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FCA accelerates recall of confusing gear lever that may have contributed to Anton Yelchin's death

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Fiat Chrysler says that it is moving up the schedule for updating software in around 1.1 million vehicles that use a confusing gear selector design that was first recalled in April. The design, which makes it unusually easy to accidentally place a vehicle in neutral instead of park, was present in the 2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee that killed 27-year-old actor Anton Yelchin last weekend when it rolled down his driveway and pinned him against a mailbox.

Though the shift lever itself isn't replaced in the recall, updated software automatically applies the parking brake if the door is opened while in neutral. The Associated Press reports that the new software didn't even start getting to dealers until last week, but owners will finally start being sent notices as early as this Friday saying that they need to schedule a service appointment. Presumably, Yelchin's Grand Cherokee did not have the updated software.

Though shift patterns — things like P-R-N-D — are standardized, the designs of shifters themselves are not. FCA's shifter was unusual in that it resembles a classic floor-mounted gear selector that can be physically moved between different transmission modes, but FCA's lever always returns to the center position, making it impossible to tell by feel alone which gear you're in. The design has been supplanted in the 2016 Grand Cherokee by a more traditional design.

FCA did not respond to a request for comment by publish time.