Any parent who has taught a kid to drive a stick knows the problem: When the clutch comes up too slowly, the engine stalls; too fast and there's lurching, angst and potential whiplash.
Bosch thinks it has a solution.
Bosch's eClutch system eliminates a clutch's hydraulic master cylinder and replaces it with an electrically operated pump that automatically engages the clutch smoothly. During a test on Bosch's closed track in Boxberg, Germany, last week, a black Audi A3 with the eClutch didn't stall, no matter how quickly the driver removed his foot from the clutch pedal.
And Bosch engineers programmed the system to make driving in stop-and-go traffic possible without using the clutch pedal. When the car is in first or second gear, the driver needs to use only the brake and accelerator pedals, even when the car rolls to a complete stop. The engine turns off automatically. The system automatically restarts the car the instant the driver takes his or her foot off the brake pedal and slowly engages the clutch automatically, so the car starts moving forward smoothly.
Bosch won't say if it has a customer for the eClutch. And it could be solution in search of a problem: Only about 5 percent of new vehicles sold in the United States are equipped with manual transmissions nowadays.
And for stick-shift diehards, there's another question: Do you really want a computer working the clutch for you?