Keyless car operation: Posing a carbon-monoxide-poisoning risk?

Among the more recent features related to automobiles is keyless operation.

Such a feature is considered by many to be a convenience. But, with this convenience a problem has surfaced.

At issue

“CO mixing ratio (ppbv) @ 850 hPa”

According to a May 13, 2018 New York Times article, since the year 2006 in the United States, in excess of 24 deaths have occurred when keyless-ignition-type, internal-combustion-engine-powered motor vehicle engines were left running while in garages subsequent to their being parked, the drivers of such apparently believing that the vehicles’ ignitions were turned off. Such inadvertent error has left even more with injury, according to the Times article in question.

It is the emission of carbon monoxide from these running vehicles in enclosed spaces like garages that can present a danger.

Particulars explained further

The two Times story authors – David Jeans and Majlie De Puy Kamp – provide low-down on keyless car operation.

For instance, based on my understanding, they relate that via the push of a button (located either on the dashboard itself or on the steering column) in about half of or 8.5 million new vehicles sold in America each year, essentially this action is what starts and stops the vehicle engine.

Two Cycle Diesel engine with Roots blower

In some cases, in addition to the push of the dashboard- or steering-column-located ignition-switch button, a simultaneous brake-pedal application via the seated driver’s foot, is also required.

Added to this is running-engine sound level. Compared to older vehicles, if not a diesel, generally speaking, running-engine decibel levels of newer cars, SUVs and light-duty trucks are lower.

Okay, so consider a scenario in which a motorist drives a so-equipped vehicle into a garage, exits the vehicle, and with said garage door closed and with vehicle engine left running, under just such a scenario, what could potentially result is a deadly outcome, in this instance, the culprit being carbon monoxide poisoning.

With the quieter engines, another possibility is that drivers can forget they left the vehicle with engines running, all the while thinking that ignitions were turned off. While this is one possibility, it is certainly not the only one.

Easy fix?

As it relates, I find it both astonishing and perplexing how, in this day with the state of technology being what it is, that a problem of this nature can exist at all.

That said, the problem seems easily resolvable. Provided could be an audible and/or visual warning of some type to let drivers know that vehicle ignitions were left on as opposed to being shut off. Or, having another feature that after it is detected by the motor vehicle’s computer that the driver and/or any passengers have left the vehicle whether either locked or left unlocked, after a certain period of time, the vehicle’s engine is automatically turned off.

Like I said: simple, right?

It is not that cut and dried, apparently.

It remains to be seen how this issue will be dealt with and if it will be resolved once and for all.

To learn more … 

For much more on the matter, see: “Deadly Convenience: Keyless Cars and Their Carbon Monoxide Toll” in the New York Times here.

This post has been updated.

Image (lower): Pearson Scott Foresman

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