Text & Photo: J Srikant
Automated Manual Transmission (AMT) has become the new buzzword in the Indian automobile sector, thanks to Maruti Suzuki and Tata Motors, who have used this technology in their latest offerings. While Maruti introduced AMT in Celerio, Tata recently employed this technology in its new compact sedan Zest. The initial response that Celerio got, with all the excitement around the Tata Zest, suggests customers have taken a strong liking to this mode of driving. However, it would be correct to say that mass adoption of AMT by car manufacturers is still some time away. Nevertheless, customers need not wait that long for the right car to be launched with AMT. Auto-mate India, a Pune-based aftermarket solution provider, is developing an AMT solution which could be retrofitted into any passenger car; Auto-mate India calls it the Automatic Change Gear system.
“Although the cars fitted with AMT have only just arrived in the market, we have been working on it for the last 8 years,” said Himanshu Chitnis, CEO, Auto-mate India. “Our AMT is also going to be far different from what Magneti Marelli is giving.” Magneti Marelli provides the AMT for both Maruti Suzuki and Tata Zest. Auto-mate India hopes to introduce the product into the market by the end of this year. Describing the difference of the company’s AMT over the existing systems Chitnis said, “The gearbox remains the same in existing AMT, we will stick on to the same gear shift lever. Instead of having the D, P, N configuration, we will have the same double-H gearbox.”
All the driver will need to do is move the stick to first gear and the car will accept it as the ‘Drive’ mode. The gears will then change according to the speed of the car and the driver would see the stick move to the respective gear. This would also help the driver know which gear the vehicle is in. If the driver wishes to drive the vehicle in manual mode, all he needs to do is press the clutch. This, according to Chitnis, gives the flexibility to drive depending on the mood. This system will also determine the throttle response depending on the inputs given by the driver. If the driver floors the accelerator, the gears are going to change at a higher ratio. Auto-mate will also give the cruise control and autobrake as standard fitments. “In fact, the customers can build up the car the way they want with features that they need,” Chitnis said. Without revealing names, he said he is also in talks with a few OEMs related to the system.
In business since 2002, Chitnis started Auto-mate India in partnership with DSK of DSK Toyota, a known dealer for Toyota in the region. Later, DSK exited the business and it was taken over by Chitnis. Today the company has three products in the market namely Auto-EPS, Autoclutch and Autocruize.
Auto-EPS is for old model cars that use hydraulic steering, which is converted into electronic power steering; this reduces the driving effort. It also has an automatic cut-off at high speed giving better feedback and control to the driver. Auto-mate also claims better fuel efficiency and power as compared to hydraulic steering.
Autoclutch is a lesser version of AMT wherein the driver has to change gears but does not have to press the clutch. There is a sensor on the gear-stick which engages the clutch when touched. The company claims that this patented product has received wide acceptance in Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Korea, Taiwan, Brazil, Mexico and Australia. It also has a special kit for the physically challenged which has been approved by Automotive Research Association of India (ARAI).
Autocruize is its aftermarket solution for cruise control which Chitnis says can be installed in any car from Nano to BMW. The system, once installed, allows the driver to maintain speeds of his choice above 50 kmph.
Soon, Auto-mate will also launch its Autobrake, a product designed to hold automatically and stop rollback up to 35 degree gradient. “No modifications are done to the original vehicle and the product is more of a clip-on solution,” said Chitnis. To maintain the quality of its product at certain accepted levels, Auto-mate manufactures most of the components in-house like dyes and moulds and gets a few components custom-made that it cannot manufacture. It builds its own ECM with components from major companies like ST Microelectronics, Keltron, Morata, Philips etc.
Chitnis agrees that they are still low on penetration but are ramping up the number of dealers. Auto-mate at present has close to 25 dealers across the country. “At the moment, we are word-of-mouth. We have to get our dealers in place before we can make noise about our products. We are in the process, with dealers coming up in Bhubaneshwar, Kanyakumari, Aurangabad, Lucknow, and at a few more centres.”