The History of the First Automatic Transmission

History of the First Automatic Transmission
Photo by Victoria Ouarets.

In the early 1900s, cars were becoming more and more popular. However, one problem remained: Changing gears was difficult and time-consuming.

This changed in 1921 when a Canadian steam engineer named Alfredo Horner Munro invented the automatic transmission. This revolutionary invention made driving a car easier and faster. If the history of automatic transmission and its impact on modern-day driving piques your interest, read on.

Let’s take a closer look at the origin of the automatic transmission, which resulted in the creation of the beloved automatic transmission and according to CarMax is found in 96% of all cars in the USA.

A Brief History of the Automatic Transmission

Until the Boston-based Sturtevant brothers’ 1904 effort at creating automatic transmission, drivers had no choice but to use manual transmissions. They had a “horseless carriage” transmission driven by weights and some bands. They developed an automatic transmission, but it was generally unreliable because weights would often break down, and the gearbox would malfunction.

Using planetary transmission in the car’s gearbox was a critical advancement that aided engineers in creating automatic transmission. The Wilson-Pilcher also featured the original planetary transmission. A couple of epicyclic gear trains powered the transmission used in vehicles constructed between 1900 and 1907, allowing the driver to select one of four forward ratios by pulling or pushing a lever.

A steam engineer known as Alfred Horner Munro produced the very first automatic transmission in 1921 and received a patent for it in 1923. Using air pressure rather than hydraulic fluid, he developed the automatic transmission that featured four forward gears. However, it did not have any backward or parking gears. In the years that followed, General Motors employed this in different automobiles, one of which was the Cadillac.

Fernando Lehly Lemos and José Braz Araripe, two engineers from Brazil, created an hydraulic transmission in 1932. The model was bought by GMC, which turned it into a Hydra-Matic gearbox. The mass production of this transmission in 1940 altered the direction of the car industry. General Motors produced tanks and other military assets with the revolutionary breakthrough during World War II.

Buick unveiled the first hydraulic torque converter transmission in 1948. This transmission was known as the Dynaflow.

Advantages of Having a Vehicle With Automatic Transmission

Now that you know a little more about the history of automatic transmission, let’s look at some of the advantages of having such a vehicle.

1. Better Driving Experience

Automatic transmission now-a-days is a gearbox that uses hydraulic fluid and an electronically controlled converter to change gears automatically. This system was first introduced in the early 1900s and has since become the most popular type of gearbox for passenger vehicles.

There are several advantages to using an automatic transmission, which include greater driving pleasure. For those who have never experienced it, automatic transmission allows the driver to focus on other aspects of their driving while the car shifts gears automatically. This can make a big difference on long trips or especially in stop-and-go traffic. Automatic transmission can also be a lifesaver for those new to driving.

2. Better Fuel Economy

One advantage of automatic transmission is better fuel economy because the engine does not have to work hard to keep the car moving. The planetary gears in an AT vehicle are designed to keep the engine running at a lower speed, which requires less fuel.

In addition, the transmission shifts gears automatically, so the driver does not have to rev the engine to get the car moving. As a result, vehicles with automatic transmissions tend to get better gas mileage than those with manual transmissions. In addition, automatic transmissions are easier to drive in stop-and-go traffic, which can also save fuel.

3. Less Chance of Stalling

One advantage of having automatic transmission is reduced chances of stalling. When a car stalls, what’s happened is that the engine has stopped running. Stalling happens for various reasons, but most often, it is due to the driver mistakenly giving too much or not enough gas when starting to move from a stop. With an automatic transmission, the car’s computer adjusts the amount of gas being fed to the engine, reducing the chances of stalling.

In addition, automatic transmissions often have a “creep mode feature.” This feature slowly moves the car forward when the driver takes their foot off the brake at a stop, making it less likely that they will accidentally give too much gas and stall the engine. As a result, having an automatic transmission can reduce the chances of your car stalling.

4. Accurate Gear Shifting

One advantage of having automatic transmission is that it will shift gears more accurately than a human driver…always! The transmission now-a-days is controlled by sensors and computers, which can monitor speed and engine load more precisely than a human can. As a result, the transmission can ensure that the engine is continuously operating at peak efficiency, saving fuel and reducing wear and tear on the engine. In addition, automated transmissions are less likely to make mistakes when shifting gears, which can cause damage to the engine.

5. Ease of Use in Heavy Traffic

In heavy traffic, one advantage of having an automatic transmission is ease of use. The driver does not have to worry about manually shifting gears with an automatic transmission. This can be a significant advantage in stop-and-go traffic, where shifting gears can be tiring, time-consuming, and even dangerous if you don’t get it right.

In addition, automatic transmissions often have features that can improve fuel efficiency, such as adaptive shifting. As a result, it may be wise for drivers who frequently drive in heavy traffic to consider an automatic transmission for their next car.

The Bottom Line

The bottom line is that automatic transmission — invented a century ago by Canadian Alfredo Horner Munro — offers many advantages over manual transmissions. If you’re looking for a car with better fuel economy, less chance of stalling, more accurate gear shifting, or you just want a more effortless driving experience in heavy traffic, then an automatic transmission may be the right choice. Research and test drive a few different cars to see what transmission type works best for you.

By the way, here’s a pro tip for all Mazda owners who want to ensure their cars run smoothly for years to come. Get a Mazda extended warranty. This will save you a lot of time and money in the long run as it will cover any mechanical or electrical breakdowns that occur after your standard manufacturer’s warranty expires.