Car Designers Just Can’t Resist Messing with Automatic Transmissions

Written by orobulletin

Illustration of an automatic transmission
TM Detwiler

Back when cars only had 3 manual speeds and reverse, the chances of mixing up gears were minimal. I got it right at least 1 in 4 chances. However, after the prevalence of automatic transmissions in the 1950s, controlling gear selection became a matter of both design and ergonomics.

In 1971, the Department of Transportation mandated that automatics use the PRNDL (called “prindle”) layout. The impetus for this law, like many automotive regulations, stems from a 1965 book. dangerous at any speedRalph Nader accused General Motors, Studebaker and Rambler of using a confusing transmission design that placed reverse after drive. Nader cited the crash as the driver disengaging the intended gear and accelerating in the wrong direction. The PNDLR pattern is dangerous, he declared. Plus, it’s not that much fun to say.

The debate continues today. 2016, Star Trek Actor Anton Yelchin died after being crushed by a Jeep after failing to properly secure his vehicle in a park due to an obscure shifter design. The accident led to the recall of more than a million vehicles and the installation of software that allowed them to park when the driver’s door was opened. Eventually, then-parent company Fiat Chrysler Automobiles redesigned the affected model to incorporate a shifter with his traditional PRNDL feel.

Maintaining consistent shift patterns across cars and brands is a seemingly obvious driver benefit, but designers can’t stop playing with alphabet soup. These days, with no mechanical connection that limited the shifter’s quirkiness, and no physical link between the shifter and the transmission, shift-by-wire his gear selector allows automakers more flexibility in interior design. can be further enhanced. But freedom means that PRNDL can scatter like Scrabble dropped his rack of tiles. This results in some strange constructs such as:

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Toyota Prius: Reverse Logic

The Prius has a mini shifter that moves up and down for reverse and up and down for drive. Toyota engineers should know that odd placement can lead to accidentally selecting the wrong gear.

Ram:Which one is the loudest?

Ram places a small transmission dial in the center stack near the volume knob. Be sure to double check every time you go up a song.

Aston Martin’s PRND button placement is pretty simple, with one confusing exception. The engine ignition button is in the middle.

BMW was selling an M car with a shifter without park. The vehicle had to be left in reverse (upper left) or drive when the engine was turned off.

Lamborghini: privilege information

Want to put your Aventador in drive? Don’t look for button downs in reverse and neutral. Pull the right paddle on the Lambo instead.

The Volkswagen ID.4 has a large toggle mounted on the gauge cluster. You have to reach around the steering wheel to get it, and you can’t see the shifter because the wheel is in the way.

I have to point out that you can skip this madness with a manual transmission that uses the same pattern as always. But wait, again which one is in reverse and 1st is dogleg?
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