By on February 20, 2020


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.”

[Images: Hyundai]

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46 Comments on “Predict-a-Shift: Hyundai, Kia Claim Transmission Breakthrough...”

  • avatar

    By the 1970s, GM’s turbo-hydramatic, Chrysler’s Torqueflite, and Ford’s C-4 and C-5 transmissions could last over 100,000 miles.

    Then electronic transmissions controlled by the engine’s ECU started to grenade after 50k-60k, especially Chrysler’s ultradrive in minivans.

    I wonder what this new “innovation” will do to transmission durability? It should help squeeze that extra 0.25 of a mpg out of the car in between rebuilds!

    • 0 avatar

      Indeed, the hydraulic governor and vacuum/throttle combination, plus kick-down worked very, very well and was a mature, optimized shift control system.
      That system can and has been emulated by electronic sensors and speed/load maps, but they get complicated when over-drive and compound complex gear-trains, ABS, stability and traction control are added. Not to mention engine control system interactions and integration. All sorts of intermittent, multi-causal gremlins can creep in that were not found in testing/prove-out, and are hard and time consuming to resolve.

    • 0 avatar

      Nice to pick out a very bad example to condemn all high tech transmissions. That particular transmission was poorly designed and rushed into production. It was not the technology that failed it per se. It was a botched rollout from the beginning – just like Ford’s pathetic dual clutch fiasco. Meanwhile scores of high tech automatics have worked without problems.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      The only transmission I’ve had rebuilt in 40 years was a Ford C-3, and I’ve had very good service from H/K transmissions.

    • 0 avatar

      I find the most worrisome thing in this article to be that the demonstration vehicle, pictured in the diagram, appears to be turning left into a sweeping right turn. This new transmission will surely kill us all!

    • 0 avatar
      Art Vandelay

      As I tend to drive manuals, my only “transmission” repair has been some surgery to fix my right rotator cuff. I may be coming up on some knee work though.

    • 0 avatar

      The 6F50 in my Taurus X is humming along at 250,000 miles without issue. Data point of one, yes.

    • 0 avatar

      Toyota and Aisin still last well into 250k, the problem is not electronics but rather the bean counters in American car companies.

    • 0 avatar

      nonsense. the Ultradrive was rushed into production and (novel for the time) needed it’s own type of ATF (ATF+3/+4.) After the bugs had been worked out most of the remaining problems came from someone putting Dexron ATF in it. Chrysler still uses the Ultradrive design for all of its in-house designed transmissions, and they’re fine.

  • avatar

    I’m fascinated. Totally baffled but fascinated. I feel like I’m reading one of the old Popular Science articles from the 1950’s predicting nuclear powered cars….

  • avatar

    The world will switch to EVs. No transmission — no problem.

  • avatar

    Just get that new 8-speed DCT right on the first try H/K, then we can talk about predictive shifting, pie-in-the-sky…

  • avatar

    Can the transmission read my mind? If not, how can it know which gear I would select? Suppose I’m following a car that is about to turn off. I will want to accelerate back up to the speed limit as soon as he is out of my way. If I’ll be satisfied with leisurely acceleration, third gear will do. If I want more, I’ll use second. How will the transmission know which to select? Note that I’m not consistent nor do I accept any obligation to be so.

    The best automatic transmissions are those that downshift promptly in response to a slight increase in pressure on the accelerator pedal. The nasty ones, no doubt designed to minimize fuel consumption, delay downshifting as long as possible and then do so with a pronounced lurch. A manual transmission works better than either.

    • 0 avatar

      Agreed! Just because the road changes who says I need a higher or lower gear? Maybe I need to pass or quickly enter a highway.

      And reduced brake wear? Since when has this been a problem? Using less brake does mean more efficient fuel usage by leveraging momentum, but honestly other then a trucker going downhill when was the last time a commuter in a sedan complained about brake wear?

      This is interesting concept as another way to use GPS data to help “drive” but it seems unnecessary. However it could be a first step into something like GM Super Cruise feature.

    • 0 avatar

      >>> Can the transmission read my mind? <<<
      Not this one advertised above. I'll stick with my tried-and-true and very much more fun six speed manual, thanks. :-)

    • 0 avatar

      I recall being taught that it was better to use brakes than to downshift, as brakes were less expensive to repair than transmissions.

      Of course, I will do as I please, not always choosing the least expensive option, and not always choosing the same gear in the same situation, depending on my driving mood.

    • 0 avatar

      Transmission cannot read your mind if you want to crash or break the law, but if you are going with the flow of traffic at a comfortable speed then yes it knows what you have to do anyways.

      I read it as them trying to use their partial result from self driving to make their regular cars better. The risk is low even if you got it right, nobody will die.

      I think they should also control throttle and speed with this thing in addition to transmission, but maybe those patents were already filed and trolled.

  • avatar

    Ohhhhh boy. This should be REAL fun.

  • avatar

    Vehicles need logical predictive processes since many drivers don’t!

  • avatar

    Didn’t Rolls have a similar technology 10 years ago? Using the topography on its GPS system to determine the correct gear before it needed it?

  • avatar
    R Henry

    All of my daily drivers have had predictive transmissions. When I predict a need to change gear, I depress the clutch pedal, move the gear lever, then release the clutch pedal. The system works VERY well, and has been proven reliable over many years and many hundreds of thousands of miles.

  • avatar

    How will downshifting reduce plow exactly? In a FWD vehicle, the slow-down force of engine braking will be transmitted through the front wheels, and only the front wheels. When using the wheel brakes, at least the rear wheels do a small fraction of the work.

  • avatar

    From the sounds of it VW-USA dealers are much worse than those in Canada.

  • avatar

    Months of winter salt rub out lane markers round these parts. That’s why the line painting crews emerge in Spring like the leaves. I see this Hyundai happily negotiating a perfectly maintained road, all electronic nannies atwitter chirping away to each other in eagerness, data being shovelled around at gigabit rates with dizzying abandon. “Looks like that traffic ahead is slowing, Mook Lee,” a breathless AI chip telegraphs to the central core. “Steady as she goes, but shift down a gear, just in case!”

    Meanwhile Grannie, fresh from a Florida blue plate special brekkie, activates a few neurons on the short strip of four laner she navigates to get home, looks ahead and says to herself, “Why is the traffic ahead of me slowing?”, and eases on the brake. No sweat.

    Talk about taking a sledgehammer to crack a nut – this autonomous rubbish has got to stop until people have had plenty of time to really think about what it is they’re actually trying to accomplish. Predictive is what weather forecasts are following the study of results from really complex models. And they get it correct 100% of the time, right?

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    With greater complexity comes more probability of expensive repairs or replacement. Thanks but no thanks.

  • avatar

    I wonder, what could go wrong with that?

  • avatar

    Waste of development resources. BEVs do not need transmissions. If they were forward looking company they could find better use for all that money.

  • avatar

    A bit of heresy I know, but I like the CVT in my car. When I’m in a car with a multi-geared transmission the car seems herky jerky. So with this thing, the trans will be shifting up and down all the time. OH BOY! Hold me back!

    • 0 avatar

      The CVT in the wife’s CRV is the best electronically-controlled automatic I’ve driven. I’ve found nothing offensive about it apart from how slow it is right off the line before the little 1.5T builds boost. It behaves consistently when you floor it, accelerating slowly at first but progressively increasing as the revs and boost rise. It feels similar to an airplane take-off on freeway on-ramps and it never feels slow or indecisive in traffic. When driving calmly, I don’t even notice it. It’s just smooth.

      I just hope it’s reliable and durable! I look forward to seeing how the fluid looks at the first change but I’m waiting until the computer tells me to do it.

  • avatar

    I’ve driven plenty of new cars, including 10-speed automatics which are busy bumping around between ratios, CVTs which slur the vehicle responses, and Dual-clutch automatics which judder and jolt in normal traffic conditions. What a mess! None of these modern trannies has been as civilized and “smart” as the old 6-speed automatic I observed (in over 500 miles) in a rented 2018 Dodge Grand Caravan. SIX simple ratios which match well with the 3.6L Pentastar, and the whole system is programmed to be both predictable and non-jarring.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    My issue with CVTs is less about how they feel and more about long term reliability and the huge cost to replace them which basically forces you to junk a vehicle with a bad transmission. A 4k to 6k replacement cost for a transmission is not a risk that I want to take especially after 3 or 5 years of ownership. I don’t have money to burn. The value of most vehicles with CVTs or double clutch automatics is much less than those with a conventional automatic. I might change my mind if they ever get CVTs more reliable and warranty them for 10 years or 100k miles.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    @rpn453–Just make sure that your wife’s transmission fluid is drained and changed and not flushed. You do not want to have any automatic flushed and steer clear of any service department or repair shop that suggests flushing an automatic transmission.

    • 0 avatar

      I’ll be doing it myself.

      I’m hoping it will be reliable because it’s a nice vehicle in many ways and we’ll probably keep it for as long as it’s dependable, but I don’t have much confidence long term. I haven’t heard of any CVTs (Prius excepted) that would be expected to outlast the rest of the vehicle. I’d have recommended a CX5 if I had known her when she bought it.

      I test drove a Honda HRV and Mazda CX3 back-to-back a couple years ago and I preferred the operation of the HRV CVT. Though the car felt numb and mushy on the cloverleaf, it accelerated nicely onto the freeway as I squeezed the throttle. The CX3 was better around the same curve but the shifts were unpleasantly abrupt on corner exit. Even in normal traffic, the shifts felt harsh to me. Despite that, I’d prefer to buy the CX3’s auto because I’d expect it to last the life of the vehicle.

      The MT Mazda3 was much better than both in every way on that section. I was glad my ex picked that car instead.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    I myself would wait to buy a vehicle with this new transmission at least a few years after it has been out in the market and all the bugs worked out. I don’t like to learn from expensive lessons, I have done enough of that in the past. If you lease your vehicles and don’t keep a vehicle for more than a couple of years maybe you wouldn’t care.

  • avatar

    The only transmission from H/K which I have considerable seat time using was manual and it was terrible. When my car got rear-ended, popping out some sensor for the cooling system causing it to overheat, I was given a same generation Forte with an automatic as a loaner. That drove like a dream.

    My vehicle was a 2011 Forte with the 6 speed, that randomly denied me access to 4th gear requiring that I either bounce back to 3rd or skip it altogether and go into 5th gear.

    I’ve not experienced their more recent manual transmissions and couldn’t say if mine was an anomaly, but I would rent a vehicle thus equipped. I like trying things, just not buying them prematurely.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    Trying different vehicles is good because you can get a better idea of how a vehicle drives. Better to try out a vehicle before you buy it.

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