Automotive

GM's TapShift technology shows why automatic transmissions may soon replace manuals

GM's TapShift technology shows...
Muscle cars may have been built on manual transmission technology, but automatics have caught up
Muscle cars may have been built on manual transmission technology, but automatics have caught up
View 48 Images
The Camaro ZL1 is the most powerful production Camaro ever
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The Camaro ZL1 is the most powerful production Camaro ever
Originally estimated at 550-hp, the Camaro ZL1 was later officially rated at 580-hp
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Originally estimated at 550-hp, the Camaro ZL1 was later officially rated at 580-hp
The Camaro flagship ready to pounce
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The Camaro flagship ready to pounce
The ZL1's automatic and manual transmissions provide 0-to-60 times of 3.9 and 4 seconds, respectively
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The ZL1's automatic and manual transmissions provide 0-to-60 times of 3.9 and 4 seconds, respectively
The ZL1's top speed is 184 mph
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The ZL1's top speed is 184 mph
The ZL1's top speed is 184 mph
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The ZL1's top speed is 184 mph
Chevy's supercharged 6.2-liter V-8 puts out 580 horses in ZL1 tune
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Chevy's supercharged 6.2-liter V-8 puts out 580 horses in ZL1 tune
The ZL1's automatic and manual transmissions provide 0-to-60 times of 3.9 and 4 seconds, respectively
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The ZL1's automatic and manual transmissions provide 0-to-60 times of 3.9 and 4 seconds, respectively
The ZL1 is the ultimate modern-day Camaro
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The ZL1 is the ultimate modern-day Camaro
More power, more performance
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More power, more performance
The ZL1 Coupe hits the market in spring
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The ZL1 Coupe hits the market in spring
The ZL1's top speed is 184 mph
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The ZL1's top speed is 184 mph
The ZL1 Convertible will go on sale this summer
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The ZL1 Convertible will go on sale this summer
The ZL1 Coupe hits the market in spring
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The ZL1 Coupe hits the market in spring
The ZL1's automatic and manual transmissions provide 0-to-60 times of 3.9 and 4 seconds, respectively
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The ZL1's automatic and manual transmissions provide 0-to-60 times of 3.9 and 4 seconds, respectively
Originally estimated at 550-hp, the Camaro ZL1 was later officially rated at 580-hp
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Originally estimated at 550-hp, the Camaro ZL1 was later officially rated at 580-hp
The ZL1 will come in both Coupe and Convertible options
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The ZL1 will come in both Coupe and Convertible options
Muscle cars may have been built on manual transmission technology, but automatics have caught up
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Muscle cars may have been built on manual transmission technology, but automatics have caught up
Muscle cars may have been built on manual transmission technology, but automatics have caught up
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Muscle cars may have been built on manual transmission technology, but automatics have caught up
The Camaro ZL1 made its world debut at the 2011 Chicago Auto Show
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The Camaro ZL1 made its world debut at the 2011 Chicago Auto Show
The manual transmission may no longer be the option of choice
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The manual transmission may no longer be the option of choice
Ed Welburn unveils the Camaro ZL1
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Ed Welburn unveils the Camaro ZL1
The Camaro ZL1 made its world debut at the 2011 Chicago Auto Show
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The Camaro ZL1 made its world debut at the 2011 Chicago Auto Show
The Camaro ZL1 made its world debut at the 2011 Chicago Auto Show
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The Camaro ZL1 made its world debut at the 2011 Chicago Auto Show
The Camaro ZL1 is the most powerful production Camaro ever
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The Camaro ZL1 is the most powerful production Camaro ever
Originally estimated at 550-hp, the Camaro ZL1 was later officially rated at 580-hp
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Originally estimated at 550-hp, the Camaro ZL1 was later officially rated at 580-hp
The Camaro flagship ready to pounce
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The Camaro flagship ready to pounce
The ZL1's automatic and manual transmissions provide 0-to-60 times of 3.9 and 4 seconds, respectively
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The ZL1's automatic and manual transmissions provide 0-to-60 times of 3.9 and 4 seconds, respectively
The ZL1's top speed is 184 mph
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The ZL1's top speed is 184 mph
The ZL1's top speed is 184 mph
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The ZL1's top speed is 184 mph
Chevy's supercharged 6.2-liter V-8 puts out 580 horses in ZL1 tune
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Chevy's supercharged 6.2-liter V-8 puts out 580 horses in ZL1 tune
The ZL1's automatic and manual transmissions provide 0-to-60 times of 3.9 and 4 seconds, respectively
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The ZL1's automatic and manual transmissions provide 0-to-60 times of 3.9 and 4 seconds, respectively
The ZL1 is the ultimate modern-day Camaro
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The ZL1 is the ultimate modern-day Camaro
More power, more performance
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More power, more performance
The ZL1 Coupe hits the market in spring
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The ZL1 Coupe hits the market in spring
The ZL1's top speed is 184 mph
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The ZL1's top speed is 184 mph
The ZL1 Convertible will go on sale this summer
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The ZL1 Convertible will go on sale this summer
The ZL1 Coupe hits the market in spring
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The ZL1 Coupe hits the market in spring
The ZL1's automatic and manual transmissions provide 0-to-60 times of 3.9 and 4 seconds, respectively
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The ZL1's automatic and manual transmissions provide 0-to-60 times of 3.9 and 4 seconds, respectively
Originally estimated at 550-hp, the Camaro ZL1 was later officially rated at 580-hp
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Originally estimated at 550-hp, the Camaro ZL1 was later officially rated at 580-hp
The ZL1 will come in both Coupe and Convertible options
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The ZL1 will come in both Coupe and Convertible options
Muscle cars may have been built on manual transmission technology, but automatics have caught up
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Muscle cars may have been built on manual transmission technology, but automatics have caught up
Muscle cars may have been built on manual transmission technology, but automatics have caught up
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Muscle cars may have been built on manual transmission technology, but automatics have caught up
The Camaro ZL1 made its world debut at the 2011 Chicago Auto Show
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The Camaro ZL1 made its world debut at the 2011 Chicago Auto Show
The manual transmission may no longer be the option of choice
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The manual transmission may no longer be the option of choice
Ed Welburn unveils the Camaro ZL1
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Ed Welburn unveils the Camaro ZL1
The Camaro ZL1 made its world debut at the 2011 Chicago Auto Show
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The Camaro ZL1 made its world debut at the 2011 Chicago Auto Show
The Camaro ZL1 made its world debut at the 2011 Chicago Auto Show
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The Camaro ZL1 made its world debut at the 2011 Chicago Auto Show
View gallery - 48 images

The 2012 Chevy Camaro ZL1 - the most powerful production Camaro ever - will make use of the latest iteration of TapShift technology. This automated transmission option allows drivers to move through gears using paddle shifters. The updated 2012 TapShift system creates faster shifts, that make the automatic Camaro quicker to 60 mph ( 96.5 km/h) than the manual version. While the transmission choice for a muscle car as fast and powerful as the ZL1 would traditionally have been obvious in the past (manual all the way), GM's updated TapShift technology makes a strong case for the automatic.

On the latest episode of Top Gear (US edition), the boys went head to head in a muscle car competition pitting the Dodge Charger, Ford Mustang and Chevy Camaro against each other. Co-host Tanner Foust took a lot of ribbing for the flamboyantly colored, automatic-equipped Camaro he arrived with, but was able to upset the pack with a win in the first challenge, despite having the handicap of an automatic transmission.

While the fact that Foust is the host with the deepest resume of car racing credentials certainly helped, the automatic transmission isn't the anchor it once was ... and it's only getting better. In the new Camaro ZL1, the six-speed paddle-shift transmission delivers a 0-to-60 mph time of 3.9 seconds - a tenth of a second faster than the manual transmission.

GM explains that the upgraded TapShift system released this year includes a software algorithm update that boosts tap response times by as much as 60 percent over the outgoing TapShift. This algorithm predicts shifts based upon the current gear, throttle, torque and speed. It then stages hydraulic pressure in the clutch for the next gear, reducing delay for the 1-2, 2-3, 3-4, and 4-5 up-shifts by 200-300 milliseconds.

The manual transmission may no longer be the option of choice
The manual transmission may no longer be the option of choice

Newer automatic transmissions with manual modes are becoming so convincing, in fact, that a Porsche engineer predicts the 911 will lose its manual transmission in less than a decade, even though Porsche just designed a new seven-speed manual for the 2012 911. Michael Schätzle, project manager for the new 911, told Automobile magazine this week that the manual has no more than "one or two generations" left to live. He said that 78 percent of global 911 buyers already choose Porsche's seven-speed PDK automated transmission over the manual option.

Other European exotic carmakers have already eliminated manual transmissions on some cars. The new Aventador LP700-4 will be sold exclusively with Lamborghini's new automated seven-speed single-clutch transmission. Lamborghini plans to phase out the manual transmission option on the entry-level Gallardo, too, and we certainly don't expect to see it on its third model. Ferrari has also eliminated manual options in models like the 458 Italia and FF.

Chevy anticipates up to 50 percent of ZL1 buyers will opt for the automated transmission - about the same as percentage of US buyers that go PDK in the Porsche 911. The Camaro ZL1 Coupe will go on sale this spring as a 2012 model. On the other end of the gearbox, it features a 580-hp supercharged 6.2-liter V-8 engine. The convertible version will hit the market this summer.

In addition to the ZL1, the automated manual transmission with upgraded TapShift will be an option on other cars like the 2012 Corvette. The video below shows the TapShift system in action on the ZL1.

Source: General Motors, Automobile

View gallery - 48 images
13 comments
Enlightened Wookie
i\'ve never seen someone get the terms automatic and manual so mixed in the own minds or that of the readers.
automatic transmissions replaced manuals (replaced as in the predominate, normal, default type) about 30 years ago. Of course, manuals are still around and is still an option on many makes and models but it is usually not the default and usually not chosen.
automatic = you crank the car, you take the car out of \'park\' gear and put it into \'drive\' gear. no more gear shifting until you turn the car off.
manual = you hold in the clutch and the brake, put the car in neutral and crank it up. while you are driving, you have shift gears from 1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc.
this TapShift technology sounds like an automatic transmission that lets you choose when the car shifts from 1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc. sort of like a \'power, manual transmission\' analogous to \'power brakes\' or \'power steering\'.
Grunchy
Anybody who visits the pits of any dragstrip will soon find out that virtually nobody drag races a car with manual transmission: it\'s just too slow! Too unreliable as well.
I used to own a 1970 Dodge Challenger with a \"slapstick\" 3 speed transmission. This technology, though in a slightly more primitive form, has existed for decades. Frankly, it boggles my mind why anybody would deliberately buy a car with manual transmission (yes, I know many Europeans; and yes, they have other quirks). More and more big rigs, for example, are being purchased with automatic shifting transmissions.
What really interests me, however, is high-efficiency, high-durability CVT technology. A solid, reliable continuously variable transmission ought to render all other transmissions obsolete.
Keith Reeder
\"automatic transmissions replaced manuals (replaced as in the predominate, normal, default type) about 30 years ago. Of course, manuals are still around and is still an option on many makes and models but it is usually not the default and usually not chosen.\"
Might be true where you are, but you\'re not \"the world\". In many places - like here in the UK - manual transmission is still by FAR the predominant option.
Tapshift is just another example of the kind of \"manumatic\" transmission that has been available for years in one form or another - VW/Audi/Skoda have Steptronic, BMW has Tiptronic, Alfa Romeo has Selespeed...
It\'s nothing new, and certainly nothing unique to cars from the US...
JoeB
It\'s nice to see GM is using our \'bailout\' tax dollars for something nobody wants and nobody needs. Way to go GM (Gummit Motors)!!
The Creator
I can\'t stand these \"pseudo manuals\"/paddle shifters/semi-auto transmissions. It takes the fun out of really driving a sports car. I doubt the manual transmission will ever completely go away in higher end \"drivers cars\" For example.... they mentioned the Porsche 911, but I bet the 911 GT3 will Always be a manual tranny, cuz its a true drivers car.
Eventually I think all the controls will be \"by-wire\" meaning no physical linkages, and even then I can see true \"drivers cars\" with simulated cluthes and shifters complete with force-feedback.... so even though its all electronic, it will feel just like your pressing a real hydraulic clutch in.
The other thing is (and my experience is only with cheaper cars like mazda8, and some others) Those paddles shifted cars don\'t act like true manuals because although you can selectively shift... if you don\'t, it will do it for you. So you cant rev it up and burn out, or drop it down a gear for some instantly improved acceleration (at least not at the same levels possible with a true manual)
in short... its garbage
Joel Detrow
Manuals will continue to exist for the sole reason that they are less expensive than automatics, and that won\'t happen for a while.
cachurro
Joel Detrow: Here in Argentina auto transmissions are offered at the same price as manuals (they are trying to change our customs!). I still got a manual. When you shift manually, you are FEELING the engine\'s revolutions and power, and the wheel\'s speed, and there is no fancy electronic gadget that can mimic that. The audi A6 with a CVT has a simulated 7 gear mode, with discontinuous acceleration and all, but just doesn\'t feel right. There is no clutch to press, you don\'t move the crank sideways , there are no actual gears that make a bad noise and vibrate in your hand (through the crank) when you don\'t match the engine\'s speed with the wheels... For the guys who never really used manual transmission, well... you just don\'t get it. Keep thinking those triptronic will please everyone. Now, don\'t get me wrong. For my wife\'s car I bought an automatic, because she needs to keep her attention elsewhere, with the kids. But for a sports car...
Short Fuse
@Enlightened Wookie
It only happened in America. In Europe, automatics are still a minority.
Anyway, choosing between automatic and manual is also a matter of driving experience. With manual the experience of controling the machine is much more profound and rewarding.
BTW, anyone ever tried shifting without a clutch? Not that you really need it (except if clutch breaks for some reason), but it's an interesting challenge. Automatic is just dull...
And lastly, driving manual is also a demonstration of skill. If you can handle manual, you can handle many things.
cachurro
@Short fuse If recall correctly, the cars of the Indicar racing category didn't HAVE a clutch!
solutions4circuits
It's sad to see writing on a supposed engineering advance by a non-engineer. Same goes for most of the "expert" comments here. A computer controlled shifter can be operator selected (paddles) or "automatic" in an idiot mode where accelerator and brake challenges the intellect and abilities of the driver.
That said, there is one aspect of a clutch that everyone has missed...it is a continuously variable transmission/ torque multiplier. The amount of slip is determined by fine control by an experienced driver, giving the operator an advantage over fixed algorithm clutch engagement, because the amount of torque applied to the wheels can be infinitely controlled for traction conditions. In a dragster, the slip control is more important yhan gears. I raced a Ferarri 360 with paddles against my 2001 'vette Z06 at the dragstrip, and beat it with clutch slip...he also got sidelined on the next run with a "clutch overheat" where the car refused to even move.
No thanks....we men like to play with our sticks.