Here are all the wacky gear shifters from the New York Auto Show

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Decades ago, most drivers were trained on how to drive a stick shift. The four letters P-R-N-D formed two perpendicular lines that appeared as double Hs on gear shift knobs in automobiles and became an intuitive part of getting behind the wheel. But as cars began to use more sophisticated electronic engineering, the automatic transmission eventually became independent from the shifter, freeing up designers to rethink how the insides of cars should appear. As a result, outside of the rare traditional manual transmission sports car, the design of the modern electronic gear shifter has nearly given away to buttons and selectors.

Modern cars and SUVs look more and more like giant gadgets on wheels. Some are laid out like airplane cockpits. In other cars, though the shift lever itself doesn’t mechanically control the transmission, it still appears in stick-like design, but laid out in a different pattern than the traditional knob. In other cases, the shifter functions more like a video game joystick. Across the board, maneuvering these new systems is not necessarily intuitive. The question is will drivers remember how to change gears if they cycle through different vehicles? Or might they accidentally hit a wrong button and shift into reverse? We wonder if the altered designs will leave drivers scrambling to find the right button in a clutch.

At the New York International Auto Show, we sought to capture all the new and weird ways automakers present their automatic transmission controls. We saw leather, glass, chrome, and buttons. We didn’t see any touch screens, but our bet is that they are coming soon to a dashboard near you.

2017 BMW M240i xDrive convertible
The Honda Odyssey forgoes the physical stick shift and replaces it with buttons on the center console leaving lots of room in between the front seats.
2017 BMW 740e xDrive iPerformance
The award for most creative treatment of a gear shifter goes to the Volvo XC60, which is made of crystal glass.
The 2017 Ford Mustangs gear shifter resurrects a vintage design with a modern twist.
Cadillac CTS-V
The interior of this Lexus LC 500h was all leather and suede with a joystick-like gear shift to match.
The shifter on the Cadillac Ct6 Plug-in sports a futuristic design.
The Lexus LS 500
The BMW i3 Born Electric tucks the gears behind the steering wheel. Hopefully drivers won’t change gears when meaning to put on the windshield wipers.

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