View Single Post
Old 01-15-2013, 08:12 PM
Zeichen311's Avatar
Zeichen311 Zeichen311 is offline
Lost but making good time
Location: Here, there or in transit
Join Date: Mar 2011
Posts: 4,056
Mein Auto: '11 335xi 4dr; '03 330Ci
Originally Posted by jfox335i View Post
I'm not a mechanic, so forgive me if this sounds unrealistic. With all the technology in vehicles these days, am I naive in thinking a true manual with an automatic mode should have been developed and in production by now? I'm not talking about a DCT, It would be your typical 6MT, but ...[snip] This way, manual drivers get what they want, automatic drivers get what they want, and everyone's happy. If they can program cars to drive themselves, is this really that much more difficult? Wouldn't there be a market for this type of transmission?
It is an interesting idea, perhaps even more so when you realize you came at it from the wrong end.

First, a DCT is a "true manual" insofar as it has much of the internal construction of a manual gearbox: constant-mesh gears on multiple shafts, synchronizers, dog clutches and most importantly, a friction-plate clutch (actually, two concentric ones, hence Dual-Clutch Transmission) instead of a torque converter. The sole intrusion of automation is computer control of the hydraulically-actuated clutches.

Bearing that in mind, the driving experience you describe could be achieved almost trivially with a DCT. Provide a clutch pedal connected to nothing but a microswitch and a suitably damped spring. Provide a gear lever with an appropriate gate pattern, a means to simulate shift effort and again, nothing but a set of microswitches at the other end of the lever. Use the clutch pedal switch to signal the computer to (de-)clutch and the gearing switches to signal gear selection. Provide a control button to switch between use of these input devices and full-auto mode and there you have it: A fully automatic or fully "manual" transmission.

None of that requires any innovative technology. The hardest design problem to solve would be how the transmission should react to a botched shift. If you let the "clutch" out too soon should it grind the gears? Protect itself and dump you in neutral? React like a video game by sounding a buzzer, vibrating the wheel and/or seat and then complete the shift anyway? Should it let you stall the engine by shifting into 6th at 5mph? Best of all: How should it respond to a simulated money shift?

Most of that is a matter of programming but with all that said--such a transmission is pointless. It would add expense, complexity and risk, yet still only be an emulation of behavior that is, in all honesty, done better, faster and more accurately by up- and downshift paddles (and the simple +/- selector lever on a DCT or Steptronic). One element of the joy of driving, and mastering, a manual transmission is the challenge to strive for a perfect shift, every time. You miss it, you own it; you break it, you bought it. It's why aids like a clutch-delay valve and auto rev-matching really p!ss off a lot of die-hard fans.

The fun of a manual is in the direct, mechanical control of a piece of complex machinery and the challenge to do it well. It is no longer faster or more fuel-efficient than a top-end automatic or DCT, and while you do have more control, you do not necessarily have better control. (The number of drivers who can drive a stick well dwindles by the day, and many of the remainder don't even know they're not very good.) Take away that connection and you might as well just use whichever tech makes your car better/faster/smoother than the other guy's--because if you don't, he sure will. Anything else is affectation.
2011 335xi Individual 6MT - Azurite Black Metallic / Oyster & Black / Anthracite Maple + all the good stuff
2003 330Ci Sport 5MT - Black Sapphire Metallic / Natural Brown / Myrtle + the important stuff

   N47 35' 30.13" E11 10' 33.36" - End of can guess what came next. BMW CCA

Last edited by Zeichen311; 01-15-2013 at 08:22 PM.
Reply With Quote