Push My Buttons: Ford Files Patent Application for 'Proximity Shifting'

Bozi Tatarevic
by Bozi Tatarevic
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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]

Bozi Tatarevic
Bozi Tatarevic

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  • Flipper35 Flipper35 on Sep 05, 2017

    So, looking at the diagram it would pop out each time you reached for your big gulp.

  • PrincipalDan PrincipalDan on Sep 05, 2017

    Toggle switches! MORE TOGGLE SWITCHES! We need more interiors that resemble a 1960s Thunderbird.

  • Marty S Corey, thanks for your comment. Mercedes has many different models, and will survive. Jaguar is planning on only offering electric models and will be in trouble. They should continue their ICE models as long as possible, but have discontinued the F-Type already and will probably be discontinuing everything else. We purchased the current XF this year, which is a nice car, but would have been splendid if they had just continued the supercharged V-6 in it.By the way, I have really enjoyed your Continental and Eldorado series. Was just showing it to my barber, who owned several 1954-56 Eldorado convertibles.
  • Marques My father had one of these. A black 1984 Pulsar NX with a 5-speed stick and a grey interior. Dad always kept it in pristine shape-that black paint was shiny even in the middle of the night. I swear I could still smell the Rain Dance carnauba wax! The only issue that car ever had was that it was never driven enough-it would sit for 10 days at a time! The Hitachi carburetor on it(and other Nissans of the time) were known to be troublesome. It went to the boneyard at 72K miles when a hole got punched in the block. By that time the Pulsar had long ceased production.
  • VoGhost This is the only new vehicle I have the slightest interest in.
  • VoGhost I love it. Can't wait to get one. Finally, trucks are becoming actually capable, and it's great for America.
  • Peter Just waiting for Dr. Who to show up with his Tardis, and send these things back to the hellish dark dimension from which they came.