Yes, you read that headline correctly. Ford filed a patent for a clutch-less manual gearbox a few years ago, but it wasn’t published until late last year. Muscle Cars & Trucks uncovered the filing earlier this month, and the possibilities from such a component are exciting to think about.
The Mustang is currently available with a traditional manual transmission. Ford
As MC&T points out, the patent includes language that describes how the transmission will do its job. A control module designed to automatically actuate the clutch allows drivers to shift gears without using their left leg or a clutch pedal. The driver simply moves the shift knob in the direction of the gear they want and a sensor inside the knob communicates with the module that a gear change is imminent. The clutch is disengaged and remains so until the shift is complete, at which point the system reengages the clutch.
The interesting thing here is that, while Ford’s patent means that vehicles don’t need a clutch pedal, the automaker may still include them. Instead of the pedal being directly attached to the clutch master-cylinder, it would connect to the control module, like modern throttles and brakes are not always directly connected to the components they control. Approaching the shift this way (no pun intended), Ford could appease purists while offering a novel way to interact with a car for folks that aren’t keen on three-pedal driving.
Some Mustang Models came exclusively with three pedals, but automatics are prevalent in the Mustang lineup now.Ford
While it’s not the first time we’ve seen such a funky new technology (Kia did a while ago in Europe), the auto-manual shifting system could be a game changer, if it makes it into a production car. MC&T speculates that it could show up in the next-generation Ford Mustang, which will be here soon. If it becomes a reality, the shifter would allow drivers from the entire skill spectrum to enjoy an engaging driving experience without the fear of stalling or damaging their car.