ZF Technologies, a leading transmission manufacturer, has introduced the world's first nine-speed automatic transmission for front-wheel drive vehicles that can potentially lead to "a double-digit improvement in fuel economy," the Detroit Free Press reports.
The company plans to start eqiuping cars with the new transmission sometime next year. Chrysler is already slated to be one of the first automakers to roll out their minivans with the automatic gearbox.
The technology for the new transmmission is similar to an eight speed transmission the company already manufactures for rear-engine vehicles, which allows for shifting times that are so quick and unnoticable that double shifts and direct multiple gear shifts are executed with ease.
A built-in electronic control selects the right gear for driving conditions to eliminate the need to constantly shift gears. The transmission also comes with a shock absorber system in the torque converter that allows for rapid lock-up of the converter clutch, which should give cars better fuel economy and reduced CO2 emissions.
A nine speed transmission may seem like going a bit overboard when most cars on the road today top out at six speeds. But ZF has plans to phase out production of its six speed transmission by 2014 and replace it with the more advanced ones, according to a report in Car and Driver magazine.
To get an idea of what to expect from the nine speed transmission, here's a video illustrating the features of the eight speed transmission: