A government investigation has concluded that 266 crashes and up to 68 injuries have been caused by confusing shifters in a number of vehicles built by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA).
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration released the numbers on Tuesday, although the investigation into the matter was closed when FCA agreed to recall 1.1 million vehicles equipped with the problem shifters. There are also 686 consumer complaints logged about the shifter.
The issue is with the design of the shifter. Rather than the shift lever itself moving to slot into gear, it is operated like a joystick where you push forward or backwards to choose the gear you want, and then the lever returns to a center position. Thanks to its finicky design, many drivers believed they had placed the vehicle in Park, when it was actually still in gear. This caused rollaways which resulted in the multitude of accidents, injuries and it looks like at least one death.
Actor Anton Yelchin of Star Trek fame was killed recently after his Jeep Grand Cherokee rolled away and pinned him against a pillar at his house. FCA and NHTSA are currently investigating that situation to find out what went wrong.
To fix the issue, FCA has developed software that will make the warning alarms even louder if the driver door is open and the vehicle is not in park. The software will also automatically shift the vehicle to park if the driver door is opened while it is running and in gear.
The shifters are found in the Jeep Grand Cherokee, Dodge Charger and Chrysler 300.
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