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Potential dangers with the new car shifters

Car shifters used to be easy to use.

But Consumer Reports now says new designs can be confusing and potentially dangerous.

For decades, cars with automatic transmissions had a simple, straightforward shifter. But some newer cars have shifters that look or function differently.

Consumer Reports warns those new designs can be complicated and even counter-intuitive.

"The problem with these unconventional gear selectors is that they make it hard to consistently pick the right gear, especially park. And worst case, that means the car could roll away," said Tom Mutchler with Consumer Reports.

"I'm right now in a Mercedes Benz GLC. The shifter is a mono-stable electronic shifter, what that means is that no matter what position you're in, it always returns to the center, makes it hard to see what gear you're in. And putting it into park is actually this small button at the end, which is completely blocked by the steering wheel," said Jake Fisher with Consumer Reports.

Another problem: it's possible for the car to roll after you get out if the car is not in park.

But some manufacturers have built in safeguards. Ford, Lincoln, Acura, Honda, and GM all automatically return to park if a door opens with the engine on or if the engine is shut off in gear.

Consumer Reports believes so strongly that these confusing shifters can be dangerous, it now deducts points on reviews for cars that don't have built-in fail-safes that prevent roll away accidents.

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