BMW is developing an intelligent automatic transmission that downshifts earlier, before the car enters corners or encounters hills. Called Foresight, the predictive behavior delivers a sportier, more engaging driving experience by selecting gears more like a manual-transmission driver might. The technology is currently in development and should arrive in showrooms within three to five years.
Foresight gathers road information from a number of sources including the navigation system, a cellular data connection, and cameras and radars installed in the car. In addition to calling for earlier downshifts, Foresight will also instruct the transmission to hold a lower gear longer if it knows that there are multiple curves in close succession. For example, while driving through two curves connected with a short straight, a traditional automatic transmission might downshift gear-by-gear from eighth to fifth as the vehicle slowed, upshift to sixth on the straight, and then downshift again to fifth in the next curve. On that same section of road, a transmission with Foresight would shift from eighth to fourth gear using a double-gear downshift between sixth and fourth, then hold fourth gear for the straight and second turn. Foresight also considers the road surface condition and traffic when selecting a gear. Development work is currently being conducted with the ZF-supplied eight-speed automatic used in the 5-series, X3, X5, X6, and some 7-series models.