We all know that manual transmissions are becoming more and more rare, and outside of a few niche cars targeted at archaic oily old bastards like myself and most of our readership, they’ll be gone. That got me thinking about ways that some of the manual-shifting experience may be able to be preserved, and that led me to this idea. An idea that may or may not be terrible.
The goal is to do something like emulate the experience of driving a manual transmission on a car that doesn’t have one available. This also means doing so with minimal or no hardware added to the car, ideally. It’s sort of like emulating an old Apple II or an NES on a modern computer: it’s not exactly the same, but it can give a pretty decent sense of the experience.
Here’s what I’m thinking: dual-clutch transmissions are becoming more and more common—hell, even Kia offers a dual-clutch transmission now.
As the name suggests, unlike normal automatics, dual-clutch transmissions have a clutch. I mean, they have two, even. Since everything’s computer-controlled, there should be a software-based way to control those clutches and pick what gear to shift into.
For what I’m thinking, the car in Manual Emulation mode would display a shift pattern on the center stack touch screen. The clutch would be actuated with either one of the car’s existing controls (like a paddle shift paddle, steering wheel button, or something) or, for an even more accurate experience, a small pressure switch could be incorporated into the driver’s left footrest.
Of course, this wouldn’t be like what a clutch is actually like; it would just be a clutch on/off, and you wouldn’t get a sense of clutch points or feathering the clutch or anything like that. The transmission’s computer would have to take care of that for you.
It may be possible to get a little more input and feedback from an emulated clutch if there’s a pressure sensor on the dead pedal that’s more than just on/off. In that case, you likely could read a pressure value and emulate feathering or slipping the clutch, the clutch point, and all that.
Again, this wouldn’t be exactly like driving a manual, but I bet it could be close enough to be fun. Sure, the sensation of hitting an immobile dead pedal or pulling a paddle isn’t the same as a good springy clutch pedal, and swiping your hand on a screen sure as shit isn’t pulling a gearshift lever back, but, again, it’s something.
Plus, think about this: since it’s all computer-based fakery anyway, you can load in however many or few gears you want, and whatever shift pattern you want.
Want to experience an archaic manual three-speed? Have at it!
I bet there’d be some way to do this with a CVT that lets you have a 32-speed transmission so you can shift like they do in the Fast and Furious movies.
I think this is certainly possible. I also think it’s useless, really. But it may be that kind of useless that’s fun as well. Is this a desecration of everything that driving a manual means, or is it a way to get people who only have access to modern cars interested in the magic of switching your own gears?
I know emulating old computers has led many people to seek out original vintage hardware to use and enjoy. Maybe this could do the same for cars?
Maybe not. Maybe just buy an old car with an actual stick instead.