Ford’s Files Patent for Unconventional Gear Selector

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Recently uncovered patent documents for a steering wheel-mounted gear selector date back to 2015.

In an effort to remain competitive in a fast-moving marketplace, Ford has taken the brave step of attempting to re-invent the wheel. More specifically, the steering wheel.

In these recently discovered patent drawings, we can see Ford’s design for a steering wheel-mounted gear selector. In addition to the standard-issue “plus” and “minus” paddles on the lower half of the wheel, the upper half of the wheel has an additional set of paddles that would allow the driver to place the car in park, drive, neutral, or reverse.

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The patent filing was only recently uncovered by Motor1, but the patent was apparently filed in 2015. Since then, it hasn’t shown up in a single concept car or production model. These two-year-old patent drawings are all we have.

There’s a handful of reasons why Ford has chosen not to use this technology yet. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) has had some well-publicized issues with the unconventional gear selector in some of its vehicles.

The design of that gear lever made it difficult to tell what gear the operator was in. While not a defect per se, this confusion notably caused the death of Star Trek actor Anon Yelchin, whose Jeep Grand Cherokee rolled back and pinned him against a post.

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Perhaps heeding this, Ford has chosen not to use this new gear lever design. While it would be a great way to free up precious real estate on the dashboard and center console, the classic column or console-shifted automatics are easy and intuitive to use. Some say, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” When it comes to vehicle safety, that’s usually a bad motto to heed — but this case might be a little different.

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Cam Vanderhorst is a contributor to Harley-Davidson Forums, Ford Truck Enthusiasts, Corvette Forum, and MB World. He is also a co-host of the Cammed & Tubbed podcast.

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