Cars with automatic transmissions sense the vehicle speed and the engine rpm and change gears accordingly. This was the norm for several decades. There have been technological leaps in the transmission system with dual clutch transmissions and vehicles selecting gears depending on the driver’s choice of driving mode. But now, Hyundai and Kia have taken the game way ahead with the development of the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Connected gear shift system.

This system employs a Transmission Control Unit (TCU) which receives several inputs like the condition of the road, the traffic ahead, the gradient of climb etc and then uses an Artificial Intelligence based algorithm to select and shift gear. In addition to changing gears, the system is capable of determining the required driving mode and changing that as well. For example, when the system determines heavy slow moving traffic, it puts the transmission in neutral the moment the foot is lifted off the accelerator pedal. Or, when it realises that the car would be joining a highway and need to accelerate fast, it changes the driving mode to sport, joins the traffic on the highway and then shifts back to the relevant mode. The system also, automatically applies engine brakes upon release of the accelerator pedal by determining speed bumps, downhill slopes and location of the speed limit change on the road.

The TCU, 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.

Hyundai and Kia claim that during trials, the system was able to reduce the number of shifts by the gearbox by 43% and also reduce the application of brakes by 11% thus minimising driving fatigue and brake wear.

In future the companies intend to make the system communicate with traffic signals based on LTE or 5G communication and identify drivers’ tendencies, resulting in further refinement of gear-shift control.