Ford has filed a patent application with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) for a manual transmission with electronic clutch, which would allow drivers to shift gears without controlling clutch actuation.

First spotted by Muscle Cars & Trucks, Ford's concept would eliminate the physical connection between the clutch pedal and throwout bearing. Software would automatically operate the clutch in response to movement of the shifter. Sensors could detect when the shifter is being moved and trigger disengagement or engagement of the clutch accordingly.

This would eliminate the need for a clutch pedal, but in the application Ford said it could be retained. The pedal would be connected to an electronic control module rather than the clutch itself, similar to the by-wire throttle and braking systems already used in some cars.

2024 Ford Mustang GT spy shots - Photo credit: S. Baldauf/SB-Medien

2024 Ford Mustang GT spy shots - Photo credit: S. Baldauf/SB-Medien

Alternatively, Ford said an override button could be fitted to the shifter in place of a clutch pedal. This means it could still be possible to drop the clutch with one of these systems, Muscle Cars & Trucks noted. It could also allow for clutch pressure to vary based on how much pressure the shift lever is grasped with, according to the application.

The electronic clutch system wouldn't require any major hardware modifications, Ford said. That means it could be used with everything from rear-wheel-drive cars with longitudinally mounted engines, like the Mustang coupe and convertible, to four-wheel-drive vehicles like the Bronco, to front-wheel-drive cars with transaxles, according to Ford. However, the automaker has not publicly discussed plans to put such a feature into production.

If Ford does green light an electronic clutch, a possible application would be the next-generation Mustang. Code-named S650, it's expected to arrive midway through 2023 as a 2024 model. Our spy photographer has captured shots of both the 4-cylinder EcoBoost Mustang and V-8 Mustang GT out testing recently.