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Automatic Transmission
The introduction of the automatic transmission offered drivers
a "no obligation, no hassle" form of shifting. Early automobiles
only offered manual transmissions, which were similar in
principle to today's manual transmissions. These cars had two
forward gears and one reverse coupled to the engine via a set of
pedals. But as cars got bigger and traffic got worse, engineers
began looking for a way to "automatically" shift the car from
one gear to another.
The first automatic transmission was invented in 1921 by a
Canadian steam engineer, Alfred Horner Munro. Munro
designed his device to use compressed air instead of hydraulic
fluid, so it lacked power and was never sold commercially.
General Motors then developed the first automatic
transmission with hydraulic fluid in the 1930s and introduced
the "Hydra-Matic" transmission in 1940.
The 1948 Oldsmobile was the first model to use a true
automatic transmission. The Hyrda-Matic, developed by GM
engineer Earl Thompson, was billed as: "The biggest
advancement since automatic launch." The Hydra-Matic was
continually improved and refined until 1955, but the basic
design and theory used was remarkable throughout its
consistent long-lived history.
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