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Leading Transmission Maker Predicts Major Shift to Automatics in Heavy Vehicles

21 May, 2001

Eaton, the world leader in heavy vehicle transmission and drive-line technology is predicting a shift in demand towards automated transmission technology in Australia with the introduction of its AutoShift, "shift by wire" transmission.

Eaton's AutoShift, "shift by wire" automated transmission technology offers the convenience of automated shifting with the efficiency and durability of a manual transmission.

The AutoShift totally eliminates manual lever shifts with the clutch only required when starting and stopping the vehicle.

The AutoShift concept has been highly successful in the huge US market, where automated transmissions now make up more than 20 percent of the heavy vehicle market.

Eaton believes that the trend will grow here in Australia where safety, occupational health and efficiency demands give the AutoShift a clear advantage.

According to Brian Coe, Eaton's US based product specialist, the reduced physical and mental workload offered by AutoShift promises to reduce driver fatigue and deliver safer vehicle operation.

"AutoShift's computer-controlled shifting optimises vehicle performance and efficiency, and has the potential to deliver improved operating costs, particularly across a fleet of vehicles." said Mr Coe

"The hands off shifting provided by AutoShift also allows drivers to keep both hands on the wheel and their mind on the road ahead," he said.

"AutoShift offers many of the operational advantages of an automatic transmission and with the AutoShift 18-speed available at up to 2250 ft lbs (3051Nm) torque rating, operators can combine high horsepower with 18 speed versatility and the convenience of automated shifting," he said.

"The AutoShift 18 is based on the renowned Eaton Fuller Roadranger 18 speed mechanical transmission and really creates a vehicle with unprecedented performance capabilities," he added.

Starting with the 18 speed mechanical transmission Eaton engineers added electronic controls and electro-mechanical actuators in place of the shift lever.

The transmission and engine electronic control units (ECU) communicate via the J-1939 data link, and sophisticated proprietary software algorithms allow AutoShift to function like an expert driver making smooth, accurate shifts.

On board computers in the AutoShift constantly monitor vehicle speed, engine RPM and throttle input to automatically initiate shifts at the appropriate point ensuring maximum vehicle efficiency and performance.

The advanced shift logic in the AutoShift 18-speed transmission makes the minimum number of shifts at light road and/or load conditions, and throttle input.

The transmission has been programmed not to shift through all 18 gears if the conditions don't call for it, only selecting the ratios required to move the load efficiently.

In addition to significant driveability advantages, AutoShift has considerable serviceability benefits over conventional automatics with its building block approach to automation, standard mechanical transmission platform, on-board self diagnosis and easy trouble shooting using standard had held diagnostic tools.

In the cabin the AutoShift interface comprises a simple shift control which is either located on a floor-mounted tower, incorporated within the dashboard or mounted on the steering column.

Four driving modes are available: "Reverse", with four useable reverse ratios, "Drive", with automatic shifting between gears, "Manual" which holds the current or any driver selected gear and "Low", for start-ups requiring deeper reduction or down shifts triggered at higher RPM.

Drivers will appreciate many of the operational advantages the AutoShift offers, including being fully compatible with cruise control which ensures speed settings are preserved during automatic shifts on rolling terrain.

If drivers desire full control AutoShift can be operated in the Manual mode, permitting driver selected shifts using up and down shift buttons on the shift control. The Manual mode can also be used to maximise engine-braking effect, or to make faster down shifts when heavily loaded on an incline to maintain forward momentum.

AutoShift is available in Australia on "A" ratio Eaton Fuller 18 speed transmission models from 1450 ft/lbs, (1960Nm) through to 2250 ft/lbs, (3051Nm) torque capacity.

AutoShift must be specified with an appropriate electronic engine and engine brake, and use of an adjustment free clutch, such as the Eaton Fuller Solo clutch, is mandatory.

In Australia AutoShift will initially be limited to operate to a maximum GCM of 72 tonnes.

Eaton is a global market leader in the design, manufacture and marketing of drive-train systems and components for medium and heavy-duty commercial vehicles.

Principal products include manual and automatic transmissions, clutches, steer and trailer axles, brakes and chassis control systems, fleet logistics, communications and management systems. Headquartered in Cleveland, the company has 51,000 employees and 155 manufacturing sites in 25 countries around the world.

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