Push My Buttons: Ford Files Patent Application for 'Proximity Shifting'
The traditional console-mounted transmission shifter is disappearing, being replaced by buttons or rotary knobs in many models as shift-by-wire becomes the industry standard. The 2018 GMC Terrain recently debuted — and received criticism for — pushbuttons mounted low in the center stack in order to control the transmission.
Ford is no stranger to these configurations. The Blue Oval uses buttons mounted on the left side of the center stack in the Lincoln MKZ and a console-mounted rotary knob in the Ford Fusion. Now, Ford has an idea for an even more complex shifting system — and this one comes with a bit of retro flair.
A recently published patent application describes a shifter mechanism comprised of pushbuttons (which wouldn’t look out of place on an 8-track player) mounted low in the center stack. The assembly is shown on a pivoting box that would swing out towards the driver based on a set of proximity sensors.
These sensors would also be employed on each of the buttons in order to approximate the shifter position as the drivers hand approaches, as well as to make sure the driver is not resting their hand on the buttons. The application states, “It would be desirable to provide for an enhanced operation of a pushbutton shifter interface for us on a vehicle.”
While these buttons are likely just a general representation, the technology of proximity sensing seems like an unnecessarily complex solution to a problem that does not exist.
While proximity sensing may have a use in exterior door handles, it just adds something else to break if it is employed for a shifter — especially one that needs to emerge from the dash in order to be used. Ford seems to have done well with the rotary knob in the Fusion and I’m not sure why they would want to implement something that would take up more space on the center stack (and possibly cause owner dissatisfaction).
[Images: United States Patent and Trademark Office]
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