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article imageConfusing gear shifters seemingly causing crashes

By Michael Thomas     Feb 8, 2016 in Technology
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is expanding its investigation into some Fiat Chrysler gear shifters after reports linked them to a number of crashes.
The NHTSA released a notice Feb. 3 of an "engineering analysis" of a few Fiat Chrysler vehicle models, specifically the 2014 and 2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee, the 2012-2014 Dodge Charger and the Chrysler 300 sedan with a 3.6 L engine.
The investigation looks into the models' Monostable electronic gearshifts (or e-shifts), which seem to be confusing for some people. It has led to 314 complaints and 121 crashes, with 30 reported injuries and no deaths. The most common complaint involves the driver not knowing whether or not the gear is in "park" or not, leading to roll-aways and potential injuries to pedestrians.
Consumerist notes the total number of models investigated now totals some 856,000. That's about double the number of vehicles when the investigation began in August 2015.
E-shift systems input driver gear preferences electronically into the Transmission Control Module. However, in some Chrysler models, the shifter doesn't physically move and stays in a central or neutral position, which can fool some users. A chime will go off when a door is opened and the vehicle isn't in "park," and the engine will also not properly turn off in any other gear position. A message will also notify drivers that the car isn't in "park."
The problem with this system is people who intentionally leave the car running or don't notice the engine hasn't shut off will leave the car without knowing whether or not it's properly parked, investigators say. The investigation will examine the scope, frequency, and safety-related consequences of the e-shift issue.
Fiat Chrysler told the Associated Press that it is cooperating with investigators. It has reportedly changed the gear-shift system in its 2016 Grand Cherokee and 2015 Chargers and 300 sedans.
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