Last updated on October 8th, 2023 at 03:05 am

In 1940, Oldsmobile and General Motors introduced the first automatic car, the Oldsmobile Hydra-Matic. This pioneering vehicle marked a significant shift in the automotive industry, simplifying driving and shaping the future of automatic transmission technology.

Automatic cars have become one of the most popular vehicles on the market. But it was not always like this. Just over 100 years ago, people used manual transmission, which was the only option for driving a car.

Nowadays, the majority of vehicles offer an automatic system. Though it is more expensive to buy than a manual, many car owners have shifted to automated transmission vehicles because it’s easier to drive. 

What Is an Automatic Car?

An automatic car is a vehicle that comes with an automated transmission system. This system doesn’t require the driver to shift gears manually with their hands. It helps to direct the rotational force and speed of a car by using sensors that allow it to turn depending on the internal oil pressure when needed.

History of Building First Automatic Car 

Before the Sturtevant brothers of Boston attempted to build a horseless carriage gearbox in 1904, the manual transmission was the only option for driving. They invented a two-speed gearbox and engine-driven flyweights, which controlled the gear selection. But their automatic transmission was unreliable, and their transmission failed. 

The planetary gear sets were an advanced step forward towards the automatic transmission. This was the first transmission designed to fit in the manual transmission. It was invented in the United Kingdom. It was first used in 1901-1904 by the Wilson-Pilcher automobile. Two epicyclic gears in that transmission provided four forward gear ratios with adjusting a single gear change lever. Also, it had a foot clutch for standing starts, a hand lever for gear selection, and helical gears, which were used to reduce noise.

Related Search – World’s First Car: Who Invented The Car And When It Was Made?

Who Invented Automatic Car? 

Do you want to know about the first automatic car in the world and when it was invented?

The first automatic transmission was developed by Canadian steam engineer Alfred Horner Munro of Regina, and he was the inventor of the automated car. He designed this device in 1921, and the patent was granted in 1923. 

While designing the device, He tried to avoid the hydraulic fluid and build it to be powered by using compressed air. The transmission has four forward gears but no reverse or parking gears. When everyone in the automobile industry was thinking of synchronizing gears inside manual transmissions, this automatic transmission system started a new era in the automobile industry.

General Motors used Alfred Horner’s transmission model in its three brands, Oldsmobile, Buick, and Cadillac, between 1937 and 1938. But the matter of regret is that it could not produce enough energy for the commercial application.

Hydraulic transmission

Brazilian engineers Fernando Lehly Lemos and José Braz Araripe are the inventors of the hydraulic transmission. They invented it in 1932. The inventors of hydraulic transmission sold the prototype of this transmission to General Motors.

The Hydra-Matic Transmission

Hydra-Matic is not the first automatic transmission, but it was one of the most important revolutionary achievements in the history of the automobile industry. It was the first automatic transmission that worked efficiently and got commercial success.

General Motors developed that hydraulic transmission prototype and named it the Hydra-Matic transmission. It was the first successfully produced first automatic transmission using hydraulic fluid. General Motors debuted this transmission on the Oldsmobile Series 60 to build the automatic car in 1939 with the 1940 model year. They introduced their 1940 developed hydraulic auto transmission as the original Hydra-Matic. 

There was no electronic intervention or a torque converter in that transmission. It had only a simple 4-speeder. But this was combined with the engine with the transmission powered by the fluid coupling, three hydraulically controlled planetary gear sets, an internal hydraulic pump, and fluid pressure to efficiently produce four forward speeds plus reverse. It was commercially so successful that it went on mass-produced.

That auto transmission was not very fast, but people love and buy this as it gives rest to their right arms from the manual transmission. This is the first time Hydra-Matic comes with a car transmission combined with actuated clutches and can shift the gear ratios.

The Acceptance Of Hydra-Matic Back Then

The world’s first fully automatic transmission was a luxury option introduced as a US $57. But later, in 1941, when this became so popular, the price jumped to $125.

The Hydra Matic automatic transmission gearbox was sold more than one million cars fitted with this by 1949. The Hydra Matic transmission also. The first full-size automobile offered clutches and autoMatic up-and-down gear shifting depending on operating conditions with various body styles. This transmission was sensitive to engine throttle position and road speed. 

Hydra-Matic was used in Oldsmobile and used on the other sister brands of General motors. General Motors also sold it to other manufacturers who had insufficient resources to fund their auto transmissions like Bentley, Hudson, Lincoln, Kaiser, Nash, and Rolls-Royce. Also, some manufacturers Buick, Chevrolet BorgWarner, and many other companies manufactured their own patented transmission. 

Hydraulic Transmission With Torque Converter

The first hydraulic transmission that came with a torque converter instead of fluid coupling was the Buick Dynaflow by the General Motors Corporation. It was introduced in 1948. This transmission comes with a five-element torque converter that could multiply torque and increase the power, two turbines, and two stators. A planetary gear set transmission has two forward and a reverse gear. 

Types Of Automatic Transmission 

There are different types of automatic transmission available at present. The most essential and available auto transmission are:

Dual Clutch Transmission

A dual-clutch transmission comes with both automated and manual transmission with two sets of gears. One clutch handles the odd-numbered gears, the other clutch the even-numbered gears. This is controlled by the control module and eliminates the need for the clutch pedal used on regular manual transmissions.

Continuously Variable Transmission

It allows the change gear seamlessly through a continuous range of ratios. This transmission needs to contrast with other transmissions with limited gear ratios in fixed steps.

Automatic Manual Transmission

This is the type of transmission where the automatic transmission system combines with the manual transmission and eliminates the need for a clutch pedal. 

Final Words

You may have a question like how to know if a car has an automatic or manual transmission. It’s effortless to determine. If you observe the car pedals closely, you will see two pedals in an automatic vehicle. If you see three pedals, that indicates the car has a manual transmission. This third pedal is called the clutch pedal. Usually, the clutch is smaller than the other pedal.

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