PITTSBURGH -- The 2018 GMC Terrain may elevate General Motors into a design leader for the next generation of automatic transmission shifters.
In recent years, automakers have tried to develop intuitive designs for electronic transmission shifters, or e-shifters, which use electronic controls instead of mechanical components to connect the shifter and transmission to change gears and drive modes.
Automakers have done everything from emulating traditional shifters to using rotary knobs, buttons and levers. Many of the new designs have angered and confused consumers -- most notably a "monostable" design from Fiat Chrysler Automobiles that spawned a class-action lawsuit and recall of 1.1 million vehicles.
Benefits of the new electronic systems -- known as shift by wire -- include quicker shifting and liberated space in the cabin, as the bulkier mechanics of a traditional system are not required. But unless done correctly, they can be dangerous or even deadly.