Will New Cars Become More Like Video Games?

2013 Ford Focus ST

I like ice cream, and I like tuna fish, but I don’t like tuna fish ice cream.

That same theory goes for cars and video games. I love cars, I think video games have their place, but the two just shouldn’t be combined. Well, let me be more specific: Video games that include cars are great. Cars that incorporate pieces of video games are not.

A post on Ford’s social media site got me thinking about this. A young engineer has figured out a way to make a manual gear shift knob vibrate in the same way that a video game controller does.

To which I ask: Why?

Ford’s post says,

Imagine if the controller – in this case, the manual shift knob – could tell you through vibration when to shift? Maybe you’re new to using a manual transmission, or just want to know the optimum time to shift if you’re looking for the best fuel economy?

If you need to be told when to shift, you should probably just buy a car with an automatic transmission.

The technology behind this concept is pretty cool, as the engineer created an app that uses the car’s RPM, accelerator pedal position and vehicle speed to calculate optimum shift points. He then combined components of an XBox controller, including the vibration motor, and used them in a model of a shift knob of a Ford Focus ST, for potential use in the Mustang.

The result is technology that takes even more thinking and driver involvement away from the person behind the wheel. In my humble opinion, driving a car with a manual transmission should include as many senses as possible. The driver should shift based on how the car feels, how it sounds, where the car is positioned in traffic, where the tach needle is, and how the engine revs match up with the desired gear change. Driving a manual is a multi-sensory experience in which the driver has full control over the vehicle, which requires a certain level of human judgment.

Gimmicks like a vibrating shift knob are cool, but they take one more piece out of the driver-involvement puzzle. While something like this won’t likely become standard equipment on new cars anytime soon, I’d rather see video-game technology confined to video games, not used out on the roads of real life.

Would you want a manual shift knob that tells you when to shift?


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1 Comment

  1. Everybody who’s ever seen one of these shift aids (many older cars have a shift light) dislike them. This kind of gizmo shows one reason why Ford cars seem so overpriced– too much useless and obtrusive tech. If Ford keeps going, they’re likely to face government intervention to reduce driver distraction, or some very expensive lawsuits.

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