News Refresh: How Anton Yelchin was Killed: An Explanation of Jeep’s Confusing Shifter

Based on the information we have right now, we cover what happened to Anton Yelchin, what went wrong, and what Jeep and FCA is going to do about this confusing shifter

Read all the complaints filed with the NHTSA at this link, then click on the “complaints” tab.

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By now I’m sure you’ve all heard about the tragic death of actor Anton Yelchin, known for his role as Chekov in the new Star Trek films. This rising star was taken far too soon.


Anton was pinned against a brick pillar and metal gate by his 2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee. That model recently began the recall process and has allegedly caused at least 40 other injuries.


With the information we have right now we’ll try to piece together what happened, what went wrong, and what Fiat-Chrysler is going to do.


Hi Guys, Ken here with 4WheelOnline.


Here’s what we know. In April of this year FCA issued a recall for 1.1 million vehicles worldwide, with notifications mailed out in May which said they would have a fix in July or August. Anton’s 2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee was included in that recall.


The NHTSA recall document said the SUV’s “monostable” shifter is “not intuitive and provides poor tactile and visual feedback to the driver, increasing the potential for unintended gear selection.”


So how does the shifter actually work? Let’s watch the official video from Jeep.


Now, the electronic shift lever with this transmission is a little different. It does not slide forward or rearward like a conventional shifter. Instead, the shift lever is spring loaded, and moves forward or rearward, always returning to the center position after the desired gear is selected. To shift back in to park from drive, bring the vehicle to a complete stop. And while holding the brake pedal fully down, press the lock button on the shift lever. Then push and hold the shift lever forward until “P” is displayed in the E.V.I.C


It seems like the biggest issue is that, JUST like the NHTSA said, there’s poor tactile and visual feedback. To put the vehicle in park you simply push it forward and watch it slide back to the middle.


The only indication that you’re not in park is a light on lever itself and the dashboard, although there are warning beeps if the door is opened.


So what exactly happened to Anton Yelchin? The LAPD said “it was the result of the victim’s own car rolling backwards down his steep driveway, pinning him against a brick mailbox pillar and security fence.” They also noted that the Jeep was running and in neutral.


From that statement and from photos of his driveway on google maps, we think we know what happened. However it’s important to note that this is all an educated guess based on the knowledge we have at this time.


It seems that Anton pulled out of his driveway going uphill. He then stopped the SUV, pushed the shifter forward to leave drive and put it in park, but instead selected neutral.


He then exited the Jeep, with the keys still in the ignition and the vehicle running. That’s when the Jeep rolled back and pinned him.  


Why didn’t the warnings cause him to double check which gear he was in? There would have been a beeping sound when the door was opened since it wasn’t in park, but it’s possible he thought the sound was just because the keys were still in the ignition with the driver door open. I probably would do the same.


This is a terrible and tragic accident. There’s been many other incidents and injuries that place blame on the poorly designed shifter, but this was a high profile, on the rise actor. The fallout from this could be huge.


FCA hasn’t explained exactly what the recent recall would do, though they did state they would add warnings and update their “transmission-shift strategy” to prevent the vehicle from moving in certain circumstances.

A previously unreleased service document from FCA appears to detail a new “Auto Park” feature in the vehicle’s software. Audi used a similar shifter in one of their vehicles, but they designed it to go into park when the door was opened.


Hopefully we won’t have to hear about any more easily preventable injuries or deaths due to poor design choices. And FCA knew it was a poor design choice, because they stopped using the shifter in their 2016 Grand Cherokee.


We place so much trust in our vehicles. Our cars and trucks become an extension of ourselves. Driving has been continuously refined over the past century, but sometimes change is just not good.


There’s an incredibly large number of odd shifters out there and no matter which type you have, using it should be second nature.


How many times have you been on the phone, dealing with screaming children, or just been so late to work that you park the car by muscle memory alone?


I mean seriously, think about it. When was the last time you actually looked at your shifter or dashboard to double check that you were in park? It should just come naturally.


What do you think? Are manufacturers trying too hard to be innovative and different than everyone else? Or do you think this recall is bogus and drivers just need to pay more attention?


Let us know in our poll right here and then comment down below.


After that, make sure to like, or use the sad emoji, and share this video with all your friends, and don’t forget to subscribe. Then tune in for the most recent News Refresh every Friday.


I’m Ken, with 4WheelOnline and you’ve just been refreshed.


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