Toyota is developing a new automatic transmission for motorsports that the automaker claims mimics the feel of a manual gearbox. The project is meant to get more people involved in motorsports.
Called the Direct Automatic Transmission, the new auto box was discussed in a recent issue of the official Toyota Times publication (via Motor1), with Japanese racing driver Hiroaki Ishiura praising the new transmission’s responsiveness.
Toyota GR Yaris
“It locks in from the moment you set off, responding linearly to gas pedal input and allowing you shave lap times without any loss,” Ishiura said, contrasting the “slippery” and disconnected feel of conventional automatics. The Direct Automatic Transmission also automatically downshifts for corners by sensing hard braking, the driver said.
The idea for the Direct Automatic Transmission reportedly originated with former Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda, who sought to make motorsports more accessible. Toyoda, who recently drove a GR Yaris equipped with the Direct Automatic Transmission in a five-hour race as part of Japan’s Super Taikyu Series, noted that many people can’t drive stick and he wanted to “spread the joy of driving,” according to Naohiko Saito, project general manager for the Direct Automatic Transmission and former GR Yaris chief engineer. That’s what spurred the project.
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Saito said development work on the Direct Automatic Transmission began in the second half of 2020. It was tested in rallying starting in 2021, followed by circuit racing earlier this year.
The new transmission hasn’t been approved for production, but Toyota appears committed to sports cars, so there should be a home for it if it does get approval. While the transmission is meant for motorsports, that kind of direct feel would be attractive for Toyota’s sports cars, though the company has made no claims that it will appear in such cars.
As it looks to improve automatic transmissions for internal-combustion cars, Toyota is also trying to bring manual transmissions to electric sports cars. In 2022, a number of patent filings related to a manual transmission for electric cars surfaced, detailing how cars could recreate the manual experience without multiple forward gears.