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The software upgrade comes in the wake of the death early Sunday morning of actor Anton Yelchin, who played Pavel Chekov in the latest series of Star Trek films. Yelchin, 27, was discovered pinned against the security gate of his Southern California home by his 2015 Grand Cherokee, which was still running, according to local authorities. Yelchin died of blunt trauma asphyxia, TMZ reported.
In April, Fiat Chrysler recalled 811,586 2014-15 Jeep Grand Cherokees and 2012-14 Dodge Charger and Chrysler 300 sedans in the United States equipped with what is called a monostable shifter, similar to that in high-end German sports cars.
A monostable shifter has just three positions: front, middle and back. The shifter rests in the middle, and the user cycles electronically up or down through park, reverse, neutral, drive and low.
FCA replaced monostable shifters in the vehicles, beginning with the Charger and 300 in 2015 and the Grand Cherokee in 2016, with traditional gated shifters. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said in April that it had received more than 300 complaints, including reports of 121 crashes of vehicles that had rolled away, some striking buildings, drivers or other cars. FCA said at the time it was aware of at least 41 injuries potentially related to the design.
Yelchin was the first death reported to be linked to the defect. In 2014, a U.S. study said 93 people were killed and 2,000 injured annually from vehicles that rolled away between 2008 and 2011.
Many of the crashes occurred soon after the vehicles were purchased. One complaint said that in September, a new Grand Cherokee in Leonardtown, Md., rolled forward and struck headstones in a cemetery.
Also last year, a Michigan owner put his 2015 Jeep SUV into park to go into a filling station. The SUV began rolling backward and hit another parked vehicle, injuring a passenger.
NHTSA, which upgraded a probe into the rollaway injuries and complaints in February, said in April that the shifter was “clearly a safety issue” leading to hundreds of crashes and dozens of injuries.