BMW Working on 7-Speed Manual Without a Clutch Pedal
Patent drawings show a gearbox with an 'electromechanical shift actuator,' meaning it would require no driver skill to operate.
This is not so much news as a steppingstone to another, more interesting piece of information. This isn't the first 7-speed manual to be developed. Porsche offers a 7-speed manual in the 991-generation 911; it's the first gearbox of its type to be offered in a passenger car, but it is by no means revolutionary. Porsche's 7-speed is built up from the 7-speed used in its PDK twin-clutch automated transmission. If you're not familiar, PDK is the lightning-fast automatic transmission found in the 991. Versions of the technology also appear in other Porsche products.
Before we go any further, it's best to keep in mind that patent applications are not reality. Most patents, even those from carmakers, don't see the light of engineering day. The United States Patent Office, for example, issues more than 150,000 patents per year to individuals and companies worldwide, and only a fraction of those are ever brought to production.
The obvious benefit of such a device is to keep people from grossly inappropriate shifts -- a fifth-to-first shift at 60 mph, for example, when the driver really wants third gear. But that's just a side benefit. The greater purpose is to make a 7- or even 8-speed manual more practical.
Sam Smith is a journalist, a southerner, and a reformed Alfa Romeo mechanic who spends most of his time mooning over ancient racing cars and small-batch bourbon. A multiple International Automotive Media award-winner, he has written for Automobile Magazine, Car and Driver, and Esquire, among other publications. He once drove 4,000 miles in a weekend for a hamburger and has only been threatened by the German police twice.
Or how about this: of 100 vehicles at a traffic light, only seven are not distracted drivers.
In this I see the answer to the plague of the distracted driver. Ever tried to drive a manual in a stop-n-go setting while using a phone or trying to eat a hamburger? One hand for the wheel, one for the shifter and one for the...? Wait, my toes are too far away to hold my phone! I have read many times that less than 7% of US cars sold in the late part of last decade were manuals. So, at a stoplight with 100 stopped cars, 7 people are depressing clutches to start moving. Or, a more cynical way to look at it, on the highway you take to get from your gated HOA neighborhood to the freeway, you and the 8 other drivers stuck behind the sluggard at the head of the line are probably all texting, getting Twit updates or voyering in on your "friends'" status updates because the chances are high that NONE of you have to use your extra hand to shift. And that pathetic driver up ahead that's slowing everyone down? He spilled his coffee in his lap because he was watching something on YouTube that caused him to crack up and swerve towards the shoulder - because, you guessed it - he had a free hand to browse the internet on his smartphone.
In a driving utopia, the only cars that would be available for the public to buy would be either the standard 3-pedal manual or the electronic-clutch manual as described above. The automated-clutch manual would replace the torque converter auto and the dreaded CVT for those without the coordination to operate a clutch, forcing all drivers to keep a both hands engaged and, by extension, both eyes and their brains in the driving experience. No more torque converters also has the benefit of increased mpgs, since the converter bleeds off energy until lockup.
Bring it on BMW!
Okay, lets read the reference material from E90Post.com.... The biggest and primary part of the information there is NOT ABOUT the clutch. That is indicated as a secondary consideration.
The primary goal is to allow more gears in the shiftgate and locking out bad choices. By using a electro-mechanical connetion instead of a cables or levered connection from the shift lever to the gear-box, BMW hopes to allow more gears and prevent accidental damage. They will be able to devote less spess in the cabin for the gear-shift, and it will be free of the mechanical resistence physical linkages.
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