I was lucky in that I learned how to drive a ‘stick shift’ when I was a teenager. I remember the learning curve. My car stalled out at the top of many hills back then while I learned how to put the car in first gear (and let off the clutch just right) after the light turned green. Now there is an easier way to learn how to drive those cars. It’s with the help of this gear shift knob. The way this works is easy. The gear shift knob vibrates when it’s time to switch gears.
This system was created by a junior engineer at Ford named Zac Nelson. According to OpenXC, “An Android application monitors the vehicle’s speed, RPM and accelerator position. Based on this information, the application calculates and then indicates to the driver when he or she should shift by vibrating the gear shift knob.”
Zach used the motor from an Xbox 360 controller and 3D printed the gear shift knob’s casing. It’s even adjustable, so you can set it to prioritize speed or fuel economy. It’s currently installed in a Ford Mustang, but from what I can see, it’s not something that will be mass-produced to help people learn how to drive a manual transmission car. Unfortunately.
Normally there isn’t any innovation in the gear shift knobs in cars. It’s a really neat place to see some creativity implemented, and the way Zach put this together is inspiring. If you click over to OpenXC (linked above), you can read about his motivation and how exactly he pulled this off. There’s no question that ‘stick shift’ cars are more fun to drive, and this little doodad will allow beginners to spend more time enjoying the ride and less time grinding the gears.