Ford is planning to introduce a fully-autonomous car in 2021 that doesn’t even have a steering wheel, but that doesn’t mean it’s stopped thinking about the old school man-machine interface.
Its new GT supercar pushes things to the next level by moving most of the car’s controls – including the wipers and turn signals – onto the front of the wheel, where they’re operated by a dozen buttons, toggles and knobs.
As with a lot of performance cars, there are also paddles behind the wheel that you can use to change gears, but you still have to use a knob on the center console to select Park, Reverse, Neutral and Drive.
That won’t be the case if a patent Ford has applied for ever comes to fruition.
Uncovered by Motor 1, the filing describes an automatic transmission gear shift that uses steering wheel-mounted paddles to handle the PRND thing.
The left one switches between Park, Reverse and Neutral, while the right one is all about Drive. Several operating cycles are described, including one that changes through Park and Reverse then stops at Neutral until you put it into Drive. Another allows for an infinite PRN loop, assuming your foot is on the brake. Hit the left paddle while you’re moving and it shifts straight into Neutral -- just the thing for a showboaty engine rev.
The whole point of this is to open up space on the center console, which Lincoln did by employing a pushbutton transmision control on the dashboard.
Ford isn’t the first to try to reimagine the functionality of steering wheel paddles, however. Chevy Corvettes with manual transmissions use them to engage a rev matching function for their seven-speed stick, while pulling on one in the Chevy Volt or Bolt electric cars activates a regenerative braking system that uses their electric motors, instead of the brakes, to slow them down.
2017 FORD GT TEST DRIVE: