

      “The Jeep interface was particularly poor because it not only took away the visual/tactile interface that drivers are used to, it did so without adding any intelligent functionality.”

      Part of that statement is false. There are TWO visual indicators of what gear is actually selected: on the gear shift itself and in the instrument cluster.

      Most likely he pushed the selector forward without pressing the button which causes the transmission to go into neutral–the same thing happens with the “manual” selector in my car; if I bump it forward without pressing the button it goes into neutral but will not go into reverse or park.

      I’d say the problem is 60% design and 40% user error in this case. FCA knew there were issues with the design (as an off the shelf part from a supplier—ZF or someone else) and did nothing about it until the mid cycle refresh.

      • 0 avatar
        NickS

        SC5. I don’t see the 60/40 split. Based on what you describe, shifting to some transmission states requires one input (push stick fwd/back) and for others an additional input (button). That is an epic design fail.

        If anything dangerous or catastrophic is possible you ADD a control for that as a bare minimum. Or provide two or three other ways of detecting a potentially dangerous situation. There is zero reason to permit this behavior when in today’s cars you have vehicle tilt, occupancy and other sensosrs.

        The fact that it was changed later should tell you something.

        You don’t leave such big gaps in whatever automated safety logic you implement. I am an engineer and routinely find these gaps but it does require a certain mindset that is completely unrealistic to expect from the end user.

        • 0 avatar
          Jack Denver

          The design was from ZF and it is a classic German sort of design where you make things more complicated than they have to be for no reason. If you push lever A forward while simultaneously holding down button B then it does one thing but if you are not holding button B it does something else, except if the ambient temperature is below 4 C and the weight of the driver exceed 95 kilos, in which case, please see appendix C for the table of applicable functions, etc.

        • 0 avatar
          Lack Thereof

          “Based on what you describe, shifting to some transmission states requires one input (push stick fwd/back) and for others an additional input (button). That is an epic design fail.”

          That actually sounds like how every common “traditional” automatic floor shifter used to work! You can push the lever forward as far as neutral without pushing the button, but to access Reverse or Park from a forward gear, you have to push the button.

          The difference was, in those old cars if you didn’t push the button, the lever would physically stop halfway through it’s movement, and you’d get tactile feedback that you have not reached the gear you were looking for. That feedback is the only thing that’s changed, not the existence of both a button and a lever.

          • 0 avatar
            NickS

            I didn’t write this fully, but no, they are not the same. EACH floor shifter position on an trad AT uniquely maps to ONE transmission state. It is not like a gate on that can result in one of two different states based on the position of some other control, i.e., a button (perhaps for overdrive on some older ATs, but that was only active on fwd gears and even then the trans wouldn’t shift straight to OD if you were only in 2nd when you activated it).

            I was in fact going to mention that very button on a trad AT as an example of a mechanism that locks out certain state transitions. That button does not by its position change the transmission state, but it protects the trasmission if someone decides to shift to R or P while in motion.

            It wasn’t just the tactile feedback (clicks). On a trad AT, the lever travel varied by position. Moving from one of the fwd gears to P was a no-brainer: press button, move the lever all the way forward until you no longer can. (And take note: the vast majority of drivers has rarely needed to shift to N, maybe for carwash, or recrank engine while on freeway).

      • 0 avatar
        Jack Denver

        I didn’t say it took away ALL visual indication (not even Chrysler is THAT stupid) but that they took away the USUAL visual/tactile indication (meaning the position of the shifter, not a little tiny light bulb). Again without any real justification or benefit to the driver.

        If hundreds and hundreds of people are all making the same “error” then it is NOT really error. Cars are not meant to be driven by mistake proof robots (yet) but by ordinary fallible humans so if lots and lots of people are all making the same “mistake” then something is wrong with the design.

        This is not like “pedal confusion” which is really “senior citizen confusion” and there is nothing that the manufacturer could do to help. They already know what to do – put back the PRNDL as they did on the 2016s. The recall proposed ” enhancements [which] will combine warnings with a transmission-shift strategy to automatically prevent a vehicle from moving, under certain circumstances, even if the driver fails to select “PARK.”

        I assume this means that the vehicle will automatically go into Park when you open the door and the car is not moving or something like that. I don’t know whether that will be enough but it’s better than nothing. How many years were they going to foot drag before implementing this?

        This guy was a highly promising rising Hollywood star. His case alone will cost them tens of millions and is a deep tragedy to his parents – he was their only child.

        • 0 avatar
          MrGreenMan

          “I didn’t say it took away ALL visual indication (not even Chrysler is THAT stupid) but that they took away the USUAL visual/tactile indication (meaning the position of the shifter, not a little tiny light bulb).”

          I remember driving a W-Body LS Impala. I think it was a 2008. It was very sad.

          They took away all visual indication of shifting. You had to count the shift point to make sure you were in drive and not neutral. The computer was supposed to show these things under the speedometer, but it did not do this.

          To its credit, it did give a satisfying thunk as you slammed it into park.

          GM is that stupid, or maybe just hated you for not buying the LuTZ edition… I did a quick search on Impala forums and “shift not showing” appears to be reasonably common. They cheaped out so much on that shifter. Couldn’t they have just made a little piece of plastic that visibly pointed at a scratched in position? I was going to do that, but instead, put it out to pasture.

    • 0 avatar
      mcs

      >> The PRNDL interface with a selector lever is a time proven design that all drivers are familiar with.

      You mean older drivers. I have a 23 year old that has seen them, but in the 7+ years that he’s been driving, he’s only known 5 speed & 6-speed manuals, plus properly designed monostatic shifters. I think the last PRNDL left our household in the mid 2000’s.

      I’ve had a lot of experience with cars and have had failures with the old design. The new type can be good, as long as they are designed and implemented properly. The Prius has had a good design that has been out there for at least 10 years. Nissan has one that is pretty good on some of their cars as well. Both the Prius and the Nissan have buttons with a big “P” on them, so as long as you can press the button you’re good to go. If you shut down either car, park is automatically engaged.

      • 0 avatar
        Jack Denver

        Manual transmissions have around a 10% market share, so your 23 year old is not typical.

        It’s not IMPOSSIBLE to implement a design different than PRNDL but you should have a damn good reason for wanting to and implement it carefully and with proper safeguards and make it just as intuitive/ idiot proof (or hopefully more) than PRNDL or else you should just skip it. You could also design a typewriter keyboard that departs from QWERTY but it’s not generally a good idea either (despite Dvorak). You should be able to get into any vehicle and just drive it without needing to take a course on its oddities.

        Just having the car go into Park when you turn off the engine is not enough. People often leave their car idling while they go to check their mailbox, open the garage, move the trash cans or a shopping cart out of the way, etc.

        • 0 avatar
          redav

          I think the PRNDL system can be improved. I greatly dislike always having to move through R.

          I suggested a layout like this before:
          http://i1127.photobucket.com/albums/l634/phytheaux/shifter.png

          • 0 avatar
            BobinPgh

            I thought one of the defects brought up in Ralph Nader Unsafe at any Speed was that some transmissions at the time were PNDLR which confused people and they ended up with cars in reverse that then ran over little kids. Maybe we can thank Ralph for having PRNDL like we have now. By the way, where is Ralph when something like this is happening? He must know about this from reading in the library at his senior citizen home.

          • 0 avatar
            BobinPgh

            Thank Ralph Nader for that one, he stated in Unsafe at any Speed that some cars back then were set up PNDRL which confused some drivers who then drove their Studebaker into little kids. Where is he now, surely he must have read about this issue in the library of his retirement facility?

          • 0 avatar
            redav

            All I know is that D and R must be separated by N, and I think it’s a fantastic rule.

            I also like the rule requiring a separate action (button press) in addition to lever movement to engage R. The gated gear select that do away with the button are stupid.

        • 0 avatar
          sbspence

          All good points Jack Denver. Not to mention the fact that manual transmissions all have a tremendous amount of tactile feel. I simply don’t understand anyone defending the design of these FCA vehicles. It is obviously a poor, non intuitive design that needs to be changed immediately. I drove my sister’s 2015 Grand Cherokee Summit and I had an issue putting it in park. She stated that it was difficult learn, in that it was difficult to ingrain it to habit. You had to literally stop and think about what you were doing each time you shifted the lever to a different gear or into park.

          Sometimes changing something for change’s sake is not a good idea and it’s obvious this is one of those times.

          • 0 avatar
            sutherland555

            Sbspence. i have never used one of these shifters and the notion that you actually think about how to shift an automatic is ridiculous. This really sounds like a solution in search of a problem.

        • 0 avatar
          mcs

          “People often leave their car idling while they go to check their mailbox, open the garage, move the trash cans or a shopping cart out of the way, etc.”

          Again, all you have to do on some Nissans and Toyotas is to press the P button on the shifter or the dash. Is that hard? I think Toyotas might even light up. Nissan displays a P on the dash and there is a display at the base of the shifter with an indicator display as well. Two places to look. Just preeeess the button. Not hard to do. I do it sometimes.

          By the way, the Nissan shift pattern is left and hold for neutral. Left and up for reverse. Left and back for forward.

          Again, not difficult. You just press the P button for park.

        • 0 avatar
          Frylock350

          @JackDenver,

          It would actually be a fantastic idea to dump QWERTY as its a very inefficient layout (for typing in English). QWERTY was invented specifically to prevent jams on manual typewriters. DVORAK or COLEMAK are far more efficient. DVORAK for example allows for 70% of commonly used words to be typed on the home rows; as opposed to 30% for QWERTY.

          So why do we still have QWERTY? People refuse to learn new things and don’t expect to have to put any effort into learning something new. If you knowingly purchase a product with a different interface than what you are used to and you fail to learn to use it properly; that’s on you.

          I have PRNDM on the column where it belongs. But unless there is a physical link between my shifter and the trans give me a dial on my dash like the one I use for controlling 4WD. I don’t get why these cars didn’t get the dial gear selector the Durango and Ram got for the same transmission. That said; I had this shifter in a rental and I didn’t find it hard to use. Hold the button; push all the way up. That was soooooo hard…

          Also USE YOUR DAMN PARKING BRAKE. I read an awesome book on defensive driving when I was a teenager and its one of the safe practices I’ve implemented. I don’t care where I’m parked I always use the parking brake. I’ve been doing it for so long that its second nature to me.

      • 0 avatar
        chris724

        What exactly do you gain with the monostatic shifter? How does it make your driving experience better?

        • 0 avatar
          MisterNoisy

          Look! The future is now!

          That’s pretty much the only reason to screw around with the traditional slushbox shifter.

        • 0 avatar
          mcs

          It’s useful if you’re stopped at a light or a rail crossing and want to go into park for a minute. Just press the P button to park it. Then foot on the brake, a quick flick of the shifter, and you’re in forward mode again. You also get rid of a lot of clunky mechanical parts that become an issue as the vehicle ages. I think Nissan’s is even more intuitive than the old PRNDL setup. A press of the thumb for park, and some easy to remember patterns for direction and neutral. Just like an even older arrangement, the manual shifter. In fact, it’s easy for me to switch between our manual cars and the monostatics because the patterns are the same.

          • 0 avatar
            MrGreenMan

            This sounds more complicated than pump down once for the parking brake, pump it again to release the parking brake and drive. That doesn’t seem like a great use case.

          • 0 avatar
            TonyJZX

            PRNDL isnt perfect however like qwerty, we all have years if not decades of experience nay muscle memory with it.

            So why throw all that out. I suppose some may go to extremes to say its not ‘luxurious’ so they go to weird ways of re-inventing the mousetrap.

    • 0 avatar
      RobertRyan

      This has now turned up in Australia, putting another nail in the coffin of FCA here
      http://www.goauto.com.au/mellor/mellor.nsf/story2/78B8E839291BBE61CA257FDA001951C2

  • avatar

    Like it or not, BTSR called this one. I have no experience with it but I listen to him when he talks about cars he has personal experience with.

    • 0 avatar

      And I called it years ago when the Audi A8 first got it.

    • 0 avatar
      WestoverAndOver

      I have a 2014 JGC with said shifter. BTSR is 100% right. It is too easy for people to make this mistake with this shifter, and I say this as someone who has *actually lived with the car* for nearly THREE YEARS. There is way too much potential for human error here and really, I am thankful that my driveway is level. I still slip up from time to time. The recall is necessary. I am not jumping to conclusions on Mr. Yelchin because I was not there, who knows what really happened. However, reading the articles and learning that the car was found running in N makes me wonder.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    “Unlike conventional automatic transmission shift levers, the Monostable shift knob returns to the same central spot after gear changes. This provides little visual indication of what gear the vehicle is actually in.”

    This stupidity likely killed a man and has possibly killed others. Seriously, like wtf drugs were they on when they said, “yes the shifter should give no indication as to what the hell is going on!”

    Where’s the Ray DeGiorgio who approved it?

    • 0 avatar
      SC5door

      “Seriously, like wtf drugs were they on when they said, “yes the shifter should give no indication as to what the hell is going on!””

      It’s a poor design yes—but it DOES provide a visual indication of what mode the transmission is in; in fact FCA did a TSB on the assembly in the LX cars because the indicator was too bright.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        I have no personal familiarity with the problem, but I’ve driven enough in my life to want the automatic shifter to tell me which gear I am in as a matter of common sense. The rental W-Impala I drove in 2012 *did not* do so and instead forced me to look at the dash. I can’t even tell you how irritated I was by that, but of course even without an indicator I could tell park by the position of the shiftier handle. You’ve got to *try* to screw up such a basic idea. A man died because someone thought it was “stylish” to violate common sense. I doubt much comes of this but I hope someone is punished and a broken culture changes.

        • 0 avatar
          Hydromatic

          At least that generation of Impala kept the physical detents that gave scores of drivers plenty of tactile feedback.

        • 0 avatar
          redav

          “You’ve got to *try* to screw up such a basic idea. A man died because someone thought it was “stylish” to violate common sense.”

          That’s how I feel about touch screen infotainment systems.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            I agree with you on those, but one can make the argument those are not vital to the operation of the vehicle. Ultimately this is a safety issue.

          • 0 avatar
            redav

            Agreed. The gear selector is much more critical.

  • avatar
    NickS

    > Fiat Chrysler Automobiles promises to conduct a “thorough investigation.”

    Oh, good. For a minute I thought they were going to do what VW did. Oh wait, VW conducted a “thorough investigation” as well.

    Sarcasm aside, they have already done all the investigating they needed to do back when they had to decide the recall. The accountants obviously won that argument. Any investigation now should focus on which parts of the senior leadership misrepresented the risk or the the executive decision.

  • avatar
    Tomifobia

    What the hell was ever wrong about the PRNDL as an automatic selector is something I’ll never figure out.

    • 0 avatar
      Kenmore

      Right! On the column, too!

    • 0 avatar
      jpolicke

      For decades the automatic shifter was at one end of a mechanical linkage or cable that physically had to move to change the function of the transmission, in which the only electrical device was the switch for the backup lights. Everybody’s transmission was mostly the same so the shifters were mostly the same as well. [How Chrysler got away with those push buttons for years is a mystery.]

      Modern auto transmissions are computer controlled and the “shifter” is just a big glorified switch that could just as well be controlled from the radio screen. But NO MATTER: shifters must forever be large levers moving through a wide range of travel because I might forget that this is not the car I had last week/month/year/when I learned to drive.

      Granted, this shifter is awkward, inconvenient, and definitely not idiot-proof. It earned its hatred and Chrysler did the right thing by responding and replacing it. But unless Mr. Yelchin was bringing the car home new from the dealer on the day of the accident, he had ample time to learn its function.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        Oooo let’s also put the accelerator and brake touch buttons on a 39 cent Chinese screen because its unpossible to think it could ever fail. After all they are just switches right, why can’t be change the inputs to be uber coolz for no reason?

        I say, certain parts of the model always need to be idiot proofed and the shifter is one of them. A man is dead because someone thought it would be cute to violate convention and common sense, and its possible others have also died in other accidents linked to the recall issue. Dismissing the real behavior of users can be deadly.

        • 0 avatar
          jpolicke

          We know he could not have been looking at either the shift handle or the instrument panel. He did not engage the parking brake. It’s a second-rate design but he does bear some responsibility for the consequences.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Truthfully I seldom engage the traditional parking brake in two of my cars, but the third (a Saturn SL) I frequently use because its a pull up handle near the shifter. I think most people forget to engage the parking brake so such a thing could happen to many of us.

          • 0 avatar
            Varezhka

            Actually, do we know for a fact that the parking brake was not engaged? If the car was in neutral on a steep hill, the parking brake itself may not have been sufficient to keep a big heavy car like GC from rolling (albeit at a slower rate).

      • 0 avatar
        sbspence

        This sounds very callous my brother, very callous indeed. Your arguing that because his death was is acceptable because he had time to “get used to” a poor design feature that is inherently dangerous in its employ because it goes against everything that all but a few people have had ingrained into their behavior patterns since they started driving.

      • 0 avatar
        DenverMike

        “…he had ample time to learn its function.”

        Is it OK to have a new, learning curve, for what’s already fundamental? What if it’s not your car, your just moving it a few feet, and you’ll never drive it again? You’ll have to take a quick class for certain cars?

        Can’t a modern car just have the normal PRNDL gates, even if no physical output (cables/rods) leaves the shifter, just BUS signal? Why even have a normal looking shifter? It just confuses things more.

        • 0 avatar
          jpolicke

          Let’s look at the beloved manual transmission: shift patterns are not all the same. Is reverse high on the left, low on the right, low on the left? What if the next distracted actor jumps in his car, throws it into first, and hits the gas… except that’s where first was in his OLD car, and he’s actually in reverse, and he backs up off a dock or into a crowd of people? Is the maker of new car to blame because their trans is different from maker of old car? After all, he couldn’t see the shift pattern on the knob while his hand was covering it.

          Look, I’m sorry he’s dead. I agree the shifter is a lousy design. But hundreds of people are using it as I type this and surviving. Sometimes in life you can get away with your mistakes, and sometimes they bite you in the butt.

          • 0 avatar
            sgeffe

            Usually, I’d think most folks who drive manuals would always check that out before getting behind the wheel of another stick car.

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            No, with a manual, you’re not simply along for the ride. You get an instant sensation, you’re starting to moving in the wrong direction, and it ends there instantly.

          • 0 avatar
            sirwired

            “Let’s look at the beloved manual transmission: shift patterns are not all the same. Is reverse high on the left, low on the right, low on the left? What if the next distracted actor jumps in his car, throws it into first, and hits the gas… except that’s where first was in his OLD car, and he’s actually in reverse, and he backs up off a dock or into a crowd of people?”

            On every manual transmission I’ve ever seen, R was either low-right (meaning you are never going to confuse it with 1st) or off to the left but required pushing down to engage.

            And the fact that “hundreds of people are using it as I type this and surviving” is no argument that it is safe by any reasonable standard. Hundreds of people (and that’s just the accidents that have been reported) have had incidents with this design; it’s well out of the bounds of any measure you care to name for safety.

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            I don’t want to accuse anyone of not knowing how to drive a manual, but it’s impossible to crash a manual trans car by starting in the wrong gear.

            You don’t select a gear, then hit the gas, hoping you don’t die in a violent fiery crash. There’s a clutch involved. You’ve sorta got to ‘time it’ just right too.

            Your left foot pushes it back in, if you get anything other than the momentum/direction intended. You can’t help it.

            There’s also a brake pedal if all else fails. Worst case, you stall.

      • 0 avatar
        Jack Denver

        For decades the gas pedal was at one end of a mechanical linkage or cable that physically had to move to change the speed of the engine, in which there was no electrical device at all. Everybody’s carburetor was mostly the same so the gas pedals were mostly the same as well.

        Modern engines are computer controlled and the “gas pedal” is just a big glorified dimmer switch that could just as well be controlled from the radio screen. But NO MATTER: gas pedals must forever be large foot operated levers moving through a wide range of travel because I might forget that this is not the car I had last week/month/year/when I learned to drive.

        Yes, exactly right – you want every car to have the same basic interface, whether it is the gas pedal or the shifter for the same reason you want every computer keyboard to have the same basic layout. Except if I type sgtyurye no one dies.

    • 0 avatar
      redav

      “What the hell was ever wrong about the PRNDL as an automatic selector is something I’ll never figure out.”

      IMO, I say that *always* needing to move the transmission through R is something ‘wrong’ that deserves to be improved. (See link above to image for a potential deviation from PRNDL that may work.)

      However, a “change” is not the same as an “improvement.”

      • 0 avatar

        We’ve seen this kind of shifter stupidity before. When Chrysler introduced the Torqueflight. The early cars had a RNDL shifter. No park – you shut the engine off and left the car in reverse. You can just imagine all the accidents that happened with that arrangement.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    My 12 Leaf had a ‘monostable’ shifter.

    There were a few occasions when I stepped out of it while in drive. The lack of positional feedback was made worse by a totally silent drivetrain. One important difference, though, was that Park was simply activated by pushing the center button on the shifter.

    http://st.motortrend.com/uploads/sites/10/2015/11/2012-nissan-leaf-sl-hatchback-gear-shift.png

    Leaving it in reverse was not a problem, since the car was fitted with a loud, annoying OEM sonar ping to indicate backing up. I always felt like I was driving a cement truck when I backed it up.

  • avatar
    Corollaman

    Don’t like those weird shifters nor the push button e brakes. Why mess with success?? I wonder how many others have perished because of this flaw and because they were not famous, no one hears of it.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    “Fiat Chrysler Will Investigate Anton Yelchin’s Fatal Jeep Crash”

    Obviously, they wouldn’t do so if you or I had been the victim.

    If the oft-discussed shifter is a contributing factor, perhaps his death will wind up saving others from a terrible fate.

  • avatar
    turf3

    As I’ve said many times before, Chrysler is the company that just cannot avoid fixing something that isn’t broken. (In this case, adopting a design that attempts to fix a non-existent problem.)

    I think the actor’s parents (their attorneys) ought to ask the relevant decision makers: “What problem did the traditional shifter that has worked fine since the early 1960s present, that you thought this design would fix? What human factors assessments and testing under a variety of conditions did you do, to confirm that: a) it fixed whatever problem you thought was there; and b) it did not increase the risk of failing to put the car in park before leaving the car?”

    When someone changes out a safety related item that has worked fine for 50+ years, the trail of testing, verification, and validation had better be damn solid.

    • 0 avatar
      seanx37

      I wonder if Paramount could go after FCA as well. Yelchin was a part of a big(or so Paramount hopes it would have been)franchise. I wonder if their bloodsuckers…I mean lawyers are looking at that right now.

      And what a waste. Kid was a good actor. And seemed like a nice guy.

  • avatar
    Corollaman

    That’s a hell of a price to pay for looking sleek and stylish. All these vehicles should be recalled immediately.

  • avatar
    pragmatist

    Programming it to engage park or the parking brake when driver’s door is opened would seem like a reasonable fix

    • 0 avatar
      NickS

      No doubt, but man oh man, programming for these use cases is the low-hanging fruit. It should not be something that gets delivered to the customer as a fix.

      A car in neutral without a driver present has major potential for injuries and damage.

  • avatar
    Corollaman

    The boy killed by the gator and now this? Sometimes law suits are really a necessary evil.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      Agreed.

      My FIL reluctantly joined the asbestos-related suits after losing his wife to mesothelioma four years ago. There are smoking guns on that topic going back to the 1930s.

      He has received 6-figures in settlement checks, but he’d gladly exchange it all to have his wife back. But in lieu of that, makin’ ’em pay is the only solace he has.

    • 0 avatar

      A gator attacking a kid – outside of an enclosed zoo- is an act of nature.

      Coulda just as easily been a snake.

      No one deserves to be sued for that.

      • 0 avatar
        raph

        As long as Disney took precautions like informing visitors of the possibility that a gator attack could occur even in the park that’s plenty ’nuff.

        If their attitude is “Derrr… its Florida” then it might warrant a closer look.

        In my AO, the Tidewater area of Virginia the local parks have signs indicating what can ruin your day including the usual suspects plus some not so well known animals like rattle snakes which is reasonable enough even in parks that are in the city.

  • avatar
    Alex Rodriguez

    FCA will likely end up settling. Since they already issued a voluntary recall on this their liability will be lower. However they will want this to quietly go away.

    I agree on the “why fix something that aint broke” argument, and so does FCA. They went away from this shifter starting in the 2016 Model Year, and issued a voluntary recall.

    It wasn’t like the tranny DIDN’T tell you what gear it was in, it just wasn’t as intuitive as it should be. And I will tell you that regardless of what car I have ever owned, I ALWAYS engage the emergency brake if I’m on a hill. Always and forever, maybe I’m weird like that but I was trained as a young driver to NEVER let your transmission hold a car in place on a steep hill, you always engage the emergency brake.

    Sad situation all around.

    • 0 avatar
      sgeffe

      I engage the e-brake on even sloping streets, after an incident where it damn near took an act of Congress to shift from “Park” on an incline!

      Normally, I don’t.

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    It’s just junk no one asked for, but since it saves the car maker 9₵ per car, to avoid using mechanisms with cables, rods, gates, levers, detents, it’s worth all the limbs and lives we lose, even the occasional A-List celebrity.

    • 0 avatar
      jpolicke

      The transmission is electronic, what are all those cables, rods, etc supposed to connect to?

      • 0 avatar
        DenverMike

        Is the Park pawl “electronic”? What about he notched drum and output shaft? All electronic too??

        • 0 avatar
          jpolicke

          Electronically engaged, yes. By these things called solenoids.

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            Right. Even if the RNDL part is all electronic, the P part can still be physical/manual, cable controlled between the shifter and trans, with a positive connection and reassuring/affirming feel. One that’s leaves *no doubt*, before exiting with the vehicle’s engine running.

          • 0 avatar
            Lack Thereof

            Alternately, people could feel the much more satisfying ratcheting action of their parking brakes once in a while. I was taught never to trust the transmission, be it an automatic that looks like it’s in Park, or a manual that looks like it’s in 1st. Always assume the car wants to roll away and kill you.

      • 0 avatar
        raph

        They (FCA or/and ZF) could have still made a more intuitive design from the get go that had detents that positively engaged the shifter regardless of the actual shifting mechanism.

        Hell even the stepped design formerly favored by Europe and Japan would have been better than the design that FCA dropped in favor of a more traditional design.

  • avatar
    sirwired

    I liken this to an automaker suddenly deciding to swap the turn signal and wiper stalk. There’s no inherent reason for the signal stalk to be on the left and wiper stalk on the right, but that’s the way it’s been since forever. Even if an automaker assiduously labeled the new arrangement, we could hardly blame drivers for getting them confused for quite a long time until they got used to the new design.

    Likewise, we can’t really blame drivers for taking a while to learn to have to actually look at the shifter and/or the dash to confirm something that they could have determined by feel with the old design. Before, shifting to park involved holding down the button (or sliding the lever through the gates), and pushing it to the stops. There, done, Park. With this design, that’s not enough. And furthermore, there’s zero benefit to this design other than the fact it looks cooler than a PRNDL shifter.

    Really, automakers should just go to the knob on the dash like on some recent FCA products and free up the console space for something else. (Twist the knob counter-clockwise to the stops to Park.) There’s no reason we need a lever at all any more now that the physical connection between the lever and A/T is gone.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      They do this because going electronically is cheaper, by far, than the old method of levers, rods and/or cables connecting the gear-shift lever to the transmission.

      In this case the driver has to remember to push the gear-shift lever forward until the indicator reads P. And even if that has happened, there is no guarantee that the parking pawl has engaged a corresponding indentation inside the transmission.

      It’s best to always apply the foot-operated parking brake of the Grand Cherokee prior to moving the gear-shift selector to the P position.

      I learned that when I had a 1957 Mercury sedan that had push buttons instead of a gear-shift lever. Sometimes pushing the Park button did not engage the parking pawl inside the transmission.

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    FCA’s “fix” so far is to prevent the vehicle from rolling if a door is opened. Assuming it’s signalled by a door switch for the dome light, what happens when a door switch goes flaky, and the contacts don’t close, or the contacts are dirty or corroded? That doesn’t sound like a fix at all, but a band-aid.

    Even the rotary knob would have been a better solution than their toggle switch design.

  • avatar
    zerofoo

    My wife’s 2014 GC has this shifter.

    It’s not hard to use.

    The problem is that people are distracted and can’t be bothered to focus on the task at hand (parking the car).

    Sure, the design is different – but that means you need to become familiar with the vehicle. You are the driver and it is your responsibility to learn the operating characteristics of the vehicle.

    My wife’s 2014 GC also has a manual foot-operated parking brake. Apparently no one uses that thing either.

    Driving a car comes with responsibility. Too many people abdicate their responsibilities and bad things happen.

    • 0 avatar
      redav

      Odds are he used it correctly hundreds if not thousands of times. Unfortunately, he didn’t use it correctly this time.

    • 0 avatar
      Ion

      I like wise had no problem operating this shifter. It should however automatically shift into park when the door is opened. MB’s column shifter does this. I used to find it cumbersome but I now understand how incapable people are of operating a vehicle

      • 0 avatar
        hubcap

        “…but I now understand how incapable people are of operating a vehicle”

        It’s more than likely a human factors issue. They happen, even among highly trained individuals. When you get a moment, google *F-16 side stick human factors*.

        I’d guess that an Air Force pilot coming from another platform or from the training command is more thoroughly trained than your average driver on the street.

        So why we’re they having issues with the side stick? I’m not going to answer that question except to say it had very little to do with their training or ability to operate a vehicle.

        EDIT: I should answer that question because it might shed some light on why human factors are important in human-machine interfaces.

        The F-16 was the first fly by wire fighter. As such, there were no mechanical linkages from the stick to the control surfaces. The F-16 also used a side stick controller. That was a human factors decision.

        It’s more comfortable to sit with your arms shoulder width apart rather than having one between your legs as would be the case with a conventional stick.

        Because the aircraft was fly by wire, designers decided there was no reason the stick should move. Sensors would determine what direction and how much force was applied, send that information to the servos which would manipulate the flight controls.

        The problem was, up to that point, everyone who flew to F-16 was used to tactile feedback when they moved a stick. Feedback the F-16 didn’t give. So they pushed or pulled harder.

        The plane did what it was designed to. But the lack of feedback made it difficult to fly and resulted in many pilots over controlling it.

        Finally, some one at General Dynamics made the decision to introduce some movement into the stick. Problem solved.

  • avatar
    Jaeger

    I have every confidence that when Chrysler investigates itself, if it should find itself grossly negligent and wholly responsible, it will candidly share those findings with the general public. Yep, seems like a reasonable expectation to me. Totally. No, really.

  • avatar
    Chi-One

    Gotta chime in here with my .02. I have a ’14 JGC with said shifter. While I’ll admit it’s not intuitive, in two and a half years I’ve yet to have a problem. It’s become second nature. Regarding the story, I can tell you with certainty that the victim’s JGC as well as all others have yet to have any recall work performed. The recall notice I received specifically states that NO parts are availabile at this time, it only includes a visor warning card. The notice states FCA will contact owners later when parts are in stock.

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Denver

      The owners or their heirs.

      I have a 2009 Routan that supposedly suffered from the key shutting itself off problem ( I never had this problem but I also don’t keep 10 lbs. of keys on my keychain) as did the other Chrysler built minivans. There was a “recall” in 2011 and 2014 in which they were supposed to install some 10 cent trim ring that didn’t work and finally last year they gave in and agreed to replace the ignition switches but of course they didn’t have the parts so it was months and months more before they finally fixed it. In the meantime, people could literally be dying.

      If a car really has a safety defect, you should get an overnight letter with instructions not to drive the car one more inch and telling you where to call so that a rental car can be dispatched to your house. Then the dealer should come and tow your car away and keep it until it is fixed. How much do you want to bet that it wouldn’t take 5 years to come up with a fix and the parts in that case?

      • 0 avatar
        Dave M.

        In 2009 I got a recall on the airbags in my Saab and they’d let me know when the parts were in and who would repair/replace. In 2016 I got a follow-up notice that the parts still weren’t in.

        Might take some time….

  • avatar
    seabrjim

    Could you imagine Smith &Wesson adopting this idiot logic? “Look, we’re different!” Like FCA went all BMW:why use 1 part when 7 will do. Hey mom, that thing in the trigger guard is the safety. That thing under your thumb, dont push it or the gun will BOOM! Mom? Hey mom, everything ok?

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      The State of California has enacted all sorts of stupid schit in order to make guns “more safe”, with an eye of making it much more difficult to buy or own a gun.

      Of course all that stupid schit has not stopped terrorists and criminals from obtaining guns to commit crimes and massacres.

      The vast majority of these legislators in America have no idea how huge the existing underground economy in guns is. And that does not include all the illegal guns that come across the borders and into the US.

      Just the illegal traffic in AKs alone has caused them to open another factory in Florida to make them in America. At least BATF can keep track of those made in America since they have no way to stem the flow of illegal weapons coming into the US from other sources.

  • avatar
    Chetter

    This is Murica. The column shifter does the job just fine.

    • 0 avatar
      Kenmore

      Damn straight. If it was good enough for Uncle Buck it’s plenty fine for me! And so are bench seats.

      If Buck could unhook the tubes and leave the wheelchair today he’d be looking for a column-shifting SUV.

  • avatar
    BobinPgh

    I was wondering if the automotive engineers learn of the Torrey Canyon accident in a college class? Torrey Canyon was an oil tanker that ran aground in the north sea in 1967, causing one of the first large oil tanker spills. Some of the blame for the incident was that the lever that controlled the direction of the ship did not have any “feel” so the captain did not know what direction it was programmed to travel. Sounds like someone at Chrysler did not watch Engineering Disasters about the Torrey Canyon.

  • avatar
    Ion

    I love how ignorant the B&B are in regards to new technology. This shifter still uses PRND. What the issue here is, is that the shifter ratchets instead of staying in a designated place on a shifter gate. The shifter indicates what gear its in using lights instead of a physical place on the center console.
    Now if the B&B will excuse me I’m going to go microwave my dinner whilst you technophobes strike rocks together to make fire.

    • 0 avatar
      Kenmore

      We don’t trust lights. Have to search for ’em in an always gaudy, overcrowded instrument cluster. Then you have to see them in every kind of glare that impinges upon said gaudy, ultra-reflective cluster. And you have to know exactly where to look for the damn little indicator that often migrates around with different brands and even between same-model updates.

      We don’t trust needlessly remote cues for a crucial vehicular function that should remain an instant, no-brain grasp of position recognition in a traditional and unchanging location because brain takes time.

      But we do trust silly ass kids flashing MB badges and saying “whilst” to give us an avuncular chuckle.

    • 0 avatar
      NickS

      Does you fridge speak? Cause the one we have here spoke and covered it all perfectly.

      P.S. Try cooking with fire, and you’ll never again call what comes out of a microwave “dinner”.

  • avatar
    pmirp1

    I blame this mess with new style transmission gears on BMW. They started this trendy style shift gears. While theirs may have fail safe systems built in, why reinvent the wheel when something already is so clearly understood by everyone, and everyone remembers how to shift it by feel and muscle memory. It is as though BMW wanted to just be different. After them, Audi and ZF came up with their system, then Chrysler, and I think even Caddy has systems like this now. It is all in pursuit of being cool and trendy, and has nothing to do with functional improvement. People should just refuse to buy these gimmicks in cars

  • avatar
    bullnuke

    This issue with Fiat-Chrysler brings to mind an incident in my childhood some 60 years or so ago. A lady at church came in one Sunday with crutches and a cast on her leg. She’d just bought a ’57 Plymouth with the push button selector for the transmission. As there wasn’t a “Park” lever to lock the tranny that year; she ended up getting run over by her new car when she, as happened to poor Anton, was checking her mail.

    • 0 avatar
      roverv8i

      A friend had the some transmission in a 62 Chrysler. There was a park level, it was the parking brake :) The foot brake engaged a set of brake shoes that clamped around the drive shaft just behind the transmission.

      In its defense, remember that autos were a new thing back then so a standard setup had not yet been fully established. That is really what the problem is today. We have not established an accepted minimum standard for electronic shifters. I would tend to agree with the thought that they should just stay like they always were< PRND. L is not mentioned because that is all about how we shift the forward gears manually. My car for instance is PRNDS, S for sport. I can shift manually in D with the paddles but it will revert back to auto once it senses I don't need it any more. S stays in Manual mode. Some one said the sifter in question is also PRND. True, you also shift to neutral with a bump and have to push the button for reverse and park. The thing that is at issue is I can shift into Park without looking, meaning with my eyes closed and I know it is in park. People are not used to have to do the visual confirmation. Shifting is a muscle thing, not a visual thing. In the JGC the parking brake is still a mechanical pedal. If you always used it no matter what you would still have that physical conformation that the vehicle was secured even if it was not as secure as it should be. (yes in this incident it is possible the hill was steep and an ill applied P brake may have not held).

      To sum up my thoughts –

      Bad design missing certain failsafes
      Use your parking brake PLEASE ( if it had no point they would have cost cut it out of the vehicle)
      Pay attention to recall notices (read them and heed them)
      Use your parking brake especially when you have just been told you vehicle may role away on you.
      The parking brake also saves wear on transaxle parts if you set it and if you car gets hit while parked it is less likely to role away.
      Seriously, use your parking brake.

  • avatar
    Lack Thereof

    Parking brakes! Use them!

    Always assume the gun is loaded, and always assume the car is planning to roll away.

    • 0 avatar
      roverv8i

      A-Man!

      Why are people so against this when it is already there to use? Redundancy is important for safety. You would not jump out of an airplane with out a reserve parachute would you? Just because you have never had an issue does not mean you will not.

      Most cars with mechanical keys have had interlocks on the transmission for years that prevent you from taking out your keys if its not in park. So the comments that something should make it shift to park are right on as I have a time or two tried to take out my key and realized I had not shifted into park. I’ve also done this in cars without the interlock, and not just 60’s cars, my 89 XT6 did not have one. But guess what, my car was still there when I got back because I have made it a habit to always engage the parking brake from the first day I started driving. So, this learned procedure paid off.

      Safety tomorrow is a day late as the saying goes.

    • 0 avatar
      JMII

      I normally drive a manual so the hand brake is always required. In many automatics I drive as rentals I notice they often creep forward (or backward) slightly after being put into park until the transmission finds whatever physical notch (pawl) locks the driveline (and wheels). It is very worrisome to “park” but then feel sudden movement right as you open the door to get out!

      On my automatic truck I always set the parking brake because normally my boat is hitched behind it and I’m often on a grade (IE: boat ramp). The extra weight plus the incline always scares me into taking that extra step. My truck is a Dodge and a concerned family member sent me a link to a notice about various Dodges rolling away… I believe some models were recalled but not all. Of course with many vehicles having an electronic parking brake these days how do you know its working? With a cable operated brake you can feel it tighten up, if the pedal goes to the floor = no brakes. With a button you just get a light in the dash but no real feedback.

  • avatar

    All this drama and it doesn’t even have the 6.2-L Supercharged HELLCAT engine yet…

  • avatar
    RicInRVA

    So why aren’t the other ZF transmission users being castigated as well. My F10 528 has the same faults. The shifter is totally non intuitive.

    And whats the remedy?

    At them minimum one would think that if the car door opens with no speed the car should go into park. With the electronics I would think that would be simple.

    • 0 avatar

      With a traditional automatic shifter, I can keep the door open, with one leg out of the car (at my own risk) while driving forward or reversing into a parking spot – such as if I’m at a car wash and the car washers need to set the car up into the pulley.

      Here’s the problem…

      This “monostatic” “return-to-center” nonsense was a bad idea from the very beginning and now it’s finally caught up with us – by KILLING A BELOVED STAR.

      In my video I said it so perfectly: THE DEATH THRESHOLD.

      The new 2016 Jeep Shifter is basically the same as every old automatic shift stick I’ve used. What I trained on during Driver’s Ed in a Honda civic back in 1998.

      When you put the vehicle in PARK or REVERSE there is an instantaneous sensation of movement – of the gears switching and bumping – that these monostatic models – regardless the vehicle – do NOT offer.

      HERE’S MY SOLUTION:

      RECALL all the “effected” models…

      Replace the shifter.

      Replace the shifter with “shift buttons” (like Lincoln has).

      or…replace the shifter with the 2016’s shifter.

  • avatar
    mtmmo

    I vote for the 2016 shifter set-up. My company car is a TLX V6 with the push button gear selector and I find it super annoying. Sometimes I have to hit the Parking button twice to ensure it lights up and engages. Give me a gear shifter that I can physically move! Thank God it’s a company car.

  • avatar
    jmp2006

    I understand that I’ll probably be in the minority on this, but I don’t see the big deal with this new shifter design. Yes, I can see how it can cause an issue, but I don’t understand why there is such an uproar from people who purchased these vehicles in the first place.

    If you bought a car with this shifter:

    – Did you not test drive the car before you bought it?
    – Did you not notice the difference in the shifter operation?
    – If so, why did you dismiss it and bought the car anyway?

    In my opinion, again probably in the minority here, it’s your responsibility to learn how to operate the vehicles that YOU purchased/own. It’s tragic that it may have cost a young man his life, but ultimately, it was his responsibility to operate HIS vehicle properly.

    • 0 avatar
      hubcap

      I can’t say for this sifter design as I’ve never used it. Even if I had and had no problems with it that doesn’t mean that it’s not a bad design.

      Google *human factors automobile* or *human factors aviation* to get a taste of how human factors should be considered when designing a human-machine interface.

      I understand what you’re saying but it’s more nuanced than that.

      • 0 avatar
        jmp2006

        I certainly understand the “human factors” in a design, but having said that, I feel that this is no different than different designs of manual gearboxes. Yeah, most of them are the same, with “R” being bottom-right, but there are those that have “R” in the top-left position. Or the dog-leg boxes where 1st is bottom-left vs. the “normal” top-left position.

        In this case, specifically, the PRNDL is actually still preserved, it’s just that the lever returns to the center.

        At what point does the “human factor” become the “human’s” responsibility – even a little bit? At some point you have to take responsibility and go “oh, hey, this is a little bit different, I need to pay attention to that.”

        • 0 avatar
          hubcap

          “At some point you have to take responsibility and go “oh, hey, this is a little bit different, I need to pay attention to that.””

          Yes sometimes. But other times it’s a bad design that introduces a bit of confusion.

          I don’t know what case this shifter is. Probably some of both.

          But you’re asking someone to pay attention to something that previously required little effort.

          Actions and expectations become ingrained and must be accounted for.

          I come form an aviation background and have seen similar occurrences with various corrections applied.

          Some as simple as an additional placard or more training. Others that had to rethink the way the system was implemented.

          As an example think of a pilot whose is used to performing a specific action when seeing a certain light.

          A change comes down and now, after performing that action hundreds or even thousands of times, the required action is changed.

          This has the potential to be a problem and yes, you do need to pay attention to it and yes, so do those who designed it to function in a particular way.

          I know this is a simple and contrived example but it has real life echoes.

  • avatar
    PandaBear

    Sorry that this young man died. This is the reason we shouldn’t trust a car not in parking brake and in parked gear / speed / shift and with engine off at the same time. At least the car will alarm you when you open the door with it not in park for safety reason.

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