Predict-a-Shift: Hyundai, Kia Claim Transmission Breakthrough
Since the automatic transmission’s birth shortly before the outbreak of World War 2, driver input and road load have dictated what gear a traditional autobox finds itself in. But what if a tranny could instead predict the optimal gear for the road not yet travelled?
That’s a question Hyundai and sister division Kia claim to have answered. Enter the company’s just-announced Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Connected Shift System.
The predictive system, born of advances in ICT and a concerted effort by engineers at the Korean automaker, enables “the vehicle to automatically shift to the optimal gear after identifying the road and traffic conditions ahead.”
It seems the development process saw 40 patents filed by the company.
Not a demonstration exercise, Hyundai and Kia plan to introduce a so-equipped transmission in future models. From the automaker:
ICT Connected Shift System uses intelligent software in the Transmission Control Unit (TCU) that collects and interprets real-time input from underlying technologies, including 3D navigation equipped with a precise map of the road as well as cameras and radar for smart cruise control. The 3D navigation input includes elevation, gradient, curvature and a variety of road events as well as current traffic conditions. Radar detects the speed and distance between the vehicle and others, and a forward-looking camera provides lane information.
Using all of these inputs, the TCU predicts the optimal shift scenario for real-time driving situations through an artificial intelligence algorithm and shifts the gears accordingly. For example, when a relatively long slow down is expected and radar detects no speed irregularities with the car ahead, the transmission clutch temporarily switches to neutral mode to improve fuel efficiency.
Indeed, fuel efficiency is at the core of this effort. Hyundai has made strides on that front in the recent past, introducing the first of its Smart Stream engines — a mill that combines greater thermal efficiency with reduced friction. An ICT Connected Shift System, when combined with Smart Stream tech, would presumably boost a model’s efficiency even more.
Another plaudit for predictive shifting is reduced brake wear, as the vehicle could downshift in anticipation of a curve or area of reduced speed. In a test on a curvy piece of track, a vehicle equipped with the new tranny tech saw the vehicle execute 43 percent fewer shifts in cornering, with brake operation lowered by 11 percent. Having the automatic downshift in advance of a curve (with less plow-inducing braking effort) helps a driver power out of it — and stay planted while in it.
As well, the ICT-controlled gearbox could automatically switch into sport mode during times when greater acceleration is required, like when merging onto a freeway.
Hyundai didn’t say when such a system might find its way into a production car, though it did say work is ongoing. The company plans “to further develop the ICT Connected Shift System into an even more intelligent transmission technology that can communicate with traffic signals based on LTE or 5G communication and identify drivers’ tendencies, resulting in further refinement of gear-shift control.”
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