Despite government efforts, keyless ignitions linked to carbon monoxide deaths

May 15, 2018

Keyless ignition systems that use start buttons to let drivers to leave key fobs in their pockets provide a lot of convenience, but a new report sheds light on a failed government effort to prevent users from accidentally leaving their cars on.

The New York Times reported Sunday that at least 20 deaths have been linked to carbon monoxide poisoning caused by cars left idling in garages when their drivers thought their engines were off.

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The issue first came to the attention of the Society of Automotive Engineers. By 2011, the engineering group issued a report calling on automakers to install an “externally audible or visual alert” when all doors are closed, the key fob is not present and the engine is still running.

Later that year, the NHTSA proposed a key fob rule that went a step further and would have required an internal alert. The rule was meant to protect against accidental vehicle rollaways and to prevent incidents of carbon monoxide poising, but it made no provision for an auto-shutoff function.

Automakers largely rejected the proposal, even though the NHTSA said that the cost to the industry would be less than $500,000 per year to provide coding and software updating for millions of vehicles.

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