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Jeep/Chrysler's New Gearshift Appears To Be Causing Accidents (roadandtrack.com) 567

bartle writes: The new gearshift design for the Jeep Grand Cherokee appears to be causing rollaway accidents: 121 crashes and 30 injuries so far. The gear shifter is designed to look and feel similar to a traditional automatic gear shift lever but it is meant to cycle through the gears rather than move directly to a certain gear. A driver who is used to placing their vehicle in park by pressing the shifter all the way forward may instead be setting it to neutral before exiting the vehicle. The NHTSA is investigating.
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Jeep/Chrysler's New Gearshift Appears To Be Causing Accidents

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  • Should we hold back progress in to protect people from injury, should we penalize the RTFM challenged individuals, or something else?
    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 09, 2016 @06:37PM (#51474065)

      I dunno. Is this gearshifter 'progress' or is it just a gimmick gone wrong?

      • by thechemic ( 1329333 ) on Tuesday February 09, 2016 @06:42PM (#51474111)
        Well... instead of taking action one time with one lever, they "simplified" it, and now you have to actuate the same mechanism several times in order to achieve the same result. This would definitely be considered "progress" in the eyes of Apple.
        • by Dan East ( 318230 ) on Tuesday February 09, 2016 @07:41PM (#51474647) Homepage Journal

          This reminds me of the worst interface design I've seen in a long time. This Holmes heater: http://www.amazon.com/Holmes-H... [amazon.com]

          Brilliant idea. One single button. You have to push it repeatedly to go through every temperature setting with low fan, then press it repeatedly to go through all the temperatures again in high fan speed. Absolutely the stupidest design I've ever seen. I would like to see them design a computer keyboard. Those brilliant minds would give us a keyboard with one button you press repeatedly a hundred times to enter a single character.

          • Sounds exactly like Hakko soldering gear, you pay >$500 for soldering station and end up with 1985 alarm clock/wristwatch type of interface for setting up temperature.

            • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

              I have both digital and analogue Hakko irons. I think you misunderstand what the interface is designed to do. To be fair, the English manual doesn't explain it all that well.

              Hakko irons are used in production environments. You don't want stray button presses to alter the iron temperature. You want a very definite sequence of inputs to do that. The newer ones have a little plastic key that blocks input when removed, but they retained the old button press sequence because people were already familiar with it.

          • by Immerman ( 2627577 ) on Tuesday February 09, 2016 @10:46PM (#51475923)

            Ugh, yeah, I hate those sorts of design decisions. I challenge the assertion that it's a brilliant idea though, except perhaps in a "sounds good in advertisements" way - there's a reason buttons tend to show up in groups, because individually they are an *extremely* limited interface.

            You can't efficiently choose between more than two states with a single button - cycling is pretty much your only option without a non-trivial tap-code. And that means, on average, cycling through half of the states to get where you want to be. Multiple buttons can be used to reduce the problem by cycling through orthogonal options, or even offering a discrete button for each state.

            Personally I prefer multistate switches: Twist the knob (or slide the slider) to the position that reflects your desire and be done with it. One single motion chooses between several options, and once you establish muscle-memory you can achieve precise results as soon as your hand finds a single control, even in complete darkness.

            But sadly cost is typically a high design priority, and buttons are usually cheaper to integrate into a device than multistate switches, and the fewer the buttons the cheaper. Which leads to cool-sounding ad copy being used to spin cost-cutting compromises into slick-sounding "features"

      • by penguinoid ( 724646 ) on Tuesday February 09, 2016 @06:54PM (#51474245) Homepage Journal

        Just wait til you hear my idea -- just do the shifting from a touchscreen! I'll link you the Kickstarter once I've filed the patent.

      • by sims 2 ( 994794 )

        Well there's a reason why we don't use the P-N-D-L-R layout anymore. Mainly it was dangerous and got people killed.

        Also you do realise modern vehicles imitate the clicking noise the bimetal blinker switches made just because people expect it.

        I've got a chevrolet that has a problem with multitasking it can't play the seatbelt warning at the same time as the turn signal. so I get this funny click click click click ding ding click click click click....Like no one's going to notice the turn signal magically wen

    • by bev_tech_rob ( 313485 ) on Tuesday February 09, 2016 @06:44PM (#51474143)

      Why is re-inventing the wheel called progress? What is wrong with the old system? Like the article says, most folks have committed that shifter operation to muscle memory years ago. Why change the way the shift works 'because it is new' ?

      Like working a helpdesk in IT, users are creatures of habit and when you start moving their cheese, this kind of stuff happens.

      • And if you're never allowed to move their cheese, you could never effect "progress" could you. Sometimes you have to move their cheese, and sometimes you have to let "this kind of stuff" happen. Sometimes you even have to do it with very small incremental changes. Since you used the helpdesk reference, perhaps just like the small incremental changes in every iterations of Windows.
        • by hawguy ( 1600213 ) on Tuesday February 09, 2016 @06:58PM (#51474307)

          And if you're never allowed to move their cheese, you could never effect "progress" could you. Sometimes you have to move their cheese, and sometimes you have to let "this kind of stuff" happen. Sometimes you even have to do it with very small incremental changes. Since you used the helpdesk reference, perhaps just like the small incremental changes in every iterations of Windows.

          You can move the cheese, but don't replace it with a box of poison that looks just like the cheese.

          If they want to change the UI for a shifter, they should make it completely different, not make something that looks, and superficially feels the same while in actuality it's quite different. What they did is akin to wanting to have a joy-stick instead of a steering wheel, but instead of just putting in an obvious joystick, they made it look just like a steering wheel.

          • by djbckr ( 673156 ) on Tuesday February 09, 2016 @07:14PM (#51474449)
            I'll chime in with a great example of moved cheese: The Prius. The "shifter" is nothing like any other, and yet it's intuitive. It had a separate button for park (as I recall - I got rid of it). It was very straightforward to use, yet completely different than a standard PRNDL shifter.
          • by tlhIngan ( 30335 )

            If they want to change the UI for a shifter, they should make it completely different, not make something that looks, and superficially feels the same while in actuality it's quite different. What they did is akin to wanting to have a joy-stick instead of a steering wheel, but instead of just putting in an obvious joystick, they made it look just like a steering wheel.

            If you look at the picture, you're supposed to "upshift" it into Park, so you'd hit up to go from D to N, then up again to go from N to R, th

          • by unrtst ( 777550 )

            Agreed, and continuing that line of thought...

            What they did is akin to wanting to have a joy-stick instead of a steering wheel, but instead of just putting in an obvious joystick, they made it look just like a steering wheel.

            ... and it only moves 1" to the right or left and snaps back to center when you release. You hold it left and your wheels will keep turning more and more left - harder you hold, faster it turns. Let go, and it stays in that turned spot.
            That would be insane, and that's exactly what they did. Luckily, the gear change operation is generally done while stationary with the brake on, and only done at the start of driving once done, so accident counts are low and not s

          • Also, the (possibly trained) driver isn't going to be the only person to ever sit behind the wheel. Valets, mechanics, and friends will all take turns driving over the years. Is Joe Driver going to remember that the pattern he's learned and committed to muscle memory over months of driving is unexpected, and to warn everyone he gives the keys to? This is bad UI, pure and simple.

        • So everyone is using a DVORAK keyboard now, and nobody is saying you can have my QWERTY keyboard when you pry it from my cold dead hands?
        • by sims 2 ( 994794 )

          Thats right because everyone loved the new office ribbon menu system. And people loved the windows 8 metro screen even more than that! Because everyone wants to relearn how to drive a car every time they get a new one. I can just imagine: Great news everyone we've improved the steering now when you turn the steering wheel left your vehicle turns to the right on any 2017. ;-)

      • by fred911 ( 83970 )

        Oh you mean like three on the tree, or brightlight switches on the floorboard? Or were you talking about pedal activated starters?

          Just wondering how far you de-evolve.

        • Now you are just getting cranky? Break your arm or something? Remember, retard the timing and turn on the ignition before you pull... (Yes, I've done it and NO I'm not that old).
      • There has to be something to distinguish the Chrysler transmission from the pack, other than that they all die at 90,000 miles.

    • If your friend loans you their car do you read the manual? Or do you, like most people would, assume that the car's gear shift works like every other car out there?

      I wouldn't be so quick to criticize other people because one car manufacturer decided to change what has been a defacto standard for longer than you have probably been alive.

      And how is adding steps progress? I really hope you were trying to be sarcastic, and if that is the case I apologies for my mildly snarky comment.
      • But cars aren't all the same. For example my car doesn't have a hand brake lever, it has a pedal down in the foot well and a release lever under the dash. Now here is something for you to consider..... It's a manual. The first time you have to do a hill start in it, you will have a mild panic.

        Panic that is until you learn that if you press the brake pedal hard the brakes stay locked on even with your foot off the brake and auto disengage as you start to move forward.

    • I don't think anyone is holding back anything. The gear shifters in question, introduced in the Charger and 300 in 2012, have been replaced in those 2 cars for 2015 and were replaced in the Cherokee for 2016. They already got replaced and now they're being investigated because they are "not intuitive" and offer "poor tactile and visual feedback to the driver, increasing the potential for unintended gear selection." Fiat Chrysler was probably generally aware of that, which is why they replaced them, but t

    • Or let natural selection take its course. If god had intended us to have simulated gearshift joysticks he'd never have created the Muncie 4 speed.

    • 1) Nobody RTFM when they buy a new car
      2) Nobody RTFM when the rent a car
      The industry had standard, and Chrysler deviated from the standard. The benefit to deviating from the standard is nonexistent. The drawback is a safety concern.

      It reminds me of push button start. Once you get over the "Gee Whiz" factor, it's a safety concern. [consumerreports.org]
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      My girlfriend has a Charger that has one of these shifters. I've been driving for 20 years, and the times I've driven her car, I have mistakenly put it in the wrong gear several times.

      The problem isn't that the shifter operates differently, it's that it feels like a traditional shifter and operates completely differently. Change the mechanism so that it's a push button, dial, switches, whatever. Just not the way automatic transmissions have traditionally been if it's going to act differently.

      Having said tha

    • Should we hold back progress in to protect people from injury, should we penalize the RTFM challenged individuals, or something else?

      There are two issues here. The first is new technology and the second is user training.

      I have a 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee. The shifter acts just like a joystick, changing gears with a bump instead of going into a mechanical position. This forces the user to have to look at the dash, which shows the shift position, or at the top of the shift stick, shift position is lit. This would be a transition for people who have never used joysticks and who are used to muscle memory to determine what gear the shifter

    • by sjames ( 1099 )

      What progress? It's a gimmick.

      If you want progress, go with a simple rotary switch that doesn't take up the whole center console or fool people into operating it incorrectly.. If you want all electronic but maintaining a familiar look and feel, go with a multi-position switch actuated by a gear lever with stiff dentents.

  • by RoknrolZombie ( 2504888 ) on Tuesday February 09, 2016 @06:34PM (#51474049) Homepage

    Isn't that why they have an emergency brake?

    • I know right?
    • by TWX ( 665546 )
      Mmmhmm. They actually state in the owner's manual that one is supposed to use the parking brake when parking. Few people actually do, but that's contrary to the directions.
      • Use of the parking brake seems to vary with the terrain and climate conditions of where you grew up and where your current residence is. I grew up on the U.S. west coast, where there are plenty of hills, and the whether is usually above freezing. On the other hand, I once visited my buddy in Illinois at the tail end of winter, and he practically yelled at me for setting the parking brake afterwards stating "You've never had your brake pads freeze to your rotors, overnight, have you?" (Illinois is also very,
    • by adolf ( 21054 )

      Maybe.

      Rented a Chrysler 200S recently. The gear selector was a purely electronic rotary plastic knob with almost zero resistance or mechanical feedback, the parking brake was an electronic button beside it, there was no emergency brake to speak of, and there was no ignition key or mechanical switch, but just a button.

      All the R'ing the FM in the world can't fix a stupid design.

      • I see. So if there's some catastrophic failure of the computerized control systems of the vehicle, you can't even yank hard on a lever or push as hard as you can down on a pedal to engage a mechanical emergency brake? Is there even a direct mechanical connection between the regular brake pedal and the brake master cylinder?
        • If it's an actual "emergency brake" it's not connected to the hydraulics at all...

          Most of these things are safer not being under human control anyway, like being able to put the car in park at 80MPH on the freeway, or engaging the emergency brake in the same situation. If you're not the panicky idiot that everyone else in the world is, perhaps you can ease on a handbrake, but most people are going to yank it on, lock the rear wheels and spin out.

          Sure, if the systems all fail you're left (maybe) with engine

        • by Pascoea ( 968200 )

          you can't even yank hard on a lever or push as hard as you can down on a pedal to engage a mechanical emergency brake?

          Nope. Purely electronic. Push the button and you can hear a "whiiiiiiiiir, scronk" to indicate the parking brake has engaged. (Subaru Legacy).

          Is there even a direct mechanical connection between the regular brake pedal and the brake master cylinder?

          Yup, there is a link there. But there is an electronic device (ABS actuator) sitting between the master and slave cylinders.

          I have no idea if there is a physical link between gear shift and the transmission

          Aint progress grand?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Woldscum ( 1267136 )

      Also because standard transmissions unfortunately are going the way of the dodo. The CVs and new 5,6,7 and 8 speed auto transmissions get better MPG than the standards. Wild ass guess that 75% of the drivers in the US cannot drive a standard transmission and never use the emergency brake. And I bet that number is in the 95% range in the SUV owner (Soccer moms) group.

      • by Kozar_The_Malignant ( 738483 ) on Tuesday February 09, 2016 @07:00PM (#51474323)
        The best anti-theft device you can have in your car is a manual transmission.
        • I hear ya... Who wants to steal a crappy car with a manual transmission anyway?

          I buy the manual because it's cheaper and lasts longer and I'm only interested in getting to point a to point b for as long as possible as cheaply as possible. Nobody want's my car because it's a bare bones pile of loosely related scrap metal and used car parts for most of the time I drive it.

      • Yep, I used to be a manual transmission lover too. (Note, they're not "standard transmissions"; you must be over 65 years old if you're using that terminology still.) I drove a stick for 20 years. But my new car that I just got is an auto, because they finally fixed all the problems with autos: the fuel economy is noticeably better than manuals, they shift nicely now (both in smoothness and in responsiveness), and they're reliable now. I still *always* set my parking brake; I never broke that habit, and

      • Wild ass guess that 75% of the drivers in the US cannot drive a standard transmission and never use the emergency brake.

        Only if your polling driver under 30-35 because standard transmissions where fairly popular not that many years ago, you are probably right about the parking break unless they have standard transmission they probably will never use it.

        If your manual says it's an emergency brake then I disagree with the manufacture too, at no point should a cable lock system on the brakes be considered an emergency brake it's a parking break.

    • A cable that locks the brakes is not an emergency brake as a matter of fact if you are moving and engage it you are likely to cause an emergency. Why does everyone insist on calling the parking brake an emergency brake.

  • My Kia won't let me take the key out of the ignition unless the shifter is in park. You're saying my econobox has more safety features than a luxury Jeep?

    • Have you tried removing the key in neutral?

    • by arth1 ( 260657 )

      My Kia won't let me take the key out of the ignition unless the shifter is in park. You're saying my econobox has more safety features than a luxury Jeep?

      Modern cars beyond old-design entry level models tend to not have ignition keys you have to physically insert. Keeping it in the pocket is good enough.

      However, they normally won't let you turn the engine off unless you're in park, the exception being tow/car wash mode, where you have to jump through an extra hoop to say that yes, you want to leave it in neutral.

      • And of course, especially when it's colder out, tons of assholes---sorry, I mean "people"---leave their cars running when they go into a store or such.
    • yes.

    • My Kia won't let me take the key out of the ignition unless the shifter is in park. You're saying my econobox has more safety features than a luxury Jeep?

      I believe that all of the Jeeps now have keyless ignition... No key to remove...

      Plus, the article clearly says that many of these cases are when people are leaving the car running. In these situations, they wouldn't be taking out the key, even in the Kia. For example, when getting out of the car to throw something in the back, to pick someone up, etc.

  • I guess it's time to shift gears and try something else.

  • returning to its center position once you've selected your gear.

    Who thought THAT was a good idea? So they thought it would be a good idea to have a shifter be in the same position REGARDLESS OF WHETHER IT IS IN NEUTRAL, DRIVE, REVERSE, OR PARK? Man, I'm amazed that got beyond the first round of design review.

    • The guy that invented the sequential motorcycle transmission? Seriously, this isn't new at all.

      • by dwywit ( 1109409 )

        Exactly. With rare exceptions (such as kid's entry-level bikes), motorbikes have a manual clutch and a foot-operated sequential shift gearbox. It's one of the first things you learn, i.e. how to coordinate throttle, clutch, and gears to be in the right gear at the right time.

        Except that riding a motorcycle generally takes more concentration, more engagement with the vehicle itself, so those skills will be lacking unless you've actually spent some time on a motorbike, and the vast majority of cagers have not

      • Motorcycles don't have park, and only overstuffed pigs meant to be ridden by overstuffed pigs have a reverse.
    • I agree it's pretty stupid, but the stupidity is in making the shifter look exactly like the traditional shifter. Some cars have had sequential shifters for some time now ("flappy paddles") and they stay in the same position whatever gear you're in, so that part of it isn't the problem. The problem is the placement and appearance of the control, which misleads the driver into thinking it works differently than it actually does.

      Sequential gearboxes are a good thing in some situations - they're faster to sh
  • by Dereck1701 ( 1922824 ) on Tuesday February 09, 2016 @08:09PM (#51474855)

    "In Fiat Chrysler vehicles equipped with this shifter design, opening the driver's door when the car is not in Park triggers a chime and an instrument cluster alert, and the engine cannot be turned off with the car in gear"

    I'm guessing "chime and alert" is a roundabout way of saying the car screams at you "hey moron, you left the car in gear!" the dash lights up like a Christmas tree.

  • Keyless ignition (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jbwolfe ( 241413 ) on Tuesday February 09, 2016 @09:14PM (#51475293) Homepage
    Anyone recall the Toyota driver whose accelerator got stuck (for whatever reason) and he reported he could not turn the engine off because it had a keyless ignition. Family of three lost their lives. Car makers need to avoid creating a paradigm that offers no benefit.
  • by Zobeid ( 314469 ) on Tuesday February 09, 2016 @09:22PM (#51475345)

    I own one of these vehicles, and I can attest that the shifter design is awkward and confusing. The shifter paddles are another gripe, since they're effectively useless on this type of vehicle, but it's easy to hit one without realizing it when making a turn, then you have to figure out what's wrong, and then figure out how to get it out of manual mode. And the design fails are not limited to the shifter. All the controls in this vehicle are a user interface disaster. After owning mine for more than a year, I still find it awkward, and the touch screen interface for the infotainment and climate control still befuddles me at some times and infuriates me at others. And just to add an extra special touch of irritation, the stereo automatically comes on playing satellite radio whenever the vehicle is started, and there's no way to configure it not to. I've just learned to hit the mute button every time I start the car.

    The utter failure of the Jeep's user interface was really pounded home to me when I was loaned a Tesla Model S for a week and a half. The huge touch panel looked alien at first glance, but I mastered most of its functions just by poking at it for about five minutes, and everything was golden after that.

  • by Archfeld ( 6757 ) <treboreel@live.com> on Tuesday February 09, 2016 @11:36PM (#51476217) Journal

    For any of you 'gearheads' this is just a reincarnation of the old school ratchet shifter. I had a 'cuda when I was in HS, a loooong time ago, that had this type and a pistol grip shifting knob. It was cool then, not really sure what I think about it now...

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