U.S. auto-safety regulators proposed standardizing keyless ignitions to allow drivers to turn off cars faster and more easily in incidents of unintended acceleration following Toyota Motor Corp.’s record recalls.
The proposed rule will cost less than $500,000 a year, the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said in a proposed rule to be published Dec. 12 in the Federal Register.
“At issue are drivers’ inability to stop a moving vehicle in a panic situation, and drivers who unintentionally leave the vehicle without the vehicle transmission’s being ‘locked in park,’ or with the engine still running, increasing the chances of vehicle rollaway or carbon monoxide poisoning in an enclosed area,” the regulator said in the proposal.
Toyota, in 2009 and 2010, recalled more than 10 million Toyota and Lexus vehicles for defects that may cause unintended acceleration. Some of the cars had push-button starts, meaning panicking drivers would have to hold down the button to stop the car rather than turning a key.
The rule would standardize the length of time drivers must push a button to stop a moving car to a half-second. The Society of Automotive Engineers, which writes industry standards for automakers to follow voluntarily, in January, recommended a range of a half-second to two seconds.
In a 2009 Lexus ES-350 crash that killed four people and helped lead to Toyota’s recalls, the car had a keyless electronic starting system with a push-button control that required the driver to hold the button for as long as three seconds to stop the engine, NHTSA said in the proposed rule.
The rule probably won’t help sales of push-button ignitions or components because it will probably require a calibration change, rather than different parts, said Rich Hilgert, a Morningstar Inc. analyst who follows auto suppliers.
“There’s more than likely an off-the-shelf solution, especially with electronics,” Hilgert, based in Chicago, said in a telephone interview. “It doesn’t seem like this is going to be that difficult to come up with a solution for.”
Suppliers of push-button start ignitions include Strattec Security Corp., based in Milwaukee. BorgWarner Inc., Federal- Mogul Corp. and Robert Bosch GmbH supply ignition parts, according to Automotive Who’s Who Inc., a company in Grand Rapids, Mich., that oversees an automotive-supplier directory.
Automakers have also worked on standardizing keyless ignitions and are reviewing the proposed rule, said Gloria Bergquist, a spokeswoman for the Alliance of Automotive Manufacturers, whose members include Toyota, Ford Motor Co. and General Motors Co.