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Hagerty Employee

What you need to know about Ford's "automated manual" transmission

The enthusiast community has been decrying the death of the manual transmission for what feels like decades, and for good reason. The numbers of manuals offered in new cars has shrunk year after year to the point that by our best estimations, just 1 percent of new cars are sold with a three-pedal setup.
146 REPLIES 146
Pit Crew

So much to little time and space!
First of all, I am a polio survivor who lost the full use of my left leg and partial use of my right leg back in 1954 at age 3. Been driving AT cars since 1967, using regular gas pedal and hand operated control for the brake. I'm rabid gear-head with motor oil in my veins instead of that low viscosity red stuff.
So bloody sick and tired of hairy-chested, knuckle dragging men bloviating about how anything other than traditional manuals with clutches are acceptable in the ICE-verse. To those Neanderthals I say - "be glad you still have two legs that work perfectly, and shut the F up"!!
As so many of the comments to this article accurately point out, this new Ford tranny is a simple update to the VW Autostick, a.k.a. Porsche Sportomatic semi-automatics. I have had both, loved them for letting me drive really fun cars, and NEVER had any problems with any of them in a bunch of Beetles and 911's. Dead reliable and never needed repairs or adjustments!
Still have an Autostick '74 Karmann Ghia convertible in the garage as my wife and my summer toy.
As to the ability of FoMoCo to produce this new tranny and make it both economically viable and appropriately reliable in the field, that's a whole different kettle of fish, indeed.

Prefer 'Old School'.
Hard parts fail less than "Computers"

have a "DEAD JEEP"
_ Computer / full sys failure

And yet modern cars are far more reliable than they've ever been. And it isn't even close.

This sounds like a maintenance nightmare. Also similar and as stupid as VW's "Automatic Stickshift" from the late 60s, early 70s. And remember one thing about a true manual transmission; they make your vehicle almost theft proof because most car thieves are morons too stupid to drive one. Although on one overseas contract I was temporarily at Bagram AFB and assigned to drive a guy from Kenya on his generator servicing route. He needed a driver because he was given a Silverado with an automatic while his Toyota Hilux was being serviced. He didn't know how to drive the Chevy, seriously.

Sounds like SMG with a pedal. One of the criterion of the TPO is that a patent application cannot be obvious. Wonder how this one got by.
Advanced Driver

By-wire clutch and shifter operation is an excellent idea and no big deal to development. Astute programming could provide driver feedback indistinguishable from link and lever systems.
One of several reasons a classic manual never made in the the C8 Corvette is because shift linkage snaking around the engine pose a severe engineering challenge. Using Ford's by-wire tech opens the possibility of stick shifting returning to Corvettes.
Of course dual clutch trannies are quicker because the next gear is partially engaged before the current gear is released.
Pit Crew

Volkswagen played with this idea back in the late 1968 to around 1976 with the Autostick using vacuum to operate the clutch through pressure on the shifter but had a fluid converter to allow stopping and idling without disengaging the clutch. The so-called "innovation" here seems to be using an electric drive and computer system to control it. That is not really innovation as that is applied to everything nowadays. I know that patent law is a spiderweb of horrors but there should be a way around it for another automaker to initiate a system that works as well.

Not sure how this helps over a dual clutch or an older single clutch automated transmission. This sound kind of like a single clutch automated manual. I'm curious what advantages this if anything it might have.
New Driver

Look up “Duck Clutch” made by an Italian company called Guibo Simplex. It’s the exact same thing marketed for handicapped drivers that cannot use the clutch.
I had one installed in my 30 year owned ‘74 911. MS has messed up my left leg to the point I couldn’t drive it anymore. I took the plunge (close to $10K CAD) and had my car converted. It worked, but took the fun out of it and had some reliability issues. Eventually I converted back to stock and reluctantly sold the car.
New Driver

This is very similar to the MTA box in the Fiat 500 auto. A hydraulic pump does the clutch and shifts a manual box. My wife had one of those and currently a VW Up! small city car that has the same setup, a five speed manual operated by a computer. You can override by moving the stick forwards or backwards.
New Driver

Go the other way. I have a four speed manual equipped with Laycock de Normanville electric controlled overdrive. Put into 3rd and you get a slow speed in town and higher overdrive if needed. Works well. Automatic transmissions make keeping a steady speed nigh impossible and account for a lot of speed variation. At worse you get braking on downhill slopes with cruise control especially on undulating contours. Also can always drive a manual when the clutch fails if you match revs to moving speed.
New Driver

Lots of historical references to VW, P!orsche, Citroen.
Here is one for real history buffs: the Packard Electromatic Clutch. introduced in 1940 as an answer to the Oldsmobile Hydramatic it offered complete clutchless shifting if so desired utilizing both electromechanical and vacuum technology. We have one in our 47 Custom Super Clipperand it works splendidly.
Since Packard folded in 1956 guess Ford attorneys can breathe easy!
New Driver

First, the current duration of US patents is 15 years with a requirement to renew every three years. The article's date of patent status is for the old 17 year US patent which did not need to be renewed periodically.
So if Ford decides to not pay the renewal fee after 3 or 6, etc. years, it will lapse after one additional year and be in the public domain.
More to the point, I fail to see the benefit of the invention. How many remember that Sir Sterling Moss preferred to have an automatic in his personal daily driver. I would expect to see Ford let this patent lapse, unless they have some reason (such as blocking the use by a competitor).
Pit Crew

Yeah according to the many responses so far this doesn’t seem to be such a new idea ( with or without the pedal) and how about the pre selector shifter quite a few pre-war French cars had.
But still I always appreciate attempts to keep transmissions of what ever kind still around: better than golf carts!
Intermediate Driver

Isn’t Ford going to all electric soon? An electric motor driven clutch in an electric car. Jesus, what have we done to our cars?

Nice idea but so much high tech electro-gizmos that when the system breaks down (and it invariably will), lots of dollars signs for expensive repairs. And it's not just about new parts; it's also about software updates and reinstalls. Today's cars are essentially rolling computers. LIfe would be so much easier (and less expensive) if they could just unglue themselves from high-tech gizmos and go back to regular mechanical-hydraulic systems. Nonetheless, at least they're making some attempt to breath life back into a manual system, albeit a "faux manual system". Better than nothing--I guess. Sorry about my negative attitude!:)

Maybe,,,,,but not for me. Even the manuals today automate skills. They rev match , they have launch control , etc... people don't learn to drive today and it is so rewarding to develop these skills after years of practicing. People now ride in cars, they don't drive them. I sound like an old geezer.

I went from a 3-pedal daily driver to an auto-stick - and performance wise, the auto-stick is hands down superior. As a former three-pedaler, what you miss is the feel, technique, and the knowledge that it takes some skill and experience to make that 3-opedal car perform. Turning the clutch pedal into an on-off switch is not going to give you that. Quite frankly, this concept sounds like it is giving you the worst of both worlds
Pit Crew

Manual is manual, period!
Intermediate Driver

This transmission appears to very similar to the one in my 2009 Aston Martin Vantage, which was at the time when Ford owner it,
Pit Crew

A DCT shifts faster. A modern automatic shifts faster. I don't care. It's about the enjoyment of driving, the interaction with the car. It's not about the fastest shift time, it's not about the ease of getting somewhere. Manual for me EVERY time, preferably without electronics in the way. It's not even close.
Pit Crew

"Fiat 850 Idromatic—Fiat's entry into the growing group of economy cars with semi-automatic transmission". Road & Track. 19 (9): 57–58. May 1968. I worked on one and when leaving the shop, I flicked my thumb off the shift knob with a good deal of revs. "The slowest car ever tested by R&T" left a good rubber stripe and I received the ire of the boss.
Advanced Driver

In the famous words of señor Chang: "Ha, Gaaaay!"
Advanced Driver

Only pansies can't drive true manual transmissions in creeping traffic. Good night, all of the clutches these days are hydraulic!!!! I've been doing it since 1990 and quit noticing shortly after I took delivery of my 1990 SHO. I'm 70 now and love my 2018 Z07 manual. Even in stop and go.

I believe this could be a good set up with a pistol grip style handle and a 4 fingered spring compression momentary on switch that activates the hydra motor for the release while grabbing the gear. Use the pedal for stops and accel. Why go through the CAN? Sensors and computers are over sensitive and can lead to unwanted outcomes which could be disastrous.
New Driver

Is it the best of both worlds, or is it some weird hybrid thing that isn't really good either way? It will be interesting to see if the "it's a manual, but not really" car will capture the hearts of the driving public. or not. (think edsel) I personally love manuals, and I love driving them. And I live in Washington state where there are a lot of hills so there is much shifting. I think if we returned to making good manuals and then invested in drivers by teaching them how to drive manuals there would be a whole new generation in love with manual driving.
Intermediate Driver

Both Mercedes and Volkswagen had touch sensitive shifters that disengaged the clutch. Had a friend with a 70 Beetle and another with an earlier 60's Mercedes that had the same function. What differs in Fords patent???? When old is new again other than a computer and electric motor to do the same?
Intermediate Driver

Yes the Beetle was a Super Beetle likely a 72 as someone else mentioned.
Advanced Driver

Not an entirely new idea. Wasn't it Saturn that had a solenoid shifted manual trans with a torque converter? Ok, no clutch, but the trans box itself was an electrically shifted manual. AMC also had an automatic clutch that had some of the Ford features -- mainly switches in the shifter to engage/disengage an automatic clutch. The Rambler E-stick (62-64) used engine oil pressure to activate a servo to operate the clutch -- but in reverse. The more the servo pushed on the clutch fork the harder the clutch was engaged. Theory was good -- more engine rpm = more oil pressure and more pressure on the clutch. Didn't need so much cruising, and oil pressure increased on acceleration. The downfall was that there was still a good amount of clutch slipping, and it was still a dry clutch disc (though larger than normal stick shift). Drive it in town a lot and you went through a clutch disc every year. Apparently some fleet companies bought them as cheaper alternatives to the auto for delivery use and they went through discs about every six months, eliminating any cost savings. Still had to shift gears, just no clutch. The electric servo idea is much better than the E-stick, especially without oil pressure fluctuations -- just applied or not. If it has some sort of capability to sense how fast it needs to shift (accelerometer?) it may work well.

Very interesting concept that could possibly bring in a new crop of young gear bangers. However, given the low volume and enormous cost constraints in the auto industry, there's no way that Ford would proceed with this if they couldn't cover costs and make money. At the least, they would have to open up the patent for others to use. Not out of the question as OEM's share components & technology all the time now days!
Advanced Driver

sounds very much like the "Really Old" "Semi Automatic" (Fluid drive) systems-
Intermediate Driver

Lots of interesting comments, but how about the NSU RO80. Launched in 1967 and voted "car of the year" for 1968, the vast majority of initial press comment related to the Wankel engine, and them went on to related how that engine was under-developed and unreliable, with rotor seal problems leading to a string of warranty claims. Many owners had their engines changed, more that once in an attempt to cure the problem.
However, the real innovation was the automatic stick shift. With just two pedals (accelerator and brake) the electrically operated clutch switch was situated on the top of the stick. As soon as you put your hand on the top of the stick the clutch operated and you changed gear in the normal stick shift manner. Whilst the engine was a real issue, you never heard of any problems relating to the gearbox.

You struck a nerve with this one Kyle! The way I see it it's ANY foolish excuse to load more electronics. Pushing on a pedal too much work? Let a computer do that for you and you can still feel like a sports car driver....Enough already! I happily write this as a throwback who thinks my dome light that fades on and off is silly. We wouldn't need so-called Right to Repair legislation if cars had more mechanical parts than semiconductors.
Pit Crew

I also have Toyota Mr2 Spyder with a 6 speed smt(sequencing manual transmission) the controls are electronic and hydraulic with a + - floor shifter and paddles on the steering wheel! It’s been really good so far 👌but is trouble prone! I have to admit I really enjoy it but do miss revving it up and popping the clutch! I wonder if some of the trouble is because some of the owners run them hard and beat the hell out of them! Racing and stuff! But this auto manual is nothing new just the way it’s done!
Intermediate Driver

Another try at an automated clutch!
Had 61 Rambler American "E-Stick". Clutchless 3 on the tree. Worked opposite of normal clutch, was engaged by engine oil pressure rise, with some sort of motion switch on the shifter.
Sorta worked, if you didn't mind replaceing the clutch assy every 10,000 miles.
New Driver

Minus the ability to control electronically, as opposed to electro-mechanical, isn't this basically the 1968 Porsche Sportomatic? Curious that none of the articles I've seem mention it...

Many say this is similar to the old VW Automatic StikShift, and I agree. BUT - many seem to miss that this system would have a clutch pedal to use when desired, making this apparently a more sophisticated system than the old VW system (or Porsche's Sportomatic, or Fiat's Idromatic).

I wonder how the clutch feel would be on a clutch operated in this manner, though. People often speak of "light-switch" clutches, but this would seem to have the potential to really become just that.

I don't see Ford using this, though. Their only car is the Mustang, and it would seem unlikely that many Mustang stick-shift drivers would prefer this system to a true 6-speed manual; I don't think I would.
Pit Crew

Maybe already mentioned, but I remember the Renault Dauphine had an electric clutch option that was actuated by hand pressure on shifter.
New Driver

If memory serves a 1970ish DKW option was named Saxomat and substituted a column shifter with integrated switch to activate the clutch. It worked well when the “freewheeling” option was used. 

New Driver

Not exactly new technology. Smart has been doing this for years with the addition of the computer actually changing the gears for you as well, but also a manual mode.
Even Volkswagen had a "clutch pedal less" manual transmission back in the 70s.

Ford Taunus ( german) had a simular System the clutch was engaged by centrifacl force and when engaged because of high RPM it would disengage so yoou could shift by a wobbely gearshift knob electric switch that as soon as you touched it would activate a system to dis engage the Clutch so you could shift and when you let go of the shiftknob( three on the tree) the clutch would re engage there were a few sold here in canada at least by our dealershipcan't exactly remember when but a very long time ago

Not sure why Ford did this. Also I'm not sure how this really differs from other single or maybe dual clutch transmissions out there. Either way ford went dual clutch for the GT500. They will never use this in their electric future.
New Driver

In a world of cheap sensors this seems significantly less complex and less expensive to produce than the typical automatic transmission. (not including the continuously variable variety)
Advanced Driver

I drive a Honda Accord with a 3 speed automatic tranny. I do not like to drive by leaving the stop light, pressing the accelerator to the floor and waiting while the speed rises to cause the tranny to switch gears. I depress the accelerator smartly and gain speed, release the accelerator and the gear changes right away--thus putting me into "2nd gear". As speed rises, I do the same for "3rd" gear and--presto--I am up with or ahead of traffic in my little 4 cylinder. OR--if I want to hurry, I can do the same but depress the pedal harder, switching through the 3 gears rapidly, then moving into a phantom "4th" gear (which actually is 2nd gear--like a passing gear) by releasing the accelerator, then quickly depressing it again to really set the car into motion. I easily can run away from most ordinary traffic--post haste. I am in charge of the gear changes. Thus, I have converted my 3 speed into a 4 speed vehicle. I hate waiting for a sluggish automatic to "think its way through the gears".
New Driver

This reminds me of the preselector transmissions of the '30s, the Wilson and, specifically, the Cotal. Some of the cars that used a preselctor gearbox follow. They can all be seen at the Simeone Foundation Automotive Museum, Philadelphia, PA, USA. (
1933 Squire Roadster: Wilson
1934 MG K3 Magnette: Wilson
1937 Cord Supercharged 812: Wilson
1948 Talbot-Lago: Wilson
1936/48 Delahaye 135S/175S: Cotal
1938 Peugot 402 Darl’Mat Racer: Cotal
1938 Avions Voisin: Cotal

Big debate. Electric obsoletes all those stall converters and granny gears ICE motors need to get a move on.