Ford could fit its next-gen vehicles with a pedal-free manual transmission

Using an automatically-operated clutch.
Chris Young
The photo credit line may appear like thisdeepblue4you/iStock

New patent filings from Ford outline a design for a new type of manual box that only uses hand inputs and doesn't require a clutch pedal to shift, a report from The Drive reveals.

With its new design, Ford aims to remove some of the negative associations drivers have with manual transmission vehicles, which has led some big automakers, such as Mercedes-Benz, to announce they will stop producing stick shift cars.

An easier way to shift gears

The patent, for a "manual transmission with [an] electric clutch", shows off a design that features a control module that automatically actuates the clutch, meaning the driver can easily shift gears by moving the gear stick alone. The module disengages the clutch automatically when the driver starts to move the gear shift and reengages it once the shift has been completed.

It does this via a master cylinder linked to an electric actuator to pressurize the clutch release hydraulics. The design, which does allow for a foot pedal to be added for those who want it, was revealed in a patent application filed by Ford with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) in December 2018, though the filing was only made public in November.

Ford could fit its next-gen vehicles with a pedal-free manual transmission
A diagram from Ford's patent filing. Source: USPTO

Pedal-free manual transmission

The publication Muscle Cars & Trucks, which was the first to discover the patent this month, speculates that the new pedal-free manual transmission could be used in the next-gen S650 Mustang or the next Bronco, which was recently shown off hitting some sand dunes in a promotional video.

Of course, just because an idea was filed in a patent doesn't mean it will become reality. Though the new manual box design could help to make manual transmission more accessible, it also looks like a costly system to develop and integrate into existing vehicles, meaning it may face too big a hurdle when it comes to making it into production — especially as drivers have been turning away from manual transmission in favor of automatic vehicles for decades. Having said that, the new system is essentially powered by an algorithm and an actuator, meaning the engineering behind it shouldn't be too much of a hurdle to implement.

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