Although manual transmissions seem to be heading in the direction of cassette players and crank windows these days, a Ford engineer has come up with a new technology that allows for increased functionality of a manual shift knob.
Zach Nelson, a young junior engineer for Ford, came up with the idea to use smartphone technology in combination with the OBD-II vehicle data port to create a shift knob that vibrates to indicate programmable shift points. The shift knob itself was made using a 3-D printer, and Nelson took the haptic feedback mechanism from an Xbox 360 controller to create the vibration.
Nelson says he has experimented with this shift knob on both the 2013 Ford Mustang and the 2013 Ford Focus ST and notes that the shift points could be programmed to vibrate in different contexts for different driving conditions. For instance, the vibrations could be programmed to come near the redline for performance driving, or at lower RPMs for optimizing fuel economy, or even at shift points for manual transmission beginners to help demonstrate when to shift.
This software was developed on Ford’s open source OpenXC software platform, meaning that all of Nelson’s coding for this system is available to outside app creators and programmers.
The only problem we see with this technology is that to get the full benefit of the vibrating shifter, you must be steering with one hand most of the time, a less-than-advisable driving technique. Still, with a bit of fine tuning, we could see this type of system finding success in the near future; for automotive enthusiasts like us, anything that helps preserve the manual transmission is a welcome addition to the automotive landscape. Check out the video below to see the vibrating shift knob in action.