Keyless ignition systems for vehicles are increasingly popular, especially in colder climates where being able to start the car from indoors with the push of a button makes for a much more comfortable drive. However, malfunctions or insufficient warnings or explanations have lead to several accidents and some deaths, prompting the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to consider new rules for keyless vehicle ignition systems.
Many systems allow the vehicle owner to start the car at a distance by pushing a button on a small remote. Once inside the car, the driver can turn it on or off by pressing a button or switch. However, many of these switches will not allow the car to be turned off in an emergency situation, such as when the accelerator is stuck, or they require a different method – such as being held for a longer period – to turn the car off when the vehicle is not in park. This often confuses drivers in emergency situations and has led to crashes.
Other systems have shown the opposite problem: they turn on spontaneously or will allow the vehicle to slip out of park while the ignition is on. This has caused serious injuries, including owners dragged by their vehicles and families harmed by carbon monoxide poisoning when a car starts while sitting in a garage.