With New Technology Comes New Ways to Die

Anthony Magagnoli
by Anthony Magagnoli
with new technology comes new ways to die

Since 2005, 37 deaths by carbon monoxide poisoning have been attributed to vehicles with keyless ignitions that were inadvertently left running. Automatic engine shutoff is not currently mandated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, so manufacturer’s application of the technology is sporadic. But the PARK IT Act wants to change that.

As reported by the Detroit Free Press, many vehicles with keyless ignition have the ability to be left running indefinitely, even if the key fob has left the vehicle. “Auto safety experts say it’s an ongoing problem. They want legislation mandating that automakers install automatic engine shutoffs — along with software that would make a car immobile if a driver left it in gear.”

“In February, a proposed law dubbed the PARK IT Act was introduced in the U.S. Senate. A House version was introduced June 6. The name stands for Protecting Americans from the Risk of Keyless Technology. It seeks the following:

  • That automakers be required to provide an automatic shutoff for keyless internal combustion engines when the car has been idling for a designated period of time.
  • That carmakers add an anti-rollaway feature to immobilize a car if a driver exits it, but leaves it in gear.
  • It mandates that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issue rules within two years of the law’s passage.”

Part of the issue is that keyless ignitions don’t work like a physical key. There is not an ignition interlock that’s broken if the key leaves the vehicle. The Start/Stop button is still what controls the ignition so, without an automatic shutoff strategy, the vehicle could continue running until it runs out of fuel. Add in the fact that many cars can idle whisper-quietly, and you could envision how someone could be in a hurry — with hands full — forgetting to turn off the car. If that happened in a closed garage that’s attached to a home, the occupants could be in real danger.

It’s not that the automakers are ignorant to the fact that their vehicles can remain running after the driver leaves with the key. There are a variety of beeps, chimes, and messages that are used to notify a driver that they left the vehicle running. According to the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers spokesman Wade Newton, the Society of Automotive Engineers have recommended practices that are followed by current designs and operations. However, these focus on consumer understanding of the systems and acting responsibly, rather than leaning upon preventative strategies.

Auto engine shutoff should not be terribly difficult or expensive to implement, as the vehicle already knows when the key has left the range of its interior. It would require a glorified timer to be implemented to automatically turn off the engine after a predetermined period. How long that should be would likely fall between the length of time that an engine could be kept running for practical purposes and how long it would take to put someone near the vehicle at risk for carbon monoxide poisoning.

The only useful purpose I could see for not implementing an automatic engine shutoff would be if someone wanted to leave A/C or heat running for an occupant while they left the car. We all know the dangers of leaving pets and children in hot cars. It would be tragic if someone didn’t realize that their car would shut itself down and this led to a death.

They key for the consumer may be to know your vehicle. Unfortunately, modern vehicles have become so complex that it takes a relatively studious mind to become intimately familiar with them. Driving a new or unfamiliar car would reset this learning curve, as there is not yet a universal standard among all manufacturers for keyless ignition functions.

Auto engine shutoff, in some version, is offered on most cars from Ford, GM, and FCA. Toyota Motor North America announced last week that it will add automatic engine shutoff and automatic park technology to its 2020 model year lineup. It would be beneficial if a standard was created to commonize the strategies among all carmakers’ keyless ignition vehicles and the PARK IT Act seems to me like a step in the right direction.

[Images: Toyota; Buick]

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  • Hummer Hummer on Jun 20, 2019

    Just require exhausts to be louder, I love listening to the sweet sound of an LS3, everyone can tell if my car is on or off stock from the factory.

  • Inside Looking Out Inside Looking Out on Jun 20, 2019

    I said it before and I am saying that again - ICE vehicles are evil and out there on mission to kill us humans. Congress has to address this problem with urgency once and for all and outlaw ICE vehicles in coming years. EVs thanks to Tesla become a practical alternatives and if we outlaw ICE EV infrastructure will quickly develop because there would be no other alternative. Outlawing ICE vehicles solves so many problems on so many levels that it is not even funny how we tolerated such a horrible piece of technology for so long.

  • Nrd515 Usually for me it's been Arby's for pretty much forever, except when the one near my house dosed me with food poisoning twice in about a year. Both times were horrible, but the second time was just so terrible it's up near the top of my medical horror stories, and I have a few of those. Obviously, I never went to that one again. I'm still pissed at Arby's for dropping Potato Cakes, and Culver's is truly better anyway. It will be Arby's fish for my "cheat day", when I eat what I want. No tartar sauce and no lettuce on mine, please. And if I get a fish and a French Dip & Swiss? Keep the Swiss, and the dip, too salty. Just the meat and the bread for me, thanks. The odds are about 25% that they will screw one or both of them up and I will have to drive through again to get replacement sandwiches. Culver's seems to get my order right many times in a row, but if I hurry and don't check my order, that's when it's screwed up and garbage to me. My best friend lives on Starbucks coffee. I don't understand coffee's appeal at all. Both my sister and I hate anything it's in. It's like green peppers, they ruin everything they touch. About the only things I hate more than coffee are most condiments, ranked from most hated to..who cares..[list=1][*]Tartar sauce. Just thinking about it makes me smell it in my head. A nod to Ranch here too. Disgusting. [/*][*]Mayo. JEEEEZUS! WTF?[/*][*]Ketchup. Sweet puke tasting sludge. On my fries? Salt. [/*][*]Mustard. Yikes. Brown, yellow, whatever, it's just awful.[/*][*]Pickles. Just ruin it from the pickle juice. No. [/*][*]Horsey, Secret, whatever sauce. Gross. [/*][*]American Cheese. American Sleeze. Any cheese, I don't want it.[/*][*]Shredded lettuce. I don't hate it, but it's warm and what's the point?[/*][*]Raw onion. Totally OK, but not something I really want. Grilled onions is a whole nother thing, I WANT those on a burger.[/*][*]Any of that "juice" that Subway and other sandwich places want to put on. NO, HELL NO! Actually, move this up to #5. [/*][/list=1]
  • SPPPP It seems like a really nice car that's just still trying to find its customer.
  • MRF 95 T-Bird I owned an 87 Thunderbird aka the second generation aero bird. It was a fine driving comfortable and very reliable car. Quite underrated compared to the GM G-body mid sized coupes since unlike them they had rack and pinion steering and struts on all four wheels plus fuel injection which GM was a bit late to the game on their mid and full sized cars. When I sold it I considered a Mark VII LSC which like many had its trouble prone air suspension deleted and replaced with coils and struts. Instead I went for a MN-12 Thunderbird.
  • SCE to AUX Somebody got the bill of material mixed up and never caught it.Maybe the stud was for a different version (like the 4xe) which might use a different fuel tank.
  • Inside Looking Out Scandinavian design costs only $600? I mean the furniture.