Porsche Owner's Family Nearly Suffocates From Keyless Ignition, Auto Start-Stop Glitch

A combination of distraction and car-tech systems led to the garage filling with deadly carbon monoxide.

Porsche

Recently we covered how keyless ignition systems could be a secret killer. After this story was posted, I was contacted by a Porsche owner whose family was only saved from a similar fate by the carbon monoxide detector's alarm in the garage going off before it was too late. But his story has a unique twist, one that incorporates yet another modern fuel-saving convenience: auto start-stop.

Rob Fine is not the elderly gentleman who didn't understand how keyless ignition works portrayed by the New York Times. He is an enthusiast of cars, motorcycles, and boats. "I’ve restored cars myself and definitely know my way around them," says Fine. He drives a Porsche Cayenne, an excellent choice for the driving enthusiast with a family who needs the practicality of an SUV.

Yet despite his familiarity with cars, he, too, was fooled into thinking the car was already turned off when it wasn't. "What tricked me was the auto [start-stop] feature," Fine says. "I pulled into my garage, and the engine shut off as if I was at a stop light. I was distracted by my children in the car and forgot to turn the keyless ignition to off."

Fine had already put the transmission into Park, was fully aware that he needed to press the start-stop button to turn the car off. But because of the fuel-saving feature that automatically turns the engine off when the car is stopped in traffic, the sounds and sensations of the running engine weren't there to remind him to press the button when his kids distracted him. Due to the keyfob's proximity to the car, the engine started again when the battery voltage got low.

"I intended to write to Porsche to suggest that if a keyless entry vehicle with auto [start-stop] is put into Park, it shouldn’t restart automatically as the battery gets low," says Fine. "I’m sure a software tweak could solve for that."

The Drive reached out to Porsche for its perspective on this particular situation and will update if we hear back.