What is an Automatic Car? (2023)

Automatic cars are some of the most popular vehicles available on the market. Before you choose a car, you need to decide which transmission is right for you.

What is an Automatic Car? (1)By Hearst Autos Research

What is an Automatic Car? (2)

Automatic cars are some of the most popular vehicles available on the market. Before you choose a car, you need to decide which transmission is right for you. To do this, it is essential you review information about automatic and manual transmissions. The transmission types are not as different as they were in the past, but it is helpful when selecting a car to know what the differences are and how each transmission operates.

Here are a few important things to consider.

What is an Automatic Car?

According to State Farm, an automatic car is an automobile with an automatic transmission that doesn't require a driver to shift gears manually. Transmissions, also known as gearboxes, help to direct the rotational force and speed of a car. Therefore, automatic transmissions switch gear ratios as the vehicle moves. An automatic transmission uses sensors that allow it to shift gears at the appropriate time by using the internal oil pressure. Shifting gears happens when the transmission is disconnected from the engine temporarily, which is handled by the torque converter.

You can tell if a car is automatic by observing its pedals. If an automobile has two pedals, it means it's an automatic. Manual cars include a third pedal — called a clutch pedal — that is slightly smaller than the brake pedal.

Types of Automatic Transmission in Automobiles

Car From Japan explains there are now various types of automatic transmissions available in modern automobiles. Here are some automatic transmission types:

  • Torque converter automatic: This transmission type is the most popular type of automatic transmission in cars. The torque converter automatic transmission works by using a hydraulic fluid coupling or a torque converter connected to the engine's electronic control unit, allowing the transmission to take control of the vehicle.
  • Continuously variable transmission (CVT): A CVT allows an "infinite" number of gear ratios that seamlessly help a vehicle to accelerate without gear shifts interrupting. CVT uses variable-width pulleys and a belt instead of fixed gears.
  • Semi-automatic transmission (SAT): A semi-automatic has a clutch similar to a manual transmission, but the clutch is operated through electrohydraulic means and uses sensors, pneumatics, processors, and actuators.
  • Dual-clutch transmission: A dual-clutch transmission or direct-shift gearbox is highly similar to a manual transmission. The difference is that a dual-clutch is controlled by a car's computer and contains two clutches instead of one. One clutch controls the odd gears, and the other runs the even gears.
  • Tiptronic transmission: These automatic transmissions provide drivers with the option to switch out of automatic to allow for more control over the vehicle's performance, relying on the driver to change gears while performing like an automatic engine. Tiptronic transmissions were created by Porsche.

History of Automatic Transmission

According to Auto Repair San Antonio, just over 100 years ago, manual transmissions were the only option for drivers until the Sturtevant brothers of Boston attempted the first automatic transmission in 1904. Weights and bands operated their two-speed "horseless carriage" gearbox. The automatic transmission they created was often unreliable since weights often flew apart, causing the transmission to fail.

An essential development that helped inventors arrive at an automatic transmission was the planetary transmission used in a vehicle's gearbox. And the first used planetary transmission was in the Wilson-Pilcher. The transmission built between 1900 and 1907 operated using two epicyclic gear trains that allowed four forward gears to be chosen by adjusting a single gear change lever.

Alfred Horner Munro, a Canadian steam engineer, designed the first automatic transmission in 1921 and patented the transmission in 1923. He created the automatic transmission with four forward gears and no reverse or parking gears, and he used air pressure instead of hydraulic fluid. General Motors used the transmission in the Oldsmobile, Buick, and Cadillac between 1937 and 1938.

The first hydraulic transmission was invented by Brazilian engineers Fernando Lehly Lemos and José Braz Araripe in 1932. General Motors purchased the prototype and developed the transmission into the Hydra-Matic transmission. This transmission was mass-produced in 1940, changing the course of the automobile industry. During the Second World War, General Motors made tanks and other military equipment with the new automatic hydraulic transmission.

By 1948, Buick introduced the first hydraulic transmission with a torque converter. They called this transmission the Dynaflow.

When Was the Semi-automatic Transmission Developed?

Autoindustriya.com says REO and General Motors began making semi-automatic transmissions in 1934, which operated with ease compared to a fully manual transmission. Their pioneer transmission designs continued to offer a clutch for drivers to use, which engaged the engine with the transmission.

Advantages of an automatic car

Budget Direct explains that both transmissions have their unique advantages, and preferences may vary by the driver. Here are a few benefits the automatic car offers drivers:

  • Easier to use in heavy traffic. Manual cars take more work to start, stop, and speed up; in heavy traffic, starting and stopping a vehicle can be tedious. You can easily start and stop automatic cars by pushing one pedal.
  • The transmission shifts quickly and smoothly. Drivers don't have to put in extra work to shift the transmission in an automatic car because it shifts for them. The driver and passengers inside the vehicle typically can't feel when the transmission shifts in an automatic car.
  • Learning how to drive in an automatic is easier. Driving a manual vehicle takes more practice than driving an automatic car. There are more limbs involved with operating a manual car. Also, it takes less time to master driving automatic cars.
  • Reduced risk of stalling. Manual vehicles can be stalled accidentally at a stoplight by a driver. Automatic vehicles stall less often unless the car has a mechanical problem.
  • Better in areas with hills.

Disadvantages of an Automatic car

The AA says there are many benefits to owning an automatic vehicle, but automatic cars also have a few disadvantages. Here are some issues that may come with owning an automatic car:

  • They can be more expensive to purchase. Automatic cars can be about $4,000 more expensive than their manual equivalents. However, this depends on the vehicle make and model. Also, some cars are only available in automatic.
  • It may impair a driver's focus. Driving a manual car requires more focus since the driver must shift the gears themselves. An automatic car takes less focus to drive. This means a driver may decide to engage in distracting activities, which can lead to accidents.
  • It may reduce the fuel economy. Manual vehicles usually have better fuel efficiency than automatic cars, but this also depends on the make and model of the automobile.

Automatic cars will only continue to gain popularity. Being well informed is the key to choosing the right one for you.







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