A huge lawsuit against ten of the world’s largest automakers was quietly filed last summer.
The suit claims at least 13 people have died due to a major safety defect in automobiles made by BMW/MINI, Mercedes-Benz, FIAT/Chrysler, Ford, General Motors, Honda/Acura, Hyundai/Kia, Nissan/Infiniti, Toyota/Lexus, and Volkswagen/Bentley.
The issue has nothing to do with airbags, faulty ignitions, or sudden unintended acceleration. The problem is with a system we all take for granted that no one thought could end up killing people.
The Start/Stop button.
This lawsuit is different from those before it, because there’s nothing actually faulty about the system in question. The Start/Stop button serves its intended purpose of starting the engine when pushed and stopping it when pushed again.
The problem, it seems, is that people assume the engine will stop when the key fob is removed from the vicinity of the car.
NBC News says,
According to the complaint filed in Los Angeles federal court, carbon monoxide is emitted when drivers leave their vehicles running after taking their electronic key fobs with them, under the mistaken belief that the engines will shut off.
The plaintiffs said this can injure or have “deadly” results for people who inhale the colorless and odorless gas, including when vehicles are left in garages attached to homes. They also said the defect reduces their vehicles’ resale values.
After reading the NBC story, I didn’t understand why people were starting their cars in closed garages, then leaving the cars unattended. Only after a little more research did the problem become a little clearer.
After returning home and parking in their garages, people have been getting out of the cars without pushing the “Stop” button and assuming the car would turn off once the key fob was out of the vicinity. The carbon monoxide from the exhaust would slowly fill the garage, and then the attached home–sometimes with deadly consequences.
Who’s at fault here? This one seems like common sense to me, because people shouldn’t leave a car in the garage with the engine still running.
A CNN story though, went a little deeper and mentioned this:
For example, in gasoline-electric hybrid cars, the engine may not be running at all when the driver first gets out of the vehicle. The engine could come on later, though, after power in the vehicles’ batteries runs low.
That could be a problem. It’s understandable that someone could park a hybrid car without knowing the gas engine was still on. If it’s essentially idling on electric power, it’ll continue to idle using gas once the batteries wear down.
It’s unknown how this lawsuit will play out, but while we wait, please get into the habit of always pushing the “Stop” button before getting out of your vehicle.
Does your car have a Start/Stop button?