No assignee for this patent application has been made.
News editors obtained the following quote from the background information supplied by the inventors: "There are different types of transmissions and control systems available depending on the nature or requirements of the transmission being used for an application. The main options available are a fully manual/standard type transmission with a manually operated clutch for slippage, an automatic type transmission with a torque converter for slippage and some sort of automatic shifting mechanism for gear changing without full operators input or a semi-automatic/clutchless manual which uses more operator input than an automatic yet still operates a mechanical clutch between the engine and transmission automatically for slippage.
"Manual or standard shift vehicles are typically driven with a multi-speed transmission that transmits rotational drive from an engine to the axles of the vehicle. The transmission is movable through several speeds at the control of a manually linkaged stick shift. In a typical transmission, a number of gears are individually engaged to provide the several speeds. In a typical manual transmission, toothed shift collars slide to engage selected gears with an output shaft. When the gears are engaged rotational drive is transmitted from the engine to the transmission. The gears and collar transmitting rotational drive carry a high torque load, which makes it difficult if not impossible for an operator to manually move the collar out of pedal, thus breaking the drive connection between the engine and the transmission. The operator is then able to easily move the gear out of engagement. To complete a shift, the operator must first move the present gear selection out of engagement as previously described using the clutch pedal into a neutral position, where the engine to transmission connection is lost, manually move the shifter lever into another gear selection and release the clutch pedal re-engaging the engine to transmission connection again.
"The main benefit of a manual/standard shift style transmission is complete driver control over gear selections and shift timing. This is due to the manual selector near the operator that is not influenced by anything other than a decision made and implemented solely by the operator. This is very useful when the operator sees the upcoming events while driving and can operate the transmission out of normal sequential gear sequence to prepare the vehicle for the torque load or speed requirement that is about to occur. For example an undesirable sharp gradient/downhill slope can create an excessive speed if not regulated. This can make a turn or stop dangerous if attempted. Instead of relying solely on the vehicles brakes and chancing the overheat and brake fade, the driver can downshift quickly even out of normal sequence for aid of engine braking to maintain or regulate safer speeds without worry of overheating and possibly losing the braking system.
"Some of the flaws of a manual shift style transmission are: (i) Inconsistent clutch slippage (launch or start off) that is due to human operator error; (ii) even with the aid of internal transmission synchronizers, which help to mechanically synchronize gearing in and out of engagement, sometimes downshifting more than one gear out of sequence can feel clunky, be difficult or if not timed properly can be missed and left without the engine to transmission connection completely; (iii) Undesirable time gaps between the gear selections cause a problem in racing situations where having the lowest time for a run or lap is the main objective; (iv) undesirable back and forth rocking of a vehicle during the gear changing process can be discomforting to the operator or the passengers of the vehicle if any; (v) excessive wear of driveline components due to the, sometimes even harsh, disengaging and re-engaging of the engine to transmission connection; (vi) excessive amount of attentive work from the operator to simply drive or operate the transmission. Many timed/synchronous operations are needed to be performed by the operator during normal operation. If the operations are not performed timely or correctly much damage can be done to the transmission or other components.
"Automatic shifting transmissions are also driven with a multi-speed transmission that transmits the rotational drive from an engine to the axles of a vehicle. The transmission is movable through its several speeds at the control of mainly two different automatic methods. The older method uses internal centrifugal force induced components and/or engine vacuum induced components along with hydraulics. The newer method uses computer controlled solenoids/servos/actuators in valve bodies that operate hydraulics. The different gear ratios are used to achieve and overcome the different torque requirements and/or speeds. In a typical automatic transmission, much more is going on inside and out than in a typical manual transmission. Different sets of constantly meshed gearing are used with applicators for each set to achieve the different gear ratios. Applicators are usually individual sets of 'clutch to steel' clutch packs, band brakes for rotating drums or a combination of both, however the manufacturer designed the specific transmission. The applicators are powered on and off hydraulically. A transmission fluid pressure pump, usually internal, is driven by the constantly running engine that the transmission is mounted to. This supplies pressure to the valve body that directs the fluid pressure to the proper applicators to make the desired gear ratios/selections. What decides the valve body fluid direction is either the older designed centrifugal force induced governors and/or engine vacuum operated solenoids or an electronically programmed controller that uses inputs from the operator and the vehicle, i.e. vehicle speed and engine load signal from an engine computer, to determine and execute the different gear ratios needed for the constantly changing torque and/or speed requirements.
"Benefits of an automatic transmission are: (i) no synchronizers needed due to all the gearing always meshed and applicators used for the engaging and disengaging, making it almost impossible for the transmission to 'miss a shift'; (ii) much lower, if not completely eliminated, time gaps between gear selections makes the transmission, and entire vehicle, more consistent which is a large benefit for racing purposes where time and predictability matters most; (iii) back and forth motions are eliminated due to throttle on gear changes since the engine to transmission connection is never lost during the gear change; (iv) consistent slippage ratio due to a fluid type torque converter instead of a clutch makes for consistent and predictable stop to go launches/start offs and smoother shifting gear changes; (v) extended maintenance life of other driveline components due to the constant forward rotational torque without unloading driveline motion during gear changes; and (vi) very little work for the operator to continuously operate the transmission, simply choose either Park, Reverse, Neutral or Drive/Forward and the rest is done by itself.
"A flaw of an automatic transmission is that the driver can predict an upcoming event but the automatic transmission cannot. It can only work off of the real time inputs it is given and make any changes it seems is necessary. The driver does not have the full control of out of sequence gear selections if desired, i.e. quick out of sequence down shifting for engine braking on an undesirable downhill. Even with aftermarket full manual valve bodies with active, and sometimes clunky, gear shifters there still is only sequential shifting.
"A semi-automatic, also known as a 'clutchless manual' or 'flappy paddle' style gearbox, is an actual clutch style manual gearbox or transmission with electronics and/or pneumatics to move what an operator used to move manually by themselves. It changes gears using electronic sensors, processors, actuators and pneumatics on the command of a driver and computer combined. This style transmission control system has eliminated the need for a clutch pedal, since the clutch itself is actuated by electronic equipment that can synchronize the timing and torque required to make quick and smooth launches/start offs and gear changes.
"A benefit of the semi-automatic style transmission is it can make consistent launches/start offs and fairly smooth shifts like an automatic with more operator control, yet less effort than a full manual style transmission with the manually operated clutch.
"Some flaws of the semi-automatic transmission are: (i) even though the launches/start offs are more consistent than a manual with a clutch pedal, it still isn't as consistent as the automatic due to the input, process and output timing needed for the processing and driving of actuators versus the natural reaction of the torque converter in the automatic; and (ii) only sequential shift changes available; (iii) uses a full mechanical clutch with zero slippage even at lower engine speeds where changing gears up or down can create the undesirable rocking This can be both a possible loss of traction during racing applications or uncomfortable for daily drivers. Some manufacturers use a communication to the engine computer to momentarily halt power output either with ignition retarding or throttle closing to smooth out the between gear changes. This helps smooth but does not help in racing applications where full power is always desired and at the control of the driver only.
"All transmissions and transmission control systems have applications where one is better than another in that particular application. However, an operator may desire: (i) less necessary effort to continually operate than a manual with clutch style system; (ii) more control over shift timing and gear selection than what an automatic or semi-automatic system can provide; (iii) more consistent launching/start offs than the semi-automatic or manual clutch style system can provide; (iv) unmissable yet 'on the throttle' shifts, that the manual clutch style and semi-automatics that halt power between gear changes cannot provide; and (v) no delay between gear changes, which the semi-automatic or manual with clutch style both cannot provide.
"Therefore, there is a need in the art for a transmission control system that allows the operator full control to effortlessly, yet quickly, shift gear selections in either a sequential or non-sequential manner while retaining consistent launching capabilities than any of the transmission control systems alone can provide. These and other features and advantages of the present invention will be explained and will become obvious to one skilled in the art through the summary of the invention that follows."
As a supplement to the background information on this patent application, VerticalNews correspondents also obtained the inventor's summary information for this patent application: "Accordingly, it is an aspect of the present invention to provide a transmission control system that enables an operator to quickly and effortlessly shift or change gears, in either a sequential or non-sequential manner without incurring the undesired unloading of driveline motion, while retaining consistent launches/start offs. More particularly, an improved transmission control system with an electronic gear shifter is presented for use in a vehicle or machine having an engine and transmission with a plurality of gear ratios or selections. The system allows the operator to shift gears/selections in a normal sequential progression or a progression that skips numerical order. Thus, the vehicle or machine may be accelerated and/or decelerated at a faster and more predictable rate to achieve greater performance in certain operating conditions.
"The electronic control system includes an input method, a programmed processing method, a solenoid/servo/actuator driver method, a solenoid/servo/actuator activated valve body and the wiring harnesses/mechanic linkages needed depending on the specific application.
"The input method can be sensors or switches of many different types. The gear selector of the present invention is similar to a conventional automobile manual transmission shifter, but it does not mechanically mesh any gears like the manual transmission shifter. Rather, the gear selector utilizes the switches and sensors to detect the desired gear ratio/selection. It may also contain the pull/push linkage needed depending on the transmission type. It is mounted within the operator's reach and can be operated in a sequential or non-sequential manner. The operator uses the shifter/gear selector to input the desired gear/selection to the programmed processing computer.
"The programmed processing computer reads the input from the operator's sensor/switch mechanism and outputs the needed activations to the driver board(s).
"The driver board(s) is mainly an amperage step up to activate the solenoids/servos/actuators since most processors themselves can only handle a very small amount of electrical load. The driver board outputs the proper electrical power needed to activate the solenoids/servos/actuators in order for the proper gears/selections to be made.
"The electrical wiring harnesses connect the electrical components to each other while the mechanical linkage(s), only in certain applications, connect some of the mechanical components to each other before the electrical portion of the system takes control.
"In automotive use, the transmission control system can be made for an 'automatic transmission' and would benefit from the consistent stall speed of the transmissions torque converter, which can be sized and internally designed to best fit the application it is being used for. An 'H' pattern gear shifter can be used in a sequential or non-sequential manner depending on the desired gear ratio at the time of use. If desired, an operator can skip gear ratios numerically up or down with one input or selection. For example, a racecar can make a full speed approach to a sharp upcoming turn and perform a fifth gear to second gear downshift with one selection or input after the hard braking and just reaccelerate out of the turn. This skipping of gears can be accomplished without being subjected to the multi-counting and unwanted driveline rocking of a conventional sequential, ratchet shift or paddle shift type system. One selection or input is all that is required to shift the driveline, for example, from fifth gear to second gear.
"The transmission control system operates without a conventional style clutch, as it is preferably used, at the present time, with an automatic transmission. Since the transmission control system of the present invention is purely electronic with a programmed processor, and operates without a clutch or need to release the accelerator, it does not undesirably unload the driveline motion making the system beneficial for racing or heavily loaded machinery where longer shift times are undesirable. There is no 'neutral' between gear selections, which provides accurate, low microsecond gear changes with even the slowest operator selection speeds or efforts. The processor simply remembers and holds the last selection made and stays in that selection until another one is fully selected. Beneficial for pre-determined gear changes where the operator foresees the upcoming events and can start moving the gear selector towards the next selection while still in the present selection, instead of an emergency fast hand motion at the last microsecond when the gear change is to be executed as in a manual with manually operated clutch system.
"The transmission control system provides an electronic gear selector in communication with a computer, wherein the computer performs the actual gear shifting. A mode selector may employ a manually operated mode selector lever attached to a cable/linkage to initially pull/push a mechanical part of the transmission into 'park', 'reverse', 'neutral', or 'forward' position. The computer, however, actuates the rest of the numbered gear changes in response to an operator's gear selection using the gear shifter in the numerical gear selector portion of the shifter assembly. Once in the 'forward' position, any gear ratio may be selected using, for example, an 'H' pattern gear shifter. The mode selector and gear selector may be combined together in a single device and operated with a single gear shift lever.
"In purely automatic transmissions without any manual mode selector levers, all selections are electronic and made by the computers output based on operators input from the shifter assembly.
"In both the manual selector lever type and the fully electronic transmissions, the shifting mechanism can remain the same in style. Both designs utilize a remotely mounted shifting mechanism and a programmed computerized controller that will activate the solenoids/servos/actuators in the transmissions electronic valve body or one made for it. Original valve bodies may be, in some cases, modified to operate with the system or a completely different valve body that does operate with the system will need to be made.
"The transmission control system and associated gear shifter may be used on anything that has a transmission with different directions and/or more than one gear ratio option, or would benefit from having a transmission with different directions and/or more than one gear ratio. The electronic gear shifter of the present system allows an operator to select any gear ratio with one movement of the selector without releasing the accelerator, thus keeping the driveline in motion all without clutch use, which would disengage the driveline motion.
"It is a further, specific objective of this invention that the selection of the electronic gear selection control program be achieved by use of a manually operable device that provides an electronic input signal to the electronic control system processing means.
"According to an embodiment of the present invention, a transmission control system for selecting gear ratios sequentially or non-sequentially based on real-time driving conditions includes: an electronic gear selector; a controller; a driver board; a communications means; a valve block; and one or more gear change components selected from the group comprising solenoids, servos, actuators and linkages, wherein said gear selector, said controller, said driver board, said communications means, said valve block and said one or more gear change components are operably connected to a transmission and wherein said controller is configured to: (1) receive a gear ratio selection signal from said gear selector, (2) process the gear ratio selection signal as a desired gear change, (3) actuate the one or more gear change components which correspond to said desired gear change in order to shift a current gear selection into a second gear selection; wherein the second gear selection is a non-sequential gear ratio move with respect to the current gear selection.
"According to an embodiment of the present invention, the controller selectively actuates one or more transmission solenoids based, at least in part, on operators manual selection of the gear/mode selector.
"According to an embodiment of the present invention, the controller selectively actuates one or more transmission solenoids based, at least in part, on throttle position.
"According to an embodiment of the present invention, the controller selectively actuates one or more transmission solenoids based, at least in part, on engine rpm.
"According to an embodiment of the present invention, the controller selectively actuates one or more transmission solenoids based, at least in part, on vehicle ground speed.
"According to an embodiment of the present invention, the controller selectively actuates one or more transmission solenoids based on sensor data from the group consisting of, but not limited to, operators manual selection of the gear selector, engine RPM data, throttle position data, ground speed data, current gear ratio, Hall Effect data, torque sensor data, vehicle weight, tire diameter, tire circumference, tire pressure, and any combination thereof.
"According to an embodiment of the present invention, the gear selector is actuated by the operator.
"According to an embodiment of the present invention, the gear selector is, but not limited to, manually actuated and/or chosen.
"According to an embodiment of the present invention, the gear selector comprises a mode selector.
"According to an embodiment of the present invention, a transmission control method includes the steps of: receiving a gear ratio selection/selection/mode signal from a gear selector; processing the gear ratio selection/selection/mode signal as a desired gear change; and actuating one or more gear change components, selected from the group comprising solenoids, servos, actuators and linkages, which correspond to said desired gear change in order to shift a current gear selection into a different gear selection, wherein the different gear selection is a different selection/mode or sequential/non-sequential gear ratio move with respect to the current gear selection.
"These and other objects, features and advantages of the invention will become more fully apparent in the following detailed description, taken in conjunction with the accompanying drawings.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
"FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a performance vehicle to which embodiments of the present invention might be suited for;
"FIG. 2 is a perspective view of a commercial vehicle to which embodiments of the present invention might be suited for;
"FIG. 3 is a block diagram illustrating a transmission control system, an accordance of an embodiment of the present invention;
"FIG. 4 is an electrical block diagram illustrating, in further detail, a portion of the transmission controller in FIG. 3;
"FIG. 5 is a generalized flowchart showing the organization of a program used with the electronic system, in an accordance of the embodiment of the present invention;
"FIG. 6 is a graph of engine torque data in relation to engine rpm for a vehicle incorporating a transmission control system in accordance with the embodiments of the present invention;
"FIG. 7 is a graph of engine horse power in relation to engine rpm for a vehicle incorporating a transmission control system in accordance with the embodiments of the present invention;
"FIG. 8 is a table of engine torque data, as seen in FIG. 6, in relation to engine rpm and gear ratio of a typical 6 speed transmissions gearing set for a vehicle incorporating a transmission control system in accordance with the embodiments of the present invention;
"FIG. 9 is a graph of engine torque data in relation to engine rpm across multiple gears for a vehicle incorporating a transmission control system in accordance with embodiments of the present invention; and
"FIG. 10 is a process flow diagram, showing an exemplary method, in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention."
For additional information on this patent application, see: Wierzbowski,
Keywords for this news article include: Patents.
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