A New Ford Patent Could Actually Save the Manual Transmission

The increasing rarity of manual transmissions in new cars is increasingly alarming to motoring enthusiasts. Ford has recently patented an idea for a new transmission that has a gear shifter like any manual driver should know, but this one won’t need a clutch. Ford seems to think this will increase the desirability of manual transmission cars and trucks in the future. 

A black gear select from a manual transmission versus an automatic transmission with a silver plate.
Manual transmission gear select | Getty Images

Can Ford save the stick-shift cars and trucks? 

In fairness, we can’t get mad at the automakers for dropping the third pedal and gear shifter; most buyers in America simply don’t want them. Why would carmakers make a product that sales records say no one wants? Not to mention, cars tend to perform better with fewer driver inputs, thanks to the constant need to automate cars continually.

Ford’s idea is to help people want to drive manual cars and trucks again, and we love it. Gear Patrol cites Muscle Cars & Trucks for uncovering a brand new patent for a wild version of the manual transmission. It looks like Ford wants to keep the Mustang as muscle car-like as possible

Can Americans even drive stick anymore? 

Orange 2022 Ford Bronco Raptor on a rocky trail
2022 Ford Bronco Raptor | Ford

Of course, many millions of people can still drive a manual car in America. However, the skill is waning quickly with younger generations. Who can blame the youths, though? If only a select few enthusiasts still offer manual cars, how are they supposed to find a car to learn on? Well, this is what Ford is looking to correct. 

Ford’s new transmission patent features an electronic system that would eliminate the need for a clutch pedal. If you’ve never driven a stick, this is the part that takes the longest to master. Ford is suggesting that without the learning curve, maybe customers would be more open to it.

The patent shows that sensory input on the knob would alert a control module that the driver would change gears. The control module would disengage the clutch automatically then re-engage it once the shift was complete, just like a clutch pedal. If you already know how to drive a manual car, this may feel a little silly, but for the new generation of drivers, this could just make the stick-shift cars approachable enough to save them for the rest of us. 

Could these cars still have a normal clutch pedal? 

Ford Mustang Stealth Edition in a dark blue
2022 Ford Mustang Stealth Edition Appearance package | Ford

Gear Patrol says that the Ford patent mentions that these cars and trucks can still have a traditional clutch pedal even though the patent is for this new type of transmission. Although the pedal would work the same way we are used to, the linkage will no longer use mechanical parts; it will go electric. The transmission could also feature a manual override button if the driver needs to impress his or her crush and do a sick burnout or rip a donut. 

Do people still want manual cars? 

While this idea seems to be a pretty good fix for many people who are interested in manual cars but are afraid of the learning curve, it doesn’t address the bigger problem. For many people, our relationship with our cars has changed. Driving a car requires far less active participation than ever before. Of course, this reality affects how drivers interact with their cars.

The increasing automation is appealing to many motorists. The idea that the car will do most of the work for you is the going sales pitch across the automotive market. One example is that we don’t turn around anymore when we back up; we have cameras for that. If we can’t be bothered to actually use our own eyes, how then can Ford convince millions of people to buy a car that makes them do even more stuff while driving? 

I hope Ford can pull this off, but the will of the people feels set against it. If Ford does manage to do it, it may not make the manual transmission a popular option, however, maybe, just maybe, the manual transmission can stick around a bit longer for those of us who still want to drive our vehicles.

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