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FCA still looking for better shifters

by David Zatz on

FCA is once again on the hunt for better shifters. They tried the ZF monostable unit (which always springs back to “straight up”), which proved to be, let’s be kind, unsatisfactory, and the basis for lawsuits. They tried The Knob, borrowed from big rigs, which works well but has met with some potential-customer resistance.

“Monostable” and Knob

While FCA finally returned to traditional-feel electronic shifters, where the lever stays where you put it, Jay TenBrink and Michael Perecki of FCA US apparently felt there’s still a problem to be solved, because they solved it.  They wrote in their patent application that modern “polystable” electronic shifters — the kind that look and feel like the old cable-operated mechanisms — don’t actually have any physical motion damping, so the feel could be improved.

In response, these FCA US employees developed a “shift-by-wire” shifter with a speed-sensitive damping setup — where the “speed” is the speed of driver moving the shifter, not the speed of the car. It works mechanically, using well-greased stacked plates, so that there is resistance to movement in the shifter mechanism itself; the idea is to provide a “smooth, controlled shifter feel while also working to aid in preventing overshoot of a desired gear.” In short, to replace the mechanical feel of the transmission itself with the mechanical feel of the shifter.

When will we see it? Possibly never; possibly next month. The patent was filed with the US Patent Office on April 15, 2015, and was granted on March 14, 2017. Courtesy Steven St. Laurent. 

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