In a world where eight-speed automatics are common, nine-speeds are available, and 10-speed transmissions are in the works, Ford’s application for a patent on an 11-speed automatic transmission has an air of inevitability about it.
Unlike Ford’s 10-speed automatic, which is being jointly developed with GM, the 11-speed appears to be a Ford-only effort. The application indicates a design that uses planetary gearsets, which are not used with dual-clutch configurations, so this is likely to be a conventional, torque-converter automatic. We don’t know yet which model the new gearbox will appear in—or whether it will be produced at all. It’s not uncommon for automakers to file patents on auto-trans gearing arrangements without any intention of using them in the immediate future.
Still, the auto industry is racing to add more gears to its automatic transmissions, as a greater number of gears—and a greater ratio spread—helps keep an engine operating in the most efficient part of its rev band at any given moment. Many manufacturers, of course, are turning to CVTs for this same reason, but we generally prefer a ratio count that stops short of infinity.