After a highly publicized “rollaway” death, where a driver left his car in gear, got out, and walked in front of it, FCA issued a recall on all its vehicles with the “monostable” shifters (where the stick flops back to a neutral point). Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, and Ram had already given up on monostable shifters, switching to knobs and conventional-feeling controllers.

The company’s recall essentially added more warning systems for drivers who opened their door while not in Park. The next step, for which a patent has been granted , will apparently be applying the parking brake automatically when the driver leaves the car.

How will the car know? You may think it would use a weight sensor, as the passenger-side airbag system does, but the patent covers a different system that’s less direct but doesn’t require any more hardware. Instead, the computer hits the parking brakes if there’s been no movement of the steering wheel for a while.

There are other conditions: the driver’s side door is open, the seat belt is unbuckled, the brake pedal and throttle are at rest, the ignition is running, the transmission is not in Park, and the speed is below 5 kp/h (3.1 mph). If all these conditions are met — no steering input and a fairly clear indication the driver has left — the computer applies the electric parking brake.

FCA US cars with electric parking brakes, including the Cherokee, can already be set to automatically apply the parking brake when the driver shifts into Park.  Via Steven St. Laurent.