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BMW developing adaptive 8-speed transmission that predicts curves, road conditions

BMW Eight-Speed Adaptive Transmission – Click above for high-res image gallery

BMW just wrapped up its annual Innovation Days here in Munich, and in addition to detailing its new modular engines (turbocharged three-, four- and six-cylinder powerplants), showing off a range of lightweight components and discussing the possibility of equipping a future EV with a range-extending engine, BMW revealed plans for a new adaptive transmission based on its current eight-speed gearbox.

Utilizing GPS mapping, a wireless data connection, Dynamic Stability Control (DSC), front and rear-mounted cameras and radar sensors, the transmission can adapt its shifting pattern and power delivery to suit road conditions.

So, let's say you're heading out on the road and it's raining. The data connection pulls in the most recent weather information, the DSC takes in the coefficient of friction of the road and then restricts power to avoid wheel spin. With the integrated GPS, the system can detect the next curve, recognize you're in Sport mode and downshift into a lower gear to perfectly suit the bend you're about to bomb.

The range of applications is only limited by the amount of data the system can pull in and process, and while BMW wouldn't divulge when this technology would hit production, there's a good chance that the next iteration of the 7 Series could benefit from the system and then filter down throughout BMW's range. Check out the gallery below for a series of illustrations showing the system in action and get more details in the press blast after the break.

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[Source: BMW]
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Development objective: identify road profile, understand driver's wishes.

As a result of further development there is now the possibility to adapt gearshift commands given by the transmission control system to each driving situation even more flexibly and at the same time more accurately. The anticipatory transmission control system currently in the advance development stage utilises, in addition to the driver's intention, further information to take into consideration road surface conditions, road topology as well as the traffic situation when selecting the ideal gear. For this purpose, the transmission control system is linked to both the DSC (Dynamics Stability Control) function as well as the navigation system in the initial stage. In the configuration levels that follow, a link-up with the cameras utilised for the driver assistance systems or radar and additional sensors respectively is under consideration.

The data provided by the DSC sensors pertaining to the road surface friction coefficient help the system particularly in the case of low friction coefficients to prepare optimally for the typical control intervention during the acceleration phase that follows. Using the data provided by the navigation system, it is possible to determine the radius of a bend long before it is approached. Based on this information the transmission control system then determines with even greater accuracy the gear required for a smooth driving manoeuvre and confident acceleration out of the bend. Moreover, using information provided by cameras and radar sensors and pertaining to the traffic situation ahead of the vehicle, it will in future be possible to determine for example the required amount of deceleration and adapt the drive management to each specific situation.

In practice and thanks to this anticipatory control system, the automatic transmission adapts remarkably accurately to the situation-related requirements and demands of the driver. As a result of the complexity of the factors taken into consideration by the control system, the automatic transmission selects the appropriate gear similarly as foresighted as an experienced driver using a manual gearbox. It assists the driver with fast and appropriate response, which immediately leads to an increase in driving pleasure and optimised efficiency. Hence, the interaction between driver and vehicle reaches a new dimension.

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