The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is investigating whether the electronic key systems on vehicles made by Toyota Motor Corp., Ford Motor Co., General Motors LLC, Hyundai Motor Co., Kia Motor Co., Nissan North America Inc. and Subaru of America Inc. meet federal safety standards. NHTSA has sent letters to the automakers requesting more information about the performance of electronic key systems in their newer push-button vehicles. Safety & Research Strategies Inc., a consumer group, obtained these letters through a Freedom of Information Act request and published the documents.
NHTSA is examining whether any of the automakers have violated the federal motor vehicle safety standard for theft protection and rollaway prevention. NHTSA performed tests on the companies’ push-button vehicles from model years 2013 and 2014. The agency is attempting to determine if any audible or visual alerts would occur when investigators performed several activities using an electronic key.
NHTSA has asked the companies to explain in detail how their electronic key systems work. Specifically, this agency wants to know how the systems justified in the investigators’ tests. The agency is also seeking consumer complaints and other claims that the companies have received relating to their vehicles’ starting systems. Safety & Research Strategies criticized the vehicles’ electronic key systems in a recent blog post:
While you can’t remove a traditional key from the ignition without moving the automatic transmission into “park,” and turning off the engine, you can leave a keyless ignition vehicle, key fob in hand, with the engine off and the transmission in neutral or drive, or with the transmission in “park,” but with today’s quiet engines still purring away.
Reportedly, there have been at least eight carbon monoxide deaths linked to electronic key systems since 2010. Ford, GM, Hyundai, Kia, Nissan, Subaru and Toyota all had vehicles cited for violations. Nissan has faced litigation in federal court alleging that the electronic key system on its vehicles violated federal safety laws.
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