Some manufacturers have ditched manual transmissions altogether but Toyota continues to offer a number of stick shifts and has just made a patent application that could ensure they stick around for even longer.
Initially reported by Roadshow, the patent is dubbed ‘Controller For Vehicle and Control Method For Vehicle’. While that name means absolutely nothing, the patented technology consists of an electronic device that allows a manual transmission to automatically shift into neutral when the vehicle is coasting downhill.
Beyond helping to save fuel when travelling downhill, the system’s ability to automatically shift into neutral could allow the Japanese automaker to implement a start-stop system like it offers with automatic-equipped vehicles. Additionally, the car could even shift into neutral during an emergency stop.
Interestingly, Road & Track has discovered that Toyota’s technology shares many similarities to the freewheel mechanism introduced by the Saab 93 in 1965.
Saabs of the time used two-stroke engines which mixed engine oil with fuel to lubricate the powertrain. However, if the accelerator wasn’t depressed, when coasting downhill for example, the engine could be starved of lubrication.
Saab’s solution? A system that enabled the wheels to spin faster than the engine in certain scenarios, allowing a car to coast downhill with minimal fuel use.
Toyota hasn’t confirmed if or when it intends on introducing the technology and while it may have been inspired by Saab’s freewheel mechanism, it has the potential to be an even greater fuel saver and could help save the manual gearbox.