The History of the Automatic Transmission
Jun25

The History of the Automatic Transmission

tranny

There are quite a few opinions as to who created and sold the first workable automatic transmission. Most historians credit General Motors, however, with being first with their Hydramatic automatic transmission which appeared in select Oldsmobile models in 1939. By 1941, automatic transmissions were available on virtually all GM models.

Compared to now, the early automatic transmissions were much simpler. Most had four forward gears and reverse. The first automatic transmissions were different in other ways also. For example, the first generation Hydramatics did not have a “park” setting. What drivers did was shut off the engine and then switched the transmission into reverse to lock it.

Although the first automatic, GM’s Hydramatic, was a 4-speed, subsequent automatic transmissions were released by all the major automobile manufacturers in just 2 and 3 speed versions. This was not for long, though, because when gas mileage became more important, the major manufacturers increased the number of gears in their transmissions. A wider range of gear ratios allows a car’s engine to operate in a more optimum power band with increased efficiency and better acceleration.

Another innovation in automatic transmission design involved the semi-automatic. The folks at JBA Chevrolet of Baltimore explain that this is a transmission with the internal components of an automatic but with two distinct modes of operation. One mode allows the driver to “shift” the gears like a standard transmission and the second does it for the driver like standard automatics do. Some say semi-automatics transmissions are the best of both worlds although the “standard mode” does not offer quite the fuel economy of a standard gearset tranmission.

Many of today’s cars offer Continuously Variable Transmissions (CVT). CVT refers to the fact that the transmissions have continuous gear ratios. In other words, there are no standard gearsets used at all. There are a number of different designs for CVTs with the most common design employing a pulley system driven by either belts or metal chains to achieve infinite variability between gears.Interestingly, the CVT has been around for a long time – the first one was sketched out by Leonardo da Vinci over 500 years ago. Furthermore, this transmission type has been used in snowmobiles, tractors and industrial equipment for decades now.

In the future, we will likely see additional types of transmissions as CAFÉ fuel standards increase and gasoline becomes more expensive. Stay tuned.

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Sudden Acceleration Accident Video
May09

Sudden Acceleration Accident Video

We’ve all heard about the recalls, owners claiming their vehicles suddenly accelerated and ran out of control.  This tends to be the story and usually involves elderly individuals, so I remain skeptical.  However, here is a video showing a car accelerating out of control and into the back end of a minivan.  Obviously it’s difficult to get the entire story here, but you judge for yourself.

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Driverless Vehicles and Urban Travel
Dec16

Driverless Vehicles and Urban Travel

That’s right you read it correctly. Within 10 to 20 years we will all see the advent of autonomous vehicles and urban travel while the driver does a number of things other than operate that car. It may not be quite as slick as the fictional film versions of the 50’s depicting miles and miles of bubble topped cars transporting thousands of smiling families but they will exist. The assisted parking cars are available now for purchase. With cameras and 4 directional wheels they easily parallel park themselves with just a little assistance from the driver. Computers and GPS systems will pop our current thoughts of motoring off the charts soon.

City congestion present problems because there is just too much interference for everything to work properly. Traveling to the city for work and play is where you’ll find autonomous vehicles and urban travel commanding less of your attention. You’ll be able to set your coordinates, choose the route you wish to take perhaps for scenic pleasure, set back and relax. Sensors will know the speed limits, surrounding vehicles and path obstructions. Of course unlike those fun 50’s families playing board games in swivel seats you’ll still be belted in to safely arrive. Your car may still have to slam on the brakes for the animal or vehicle that strays into your lane. Unlike a human however, it is hoped the cameras and computers will be able to make faster snap decisions as to which ditch to gently fly into with as little damage as possible.

Henry Ford wanted to be able to help people down the road as a group in a covered motored coach. While he accomplished that the next few generations brought us windows, heaters and air conditioning, cushioning suspension systems and optional diesel motors. It is hoped the electric vehicle will one day go beyond 30 to 50 miles on a charge relinquishing our need of petrol. While the combination gas and electric hybrid vehicles spew far less emissions into the air we need to breathe, their foot print does still exist. It is hoped Quick Charge stations will start to appear where you can also “exchange” low cost electric vehicles people will share with many of a group. The car you climb into will be fully charged for the next 50 miles and cleaned by an attendant just for you.

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The Scoop on Autonomous Vehicles (Infographic)
Nov17

The Scoop on Autonomous Vehicles (Infographic)

Google has been making the rounds in the news because of their recently announced work on autonomous (driverless) vehicles. While questions remain as to why Google would want to get into the automotive space, driverless cars are fascinating. The experts from the CarInsurance Blog dug up the scoop on autonomous vehicles for us.

Autonomous Vehicle Infographic

Autonomous Vehicle Infographic

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Speeding Ticket Magnets
Nov10

Speeding Ticket Magnets

When it comes to speeding tickets, not all drivers, cars, or states are created equal. To assess your risk of inadvertently getting a speeding ticket, be mindful of your driving habits, what car you drive, and how unfriendly your state is to drivers in general. Our friends from CarInsurance.org have compiled this handy reference infographic to keep you driving safely and avoiding speeding tickets.

Where, who, which cars are speeding ticket magnets?

Where, who, which cars are speeding ticket magnets?

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2011 Ford Escape For The Blind
Jul06

2011 Ford Escape For The Blind

Believe it or not, Ford has developed technology that would potentially allow a blind person to drive a vehicle.  However, it’s not just any vehicle, on display at the National Convention For The Blind annual convention is a 2011 Escape, which is outfitted with technology that will allow blind people to drive.  It’s truly a leap of faith in technology to allow an SUV on the highway with a blind person, but Ford says we are not far from that reality.

If the technology is a success and a price point can be met, blind people will have their first opportunity to drive legally.  The SUV uses technology that sense which way a persons should steer and transforms those signals into vibrations in specially developed gloves that the driver would wear.  Personally, this makes absolutely zero sense to me, but it is a real technology being used today.

It’s called nonvisual interface technology, which utilizes a drivers other senses to translate what’s going on around them.  For example, vibrations in special gloves or even compressed air being blown in the face or body of the driver to indicate when traffic is near.

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