Toyota adding automatic engine shutoff and automatic park to many 2020 models

New safety features to curb dangerous idling situations and vehicles rollaways

2020 Toyota Highlander
2020 Toyota Highlander / Image Credit: Drew Phillips
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Toyota intends to further enhance the safety of its 2020 models with two new customer protection features for the North American market: automatic engine shutoff and automatic park. For cars equipped with the carmaker's Smart Key System keyless entry, automatic engine shutoff does exactly what it says "after a pre-determined period of time in the event the vehicle is left running." Toyotas with keyless entry already sound a chime and provide a visual warning about a running engine; the new system enhances those two cautions as well.

Toyota didn't specify how long is "a pre-determined time." Nor did it explain if this will operate when the car is idling but there's a driver in the vehicle, or if it's only when the car detects the driver leaving. A New York Times story last year noted the deaths of some 28 drivers over 12 years, in which the drivers unintentionally left their cars running in their garages. The reason has been identified as "keyless" proximity fobs and push-button start, where owners, perhaps older drivers more accustomed to a keyed ignition, overlooked the fact they didn't turn off the engine, which flooded their homes with exhaust fumes.

The Toyota feature could address that scenario. A similar implementation in the Jaguar XF, however, turns the car off when the driver puts the car in Park and unbuckles the seatbelt, even if the driver remains in the car.

Toyota says a future upgrade for automatic shutoff will send a reminder to a smartphone app.

Automatic park is designed to curtail rollaways and will only be available on models with electronic shifters or parking brakes. In this case, Toyota is clear that the system operates if the driver exits the vehicle and hasn't put the vehicle in Park. In that case, the car will either shift into to Park itself, or activate the electronic parking brake.

We're not sure which models will usher in the upgrades, but we expect they'll arrive later this year when the 2020 models go on sale.

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