Has GM Really Built the Perfect New Electronic Shifter?

For years now all big automotive manufacturers have been trying to figure out how to develop better electronic transmission shifters, without much success. It has been an uphill battle to build a better mousetrap given the mechanical refinement of existing transmissions. Now, General Motors has claimed that they have built a better mouse trap.

Thus far, nobody has built something that consumers can easily understand. Even though you would think drivers would take the time to familiarize themselves with a new shifter when they buy a car, subtle discrepancies between different shifters can confuse regular drivers with established habits or any driver in a fresh make or rental vehicle. This has been a real challenge, and the industry has tried everything to catch consumer interest and appease safety advocates, including buttons, discs, knobs, levers, well, anything that doesn’t seem to click—pun intended.

That’s not even considering manufacturer error. When you throw in rollaway issues at Fiat Chrysler, for example, and the company is facing class action lawsuits and had to recall over a million vehicles, you can see why automakers are eager to find a better electronic transmission.

General Motors now claim that they found the Holy Grail: a design that not only works well but looks good and is simple to use. They are calling it “Electronic Precision Shift System.” The manufacturer claims the system will be easier to use and more intuitive because it’s using the existing nomenclature of neutral, park, drive and reverse with push button toggle switches, but they made the buttons horizontal and moved them to the center console. The idea was to give it all a bit more space and make the center console more appealing. You can see this new transmission in the new 2018 GMC Terrain and while the company won’t go so far as to say it’s ‘idiot proof,’ you pretty much know that this was exactly what they were thinking. We’re not sure this is the Holy Grail, but we’re willing to wait for driver feedback. Will it work, or are we still waiting for a halfway decent electronic shifter?