Have you ever wished your transmission were smarter? We're not talking about a dual-clutch or a paddle-shift automatic, but a manual. No? Well, maybe you should have.
Ford has developed a smart shift knob for manual transmissions (in this case, a 2013 Shelby Mustang GT500), that can help drivers learn how to shift properly.
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It's not available for purchase, as it's a Ford engineer's project using the company's OpenXC research platform--but the project is open-source, and the design files and firmware are available for download. So you can make one for yourself.
So how does it work? It takes a haptic vibration motor from an Xbox 360 controller and a Bluetooth link to the car's data output and packages them all into a fairly compact shift knob. Then the system senses the car's rpm and speed, and vibrates to tell the driver it's time to shift. Engineer Zachary Nelson also says it could be modified to vibrate to indicate other information, including the optimal shift points for gas mileage.
While the knob itself might not have all that much use for us--or for most people in the real world--the idea that a car maker is developing and prototyping products, then releasing those designs into the wild for further development by the automotive community, is downright amazing.