Ford goes for semi-automatic
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Mini-computer controls gear changes while retaining conventional gearbox
A SIGNIFICANT new development announced this week by Ford (page 28) could mean the growth of semi-automatic transmissions for truck • applications as well as for psv. Called the Electronically Synchronized Transmission Assembly (ESTA), the new device uses a minicomputer to control gearchanges while retaining a conventional gearbox and automatically controlled clutch. Developed in conjunction with Ferranti, ESTA clearly has potential beyond the psv application on which it is initially being tried. By close synchronization of layshaft and engine speeds it allows the syncromesh cones to be removed from an otherwise standard four-, sixor eightspeed gearbox. The box becomes, in effect, a constant mesh unit with consequent greater reliability, and savings in weight. At the same time, the device utilizes a standard clutch — controlled via the throttle pedal — so the higher fuel consumption associated with torque converter transmissions should be obviated.
Six prototype semiautomatic vehicles — some of them trucks — should be in trial service by September and a fully automatic version may be on the road soon. Transmission experts believe that such is the level of Ford's expenditure that only by volume production can costs be recovered. As Ford's psv for bus uses are relatively few the likely alternative seems to be in fitting ESTA to trucks.