Hey, if this is how Toyota wants to save the manuals, we're all for it.
Japan sure seems to be taking a page out of Red China's playbook by sending young drivers spoiled by ABS systems, blind spot monitoring, and automatic transmissions out to the countryside for reeducation on the fundamental principals of driving. Cheap options like the Toyota GT86 and the upcoming Supra threaten to make drivers young and old enjoy the daily commute once again, but it's the former group that lacks some of the training the latter got by sitting on the laps of their parents and grandparents when out for a drive.
Now, a patent filed by the Japanese automaker with the US Patent & Trademark Office in January and dug up by Motor 1 seems poised to give drivers that lack experience using three pedals a way to learn without knackering the gearbox for good. The lengthy and complex technical wording outlines a manual gearbox that has a few automated toys on it to help those who insist on driving a stick shift get the most out of the process without putting in as much work or missing out on the fun. The first device seems to automatically disengage the clutch and shift the gearbox into neutral when the car is coasting, perhaps to save fuel if the driver doesn't want to do the work themselves.
The patent doesn't mention whether or not the gearbox would shift back into gear when the driver needs to get back on the throttle, possibly creating more annoying work for the driver and causing need for an off switch to be installed somewhere in the cabin, but the second patent is more useful, especially for drivers who don't know how to juggle the act of driving with the multiple steps it takes to pull off a three-pedal shift. The patent details locking pins that engage to stop a driver from shifting into an improper gear that's too low or too high given the engine's RPM. For example, the pins could stop a driver from accidentally shifting from fourth to first instead of the intended third gear upon downshift to prevent engine-killing overrev.
The system could also prevent stalling by locking a driver out of third gear when downshifting from second to first, sparing humiliation at the stop light. As smart as it seems to include these features for drivers who are new to the manual or for those wanting to save extra fuel, it doesn't make much sense for Toyota to invest so much time and money on refining technology that's in the process of dying out. Either way, we're glad that Toyota at least seems to be thinking about a future where it still supplies manual gearboxes.