The transmission control module is an essential link between the vehicle and the driver. However, the shape has hardly changed since modern vehicles came along. Until now, most automobiles have adopted a ‘floor shift’ in which a rod-shaped ‘lever’ is located in the center tunnel area.
One of the reasons floor shift has been around for a long time is its intuitiveness. The operation is similar to that of a manual transmission, and it has the advantage of being easy to handle because it is located in the most accessible place while driving. For this reason, the lever-type floor shift method is still mainly used in models where mobility is important.
Of course, floor shift is also often used on high-performance models - Hyundai’s Avante N-Line and Avante N, for example. Avante, which uses a lever-type floor shifter, sets its high-performance models apart by making the gear knob unique. The gear knob housed in the regular model is an automatic transmission lever that is easy to handle. Still, the N-line and N models look similar to the manual transmission gear knob, which is suitable for holding, pushing, and pulling forward and backward. Even the gear knob contains the sporty sensibility of the N brand.
As such, the floor shift is highly intuitive. But there are downsides too. The shift lever moves back and forth, so it takes up a lot of space. Since large parts have to be installed between the driver’s seat and the front passenger’s seat, it is hardly a design that emphasizes interior space utilization.
Hence the ‘SBW (Shift By Wire)’ that controls the transmission with electric signals was developed. SBW technology pushes the limits of transmission control modules. In the past, shift levers were directly mechanically connected to the transmission, which limited their mounting location and size. However, since SBW only needs to transmit an electrical signal, it can be mounted anywhere, and the design and size can be configured to your liking.
The ‘electronic shift button,’ easily seen in the latest Hyundai models, is a good example of providing freedom in cabin space design. It was first used in the Ioniq Electric to provide a unique EV experience, and has since been installed in various models such as the Palisade, Sonata, and Grandeur. The electronic shift button is small, helping to organize the interior layout and secure storage space.
Of course, the design and configuration of the electronic shift button are also important. Hyundai Motor Company designed the electronic shift button based on the average customer body measurement data, then found the optimal point for the driver to press the button most comfortably.
SBW also includes a joystick-type shifting lever similar to a floor shift. The current lever-type needed space for control, but the joystick-type shift lever returned to its original position. The part size is also small.
The joystick-type shift lever has the advantage of saving space while maintaining the unique sensibility of the transmission control by pulling or pushing the lever. Therefore, this method is often used for models that emphasize sports sensibility. Sports sedans such as the Genesis G70 or Kia Stinger of Hyundai Motor Group also house this.
The electronic shift dial, mainly seen in the latest Kia models, has been applied to various Kia models, starting with the Niro EV. This method emphasized the specialness of being Kia’s first SUV-type electric vehicle. Since then, the electronic shift dial has been used in various Kia models such as the K5, Sportage, Sorento, K8, and the second-generation Niro.
The electronic shifting dial is shifted by turning the dial left or right. Like the electronic shift button, it is intuitive to use and does not take the driver’s attention away, enabling safer driving. As with most SBW systems, the electronic shift dial automatically switches to P when the driver turns off the engine or opens the door in a state other than P, keeping the driver safe.
The electronic shifting dial is also a tool to capture emotion - like the Crystal Sphere on the Genesis GV60. The Crystal Sphere, a spherical electronic shifting dial, is divided into a crystal part and a shifting dial. When the driver is in the GV60, the crystal part shines, giving the interior a special atmosphere.
But when the car is ready to drive, the GV60’s crystal sphere flips 180 degrees to become a shifting dial. Normally, it functions as an objet that completes the atmosphere of the interior with soft light, but changes its shape when it is drivable. This allows the driver to immediately know if the car is ready to drive, further maximizing the driver-car relationship.
The IONIQ 5 houses a column-type electronic shift lever. It was to maximize the efficiency of the interior space in line with the changing times as people spend more time in cars. It is thanks to the shifting lever positioned behind the steering wheel that the IONIQ 5 can house Universal Island instead of the center console.
The IONIQ 5’s Universal Island is a tray structure divided into top and bottom. It is equipped with a 15W high-speed wireless smartphone charging system, and the lower part can hold small items such as a laptop or handbag. The great thing about Universal Island is that it can move up to 140mm backward. Thanks to this, not only the first row but also the second-row passengers can use it. This is a key element that makes the interior of the IONIQ 5 a place to relax, work, and sometimes even play.
For reference, passengers of IONIQ 5 can move between the driver and front passenger seats by sliding the seat and universal island backward. So, if there is an obstacle on the driver’s side when parking, the driver can easily get out through the passenger side door. Just changing the position of the shift lever makes a huge difference in utility.
In this way, the transmission control module is evolving into various forms to suit the characteristics and purpose of each vehicle by using the electronic shifting system with a high degree of design freedom. In the past, it was not easy to change the mounting position or operation method, but now it is becoming more and more diverse. In the future, passengers will spend more time in cars; And a new design shift lever will also be developed. Many are curious about the electronic shifting system that Hyundai Motor Group will introduce in the future.
HMG Journal Operation Teamgroup@hyundai.com
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