Search Interpretations

08-006631 version 3

Chris Tinto, Vice President

Toyota Motor North America, Inc.

Washington Office

601 Thirteenth Street, NW

Suite 910 South

Washington, DC 20005

Dear Mr. Tinto:

This responds to your request for an interpretation of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) No. 101, Controls and Displays, as it applies to Toyotas electronic keyless system with push button activation on gasoline engine vehicles and hybrid vehicles. We provide our response below.

In your letter, you stated that Toyota currently utilizes an electronic keyless system with push button activation on both gasoline engine vehicles and hybrid vehicles. In the gasoline engine vehicles, the push button is identified by the words Engine Start Stop, i.e., the identifying words specified in Tables 1 and 2 of FMVSS No. 101. In the hybrid vehicles, the push button is identified by the word Power and the ISO power on/off symbol. In the future, Toyota wishes to use a common push button for both its gasoline engine vehicles and its hybrid vehicles. It is considering adopting one of two options. The first option is a push button labeled with the ISO engine start symbol and the ISO engine shut-off symbol.[1] The second option is a push button labeled with the ISO power symbol.[2] You asked whether these options would be permitted under FMVSS No. 101.

The FMVSS No. 101 requirements at issue can be summarized as follows. That standard specifies requirements for the location, identification, and illumination of motor vehicle controls, telltales and indicators. More specifically, the standard specifies that each covered vehicle that is fitted with a control, a telltale or an indicator listed in Table 1 or Table 2 must meet the requirements of this standard for the location, identification, color and illumination of that control, telltale or indicator. Engine start controls are listed in Table 2, and engine stop controls are listed in Table 1. The identification specified by this standard for these controls is the wording Engine Start and Engine Stop, respectively. The tables include a footnote for these two controls that states: Use when engine control is separate from the key locking system. The standard also provides that supplementary symbols, words or abbreviations may be used at the manufacturers discretion in conjunction with any symbol, word, or abbreviation specified in Table 1 or Table 2.

I will now address the question you asked separately for gasoline engine and hybrid vehicles.

Gasoline engine vehicles

In your letter, you note FMVSS No. 101s requirement that engine start and engine stop controls be identified by the words Engine Start and Engine Stop. You argue, however, that these identification requirements do not apply to your vehicle based on the footnotes stating that this identification is to be used when the engine control is separate from the key locking system. You state that Toyotas electronic keyless system with push button activation is designed so that the key locking system is activated by pushing the Engine Start Stop button which leads to communication between the electronic/electrical key and ECU in the vehicle. Toyotas view is that given this linkage, the Engine Start Stop control is not separate from the key locking system, and is therefore not required to be labeled Engine Start and Engine Stop. You believe further that it is permissible instead to identify the button with the ISO power symbol or the ISO engine start.and engine shut-off symbols.

In considering your question, we note that the footnotes in question have been included in FMVSS No. 101 for decades. We believe the rationale for the footnotes is as follows. In vehicles with a traditional mechanical key locking system which is combined with the engine start/stop function, the location where the mechanical key is inserted is obvious given its physical characteristics, and drivers are ordinarily familiar with turning the key in such systems to start and stop the engine. There has therefore been no need to require separate identification to enable drivers to know that this control is used to start and stop the vehicle.

This rationale is not relevant to an electronic keyless system with push button activation. There is no reason to assume that drivers will know the function of the push button unless it is identified. As discussed above, FMVSS No. 101 specifies identification requirements for Engine Start and Engine Stop controls, and we believe the specified words are appropriate for your system.

Hybrid vehicles

In a January 20, 2003 interpretation letter to Toyota, we addressed how FMVSS No. 101s requirements in this area apply to hybrid vehicles. For reasons discussed below, we concluded that the standard's requirements for labeling "Engine Start" and "Engine Stop" controls would not apply to your hybrid vehicles "Power" button, and that identification of the button would be at the option of the manufacturer.

In your incoming December 2002 letter that led to that interpretation, you described a planned Toyota hybrid vehicle that would provide motive power by using both an electric motor and a gasoline engine. This vehicle would be turned on by the driver inserting the key and depressing a "Power" button. "Turning on" this vehicle would mean that the vehicle was activated to be propelled by the electric motor, not that the engine was actuated. After such activation of the vehicle, the engine would automatically start when the ECU determined that the vehicle needs extra power. Similarly, the engine would automatically stop when the ECU determined that the vehicle does not need the engine to provide additional power.

You stated in the December 2002 letter that Toyota believed that the identification requirements for engine start and engine start controls would not apply to this vehicle's "Power" button, because the engine is neither started nor stopped by this button. You also stated that Toyota planned to use the word "Power" along with the ISO power symbol to label the button.

In our January 2003 interpretation, we agreed that since the button at issue on Toyota's hybrid vehicle would neither start nor stop the engine, it was not covered by Standard No. 101's requirements for engine start and engine stop controls. We stated that since the standard does not otherwise specify requirements for this control, its identification was at the option of the vehicle manufacturer. Toyota was therefore free to identify it by means of the word "power" and the ISO power symbol.

While there appear to be differences between the Toyota vehicle discussed in our January 2003 interpretation and the current one (e.g., the earlier vehicle apparently did not have an electronic keyless system), we assume that the vehicle characteristics that led us to conclude that the button at issue was not a control that started or stopped the engine have not changed. Therefore, the identification of this control is at the option of the manufacturer, and either of the suggested two options described in Toyotas letter to us may be used.

I hope this information is helpful. If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact Dorothy Nakama of my staff at (202) 366-2992.

Sincerely yours,

Stephen P. Wood

Acting Chief Counsel

ref:101

d.7/24/09



[1] Identified by Figure 3 in your letter.

[2] Identified by Figure 4 in your letter.