Federal officials want to standardize a popular feature found in many newer-model automobiles after several deaths around the country were blamed on the technology.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration this month offered several rules connected to keyless ignition technology, where a fob replaces a traditional key. Among them: audible alerts when a driver tries to turn off the vehicle without putting it in park and a standardized half-second requirement to turn off a push-button ignition.
Keyless ignitions have been eyed in at least three deaths -- one in New York and two in Florida -- caused drivers inadvertently left engines running in the garages attached to their homes. Carbon monoxide poisoning resulted, with the victims dying in their sleep.
The feature is also at the center of a widely-publicized deadly crash in California where a family was killed when the driver, a skilled highway patrol officer, couldn’t stop the loaner Lexus he was driving. Sudden acceleration was suspected, and his apparent inability to push the on/off button considered a factor.
In that case, the Lexus required a full three seconds in order to direct the engine to shut off. Drivers who have had similar, harrowing experiences say the three second timeline is counter-intuitive.
"No one is going to think to push the button for three seconds when you're facing the kind of dangers I had on the road that day," motorist Jeff Pepski told NBC Chicago last year.
NHTSA's Notice of Proposed Rulemaking: