In the wake of the heavily publicized fatal crash involving a Lexus ES 350 with keyless ignition in California, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is proposing standardizing keyless ignition systems. The government regulator wants all vehicles with keyless ignition to turn off after a button press of just half a second, according to a report by Bloomberg.

The proposal states that among the concerns are "drivers' inability to stop a moving vehicle in a panic situation," according to the report. That's what happened in the Lexus crash that killed four people in 2009, in which a three-second button press was necessary to turn off the engine, according to Bloomberg. The incident was one of many that led to recalls of Toyota vehicles in 2009 and 2010.

Automakers have already discussed standardizing their keyless ignition systems, according to an Alliance of Automotive Manufacturers spokeswoman. The half-second delay falls within a range recommended by the Society of Automotive Engineers.

While this new regulation is clearly a good thing, we do wonder what was wrong with just using keys?


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  • 101 Comments
      Drakkon
      • 3 Years Ago
      I'm trying to think of a situation in which iI would want to shut off the engine while it's moving..... Can't think of one. Maybe flames shooting up the winshield? I would wager thatI would pull off before I turned the key however. So turning off the car in a 'panic situation.' Let's think this through. The car want stop. The engine is racing. Stepping on the brakes doesn't seem to help. I forget the shift into N. I'm with you so far. Next I hit the button for half a second and the engine turns off. The steering column locks at whatever angle I had it. I lose breake boosting and have to muscle the master cylinder with just my calf... Where is the saftey benefit?
      WillieD
      • 3 Years Ago
      I like Mazda's design where you have the key in your pocket and you turn the knob to start the car and then turn it back again like a regular car to turn it off. That's the way they should all be if we're going to have push button starting.
        tipdrip215
        • 3 Years Ago
        @WillieD
        I agree. Nissan uses this as well on some of their stuff, one I know is the Sentra, but I can't recall what the others are.
      mx5hong
      • 3 Years Ago
      How about teaching people how to shift into neutral??? I know, I know, crazy idea eh? That way, the engine is still running (but disconnected from the transmission) so you still have power brakes and steering. I'm not familiar with push button start but would there be a chance of the steering column locking up if you switch off the engine?
        WillieD
        • 3 Years Ago
        @mx5hong
        I think there may be a neutral override in some cars if your foot is on the gas, but I'm not positive.
          brands
          • 3 Years Ago
          @WillieD
          You can shift any car into neutral at anytime. Something that we in the ride&drive business are eternally thankful for!
          montoym
          • 3 Years Ago
          @WillieD
          As brands stated, there is never a Neutral override and the reason is exactly due to situations like this. It's not necessarily the best thing for the engine and transmission, but I'm sure pretty much every driver would prefer to allow the engine and transmission to be the casualites as opposed to finding oneself in a fiery crash somewhere down the road due to a car that's uncontrollably racing away.
      ryanmit01
      • 3 Years Ago
      Go take a look at how the keyless ignition is done in the Caddy CTS. This design keeps the familiar "key in the column" functionality while keeping your actual keys in your pocket. The column key has On, Off and Accessory as if it is a normal key. It's far better than most push-buttons which seem to function differently for each manufacturer. Some manufacturer designs are downright hostile to common sense, I'm looking at you BMW.
        Agilis
        • 3 Years Ago
        @ryanmit01
        My Audi S5 came with advanced key so I don't ever need to insert a key when it comes to entering the car, opening a trunk, or starting the car. I simply use a push button start/stop for the ignition. But Audi cars without advanced key, you must take the key fob and insert it into a port on the dash then push forward on the key fob to start/stop the car. I'm not sure how the engine is killed with this method and I consider this method pretty hostile.
        sckid213
        • 3 Years Ago
        @ryanmit01
        I have a CTS, and I like the "key in the column" system, but I've always thought it was a ghetto-rigged version of a keyless start button added late in development. E.g., they didn't originally plan to include keyless start in the vehicle but once they decided they did it was too late to re-engineer the dash to incorporate a button so they came up with the "key in the column" thing. I haven't seen this confirmed anywhere, but the fact that Caddy is transitioning to push-button start on the SRX and XTS make me think this. But again, I like the "key in the column" thing -- mostly because you still feel like you're actually crank the engine to start it up, but you don't have to bother with inserting the key.
      oRenj9
      • 3 Years Ago
      They have this place where all engines go as to no longer propel the car, this place is called NEUTRAL. Ridiculous name, I realize, but spread the word. We just need cars that can drive themselves already, people obviously can't figure out how to shift gears or push down the correct pedal depending on if their intention is to go forward or stop.
        oRenj9
        • 3 Years Ago
        @oRenj9
        I just thought of something. Instead of doing somethign stupid like stopping the car when this is pressed. If the vehicle is in motion and the button is held down, shift into neutral, that way they still have power steering and brakes. I sure as **** couldn't stop my car without power brakes. It requires most of my weight on the pedal to stop it if it starts to roll down the damn driveway. If the power was cut on the highway, most people would be FSCKED. If they don't understand the concept of neutral, they sure as hell don't know what the EMERGENCY BRAKE is for.
      clquake
      • 3 Years Ago
      In an emergency situation, most people are trained to slam on the brakes and hang on for dear life. In the time it takes to reach up, find the button, and hold it for 1/2 a second, chances are, you've already plowed into the object you're trying to avoid or launched the car off the cliff. No one is trained for unintended/unanticipated acceleration. This is a moot point.
        • 3 Years Ago
        @clquake
        [blocked]
      over9000
      • 3 Years Ago
      Read the friggin' manual... people are so dumb these days.
      Lemon
      • 3 Years Ago
      Missile switch = problem solved
      wilkegm
      • 3 Years Ago
      The problem isn't with the keyless. There simply shouldn't be vehicles without brake override,be it part of the vehicle dynamics system or stand alone. It requires no hardware, just a little code. Toyota screwed the pooch in not including this on the affected "runaway" vehicles. With that in place, there's no need for a function that could shut off the car from bumping the button.
      brands
      • 3 Years Ago
      Ridiculous Idea. The whole point of requiring an extended button push to shut off the engine is to avoid having the engine shut off inadvertently ( by little Johnny's inquisitive finger perhaps. If you press that button and hold it down for three seconds while the car is moving, there is probably a reason. Shorten the time to 2 seconds, fine, but half a second? Like I said ridiculous.
      GD
      • 3 Years Ago
      They should take a look at how Audi does it..... In new Audi vehicles they have a electronic parking brake, if you pull on it while driving the vehicle will come to a stop as fast as possible.
      Robert Fahey
      • 3 Years Ago
      America speaks: "If I accidentally shut my car off and cause an accident, I'll sue. You should have made it harder to shut off." "If I can't shut it off, and cause an accident, I'll sue. You should have made it easier to shut off." American drivers fall into two categories: 1. Plaintiffs 2. Future plaintiffs
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