A year ago nearly to the day, I wrote about the need for the auto industry to build to intuition. A man in Texas had died of heat stroke because he couldn’t figure out how to get out of his short-circuited Chevrolet Corvette.
Now another man is dead, at the hands of another model.
It is too early to simply lay blame at the feet of the shifter in late model FCA Jeep Grand Cherokees in the death of Star Trek’s Anton Yelchin. While it was his Jeep that rolled down his driveway and pinned him to a fence, exactly how and why remains under investigation. However, I have driven a model with the shifter in question, which is under recall, and I can say this: I have never, ever been confused by a shifter until that moment. There is simply nothing intuitive about what gear you are in or not in. A recall has just been issued for FCA’s 2014 Maserati Quattroporte and Ghibli models for the same potential problem.
Automobiles are not toys for incorporating the latest gadget for the sake of being cool or a perceived advancement. Not every perceived advance takes us forward, and some can be dangerous.
Further, if the shifter is proven to be the culprit, we will once again have proof that age is simply not relevant. Yelchin was but 27. Drivers need their vehicles to respond logically, a responsibility that falls squarely to manufacturers.
RIP Ensign Chekov.