After trying to reinvent the wheel with shifter designs that many people still find confusing and frustrating at the very least, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles has regained a Consumer Reports recommendation for its 2017 Chrysler 300 sedan. The recommendation comes after the automaker delved into the software settings and made some safety updates on automatic-equipped vehicles featuring rotary shift knobs, including the Dodge Durango and Ram 1500 pickup.
The new software is dubbed AutoPark, and it works basically the same way it sounds. Should the driver shut the car down while it’s still in gear, AutoPark will automatically engage park and leave the vehicle in its accessory mode, allowing the radio and other features to stay active for 30 minutes. Additionally, AutoPark will activate if the driver door opens with the seatbelt unlatched.
Consumer Reports says the software upgrade was actually introduced back in early April, but the cars receiving the fix didn’t arrive to dealerships until summer.
FCA isn’t the only manufacturer to catch some grief over new shifter designs, but high-profile cases including the death of actor Anton Yelchin last year have placed FCA in the spotlight. The issue isn’t that such shifters are complicated, but rather they lack any sort of tactile feedback that tells drivers the vehicle is actually in park – a simple-yet-effective sensation that drivers have relied upon for decades.
The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration found that the stalk-style electronic shifters like the one in Anton Yelchin’s Jeep Grand Cherokee were linked to 266 crashes, 68 injuries, and 686 complaints. FCA issued a massive recall of 1.1 million vehicles to revamp the software on those shifter designs.
Source: Consumer Reports