Almost every rental car I’ve driven, regardless of make or model, in the last 18 to 24 months, particularly in the Bay Area and especially if the car has 20,000 or more miles, has the passenger detection system for turning the airbag on/off broken. Ford, GM, Hyundai, Kia, Nissan, it doesn’t matter. Sedan, SUV, sports car, again it doesn’t matter.
The first time it happened was in a Malibu. I’m driving with an alarm going off and I keep scanning the dashboard for a message or idiot light. Pulled over and checked the doors were all closed and trunk closed. Then I noticed the blinking light for the passenger seat seatbelt not being buckled and that a passenger is detected in the front seat. Nothing was in the seat, not even a piece of paper. After I secured the seatbelt for the invisible passenger the alarm stopped. I had to drive the car that way for the rest of my trip.
This has repeated itself in almost every rental I’ve had since. The most recent frustration was a 2017 Kia Optima I just had, which again required me to drive around with the passenger seatbelt buckled for the invisible passenger.
Does this mean that my personal vehicles will eventually befall the same fate? Is there something that rental car drivers are doing that abuse this system? Does California have a different standard? What gives?
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