America's love affair with the (automatic) car

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America's love affair with the (automatic) car

Postby Aether » 2016-09-11 10:27pm

In a previous thread I was brought up the question of dealing with car purchases. I ultimately opted on a used truck from Craigslist: a Toyota Tacoma X-Runner which is a manual. I wanted a truck because I needed some utility and I decided on a manual because 1) I don't know how to drive one, and 2) I figured it would be a good skill to have especially when I travel abroad in Europe.

What trend occurred in the US where only 4%-5% of vehicle sales every year are manual? The way cities are built; i.e., on grids especially once you move west and south? Everything is nice, straight, and flat for the most part. Dunno.

And tangent to that, should there be more push for manuals in the US especially for drivers tests? Not only does it take greater skill to drive a manual, but it sure makes you keep a better eye on the road and self awareness with the car. I figured that if more cars in the US were manual, it would help cut down on driver distractions like texting while driving. I'm sure it can be done, but not as easily.

And, yes, it's been difficult to get out of first gear smoothly and trying to park my truck in the garage (I'm on a slope).

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Re: America's love affair with the (automatic) car

Postby Jub » 2016-09-11 11:43pm

I don't think that there's a reason to test people on manuals when, as you say, 95% of vehicles on the roads are automatic these days. There's also the issue that manufacturers have no incentive to try forcing manual transmissions on a public that doesn't want them. Thus it would take a very very large effort on the government's part to make manuals a thing for daily driving.

There's also the fact that some people would have great difficulty driving a manual for purely physical reasons, do we really want to add a layer of red tape (and thus expense) to allowing people to drive?

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Re: America's love affair with the (automatic) car

Postby General Zod » 2016-09-12 12:55am

The technology got better. Manual transmissions don't have nearly as much of an advantage over automatics as they used to, and people don't want the hassle of dealing with manuals in the city.
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Re: America's love affair with the (automatic) car

Postby bilateralrope » 2016-09-12 01:29am

Aether wrote:Not only does it take greater skill to drive a manual, but it sure makes you keep a better eye on the road and self awareness with the car.


How exactly does a manual make the driver keep more attention on the road ?

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Re: America's love affair with the (automatic) car

Postby Napoleon the Clown » 2016-09-12 02:52am

bilateralrope wrote:
Aether wrote:Not only does it take greater skill to drive a manual, but it sure makes you keep a better eye on the road and self awareness with the car.


How exactly does a manual make the driver keep more attention on the road ?

Wishful thinking, that's how. The Manual Supremacy crowd are utterly convinced that the average asshole will go "Oh, here's this extra thing to pay attention to while driving. I should put down the burrito and expresso (yes, that was on purpose) while I'm driving and stop texting while I'm at it!"

You know, instead of them trying to continue doing all the extra bullshit AND try to shift the car. It's basically a fantasy-land. In all reality, the average person is fucking awful at multitasking, so asking them to add on something else to pay attention to could be a recipe for disaster.

These days, an automatic transmission is going to get substantially better fuel efficiency than a manual, shifts quicker and smoother, reduces the number of things a driver needs to devote some attention to...

At this point, there's no real reason for US driver's ed to require proficiency with a manual transmission. Car buyers here aren't usually interested in a manual transmission. And in city driving, when you're stopping and going constantly? People get really sick of having to pump their left leg up and down for the half-hour or longer commute.
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Re: America's love affair with the (automatic) car

Postby Alyrium Denryle » 2016-09-12 04:50am

Aether wrote:In a previous thread I was brought up the question of dealing with car purchases. I ultimately opted on a used truck from Craigslist: a Toyota Tacoma X-Runner which is a manual. I wanted a truck because I needed some utility and I decided on a manual because 1) I don't know how to drive one, and 2) I figured it would be a good skill to have especially when I travel abroad in Europe.

What trend occurred in the US where only 4%-5% of vehicle sales every year are manual? The way cities are built; i.e., on grids especially once you move west and south? Everything is nice, straight, and flat for the most part. Dunno.

And tangent to that, should there be more push for manuals in the US especially for drivers tests? Not only does it take greater skill to drive a manual, but it sure makes you keep a better eye on the road and self awareness with the car. I figured that if more cars in the US were manual, it would help cut down on driver distractions like texting while driving. I'm sure it can be done, but not as easily.

And, yes, it's been difficult to get out of first gear smoothly and trying to park my truck in the garage (I'm on a slope).


No. Just... No.

A manual transmission is a point of failure for the driver, by which I mean even in ideal conditions with no texting or eating, is one more thing to pay attention to, and thus one more thing that will take their eyes off the road or their mind off driving. We want less driver involvement behind the wheel, not more, because the driver is the part responsible for the vast majority of crashes.

Increasing the complexity of driving just leads to more errors.
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Re: America's love affair with the (automatic) car

Postby InsaneTD » 2016-09-12 05:21am

I drove a manual daily for years, it's mostly muscle memory. That said it's a pain in city driving and I tried to avoid that when I could. As everyone says, autos are more fuel efficient, smoother, and it's harder for the idiot driver to over rev the motor, and kill it.

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Re: America's love affair with the (automatic) car

Postby Simon_Jester » 2016-09-12 06:05am

Fuel economy is a big factor. As far as I can tell, the biggest factors motivating the choice of what gear a car belongs in are:

1) Climbing slopes, which requires traction- but is only needed in driving off road or under unusual conditions (i.e. passing through a mountain range)
2) Engine braking, which isn't really needed if one has good brakes.
3) Fuel economy, as mentioned.

An automatic transmission will reliably optimize for fuel economy. Humans setting a manual will not be nearly so reliable, and I wouldn't be surprised if that resulted in a double-digit percent loss of fuel efficiency.

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Re: America's love affair with the (automatic) car

Postby Thanas » 2016-09-12 06:35am

I prefer driving manual and I like to think driving on unfortified roads in scandinavian forests with it has given me a better understanding of my car. That being said, I am not going to pretend I am a better driver in general than some guy who drives automatic just because he drives automatic.
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Re: America's love affair with the (automatic) car

Postby Alferd Packer » 2016-09-12 08:19am

Time was, manuals gave you better fuel economy. Now, depending on the car, you'll get equivalent to worse fuel economy with a manual. It's a throwback to a bygone era, and is now purely a matter of personal preference. I bought a rear-wheel-drive sports car, so I made sure it had a manual--despite the reviews saying the flappy-paddle automatic gearbox was really good.

I've driven a fair selection of cars, with a wide variety of drivetrains, and the ONLY time I've ever felt a manual to be superior was in low-traction situations in a real 4WD vehicle. My shitbox pickup truck had a manual and the most basic 4WD system there is (manually-operated chain-driven transfer case with a low range, no center diff, no traction control, open diffs on both axles) and I could(and did) drive that thing anywhere. Meanwhile, my wife's 4-Runner has an automatic and a fancy 4WD system (electric transfer case, full traction control, advanced computer control for low-speed hill descents, etc.) and it just feels super ungainly, especially in the snow. But maybe I just need to learn how to drive it to maximize its capabilities.
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Re: America's love affair with the (automatic) car

Postby Borgholio » 2016-09-12 09:16am

Manual transmissions used to be the only way to shift cars for a long time because that's all we knew how to make. The first automatic transmissions were expensive, heavy, inefficient, and unreliable. So even decades after the first automatics came out, stick-shifts were still more reliable, less expensive, and provided measurably superior fuel economy. Plus as Thanas said, it can be more fun having "direct" control of your vehicle. But over time, automatic transmissions improved to the point where they can be superior to manuals in every way. The higher end automatic transmissions in luxury or sport cars can shift faster than a human can blink. They are so inexpensive that you can buy a bottom of the line Nissan for $10k and it will come with an automatic as standard equipment (Air conditioning too, which used to be a luxury item). Then as for reliability, I've put 120k miles on my Prius and not a single hiccup out of the transmission and only one service (drain and fill) required.

Furthermore, there are some applications (electric cars and hybrids) where a manual transmission simply is incompatible and the only choice is a CVT automatic transmission, or direct electric drive (that technically doesn't have a transmission at all). Even large semi trucks with 18 speeds are slowly switching to automatics as they have become better at handling the heavy loads and provide better control and fuel economy than the old dual-gearbox manuals. I think that for passenger cars at least, manual transmissions have become a luxury item (ironic, isn't it?).
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Re: America's love affair with the (automatic) car

Postby Starglider » 2016-09-12 10:23am

Manual transmissions are easier and cheaper to fix. Any garage or moderately interested home mechanic can rebuild a manual gearbox. Automatic transmissions usually require specialist overhaul. However this has long since stopped being relevant to new car buyers, who almost universally intend to dispose of the vehicle long before transmission faults are likely to occur.
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Re: America's love affair with the (automatic) car

Postby Broomstick » 2016-09-12 10:42am

If you don't abuse your vehicle it's unlikely your automatic transmission will need repair before the end of the vehicle's usefulness.

Again, modern automatic transmissions are far more reliable and trouble-free than they used to be.
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Re: America's love affair with the (automatic) car

Postby Sea Skimmer » 2016-09-12 04:07pm

Aether wrote:In a previous thread I was brought up the question of dealing with car purchases. I ultimately opted on a used truck from Craigslist: a Toyota Tacoma X-Runner which is a manual. I wanted a truck because I needed some utility and I decided on a manual because 1) I don't know how to drive one, and 2) I figured it would be a good skill to have especially when I travel abroad in Europe.

What trend occurred in the US where only 4%-5% of vehicle sales every year are manual?


Easy, manuals do worse at this point on fuel economy and emissions then advanced automatics with computers constantly monitoring actual driving conditions in sync with the engine. Car Companies physically do not wish to produce manual cars at this point if they can avoid it because it will often push up their CAFE rating with the EPA. Also for creeping in traffic an automatic is just way nicer, which wins out for a great many drivers who don't mind manual on say, a second car if they could afford it. I like manuals but they seriously sucked balls in that common American commuter situation because of that. The US population is also aging and older people have always moved towards automatics because it's physically easier for them to drive. When you're 65 years old having your foot on the cluch is no longer a very appealing idea.


And tangent to that, should there be more push for manuals in the US especially for drivers tests?


Back in the 1970s the US Army was concerned, then, that manual driving skill was vanishing and a lot of time would be wasted training troops to do it from scratch. Their solution was to make all future vehicles automatic.

With the trend going towards electric-hybrid or pure electric setups as a soon to be rule and not exception for new car production pushing manual driving lessons is pointless. Teaching the more basic physics of driving, that would be useful, but the future has no place for manuals except as a nich enthusiasts market. As time goes less and less of that will involve a manually clutched transmission, and more and more will only have a flappy paddle option, or a gear shift column which is purely electronic.
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Re: America's love affair with the (automatic) car

Postby Sea Skimmer » 2016-09-12 04:23pm

Starglider wrote:Manual transmissions are easier and cheaper to fix. Any garage or moderately interested home mechanic can rebuild a manual gearbox. Automatic transmissions usually require specialist overhaul. However this has long since stopped being relevant to new car buyers, who almost universally intend to dispose of the vehicle long before transmission faults are likely to occur.


A US typical garage will not consider it economical to repair any transmission in an actual shop anymore, I took some of class to actually do that long ago, though moved onto other things before getting a job with it. Long hasn't been, it just takes up too much space and time at the kinds of labor rates involved for shop mechanics time. DYI transmission swaps are feasible but that's hardly relevant to the mass market.

So in functional terms if you need a rebuilt transmission your just going to get someone else's already rebuilt transmission in the US. Almost all the transmissions already go to a specialist who can actually make money doing that sort of thing via at least some kind of economy of scale. That way the really screwed up one's aren't a crippling loss of working hour time on a job you have to cost up front. A lot of manuals have become complicated themselves as well as this point too. So end result is an automatic is somewhat more expensive, though with many US car brands the manual now costs MORE, but you can largely just deal with it. And it won't have a clutch to easily abuse.

The DYI people and mainly just sports cars are why about a million manuals are still sold in the US. For economy car stuff it's been all but dead a long time.


Broomstick wrote:If you don't abuse your vehicle it's unlikely your automatic transmission will need repair before the end of the vehicle's usefulness.

Again, modern automatic transmissions are far more reliable and trouble-free than they used to be.


Yes, though everyone should look out when buying vehicles with the early models of double clutch transmissions made in the past decade. Those are proving to crap out a lot, though many have been fixed by software they've already been worn in dumb ways from oil overheating issues. The industry backed off building many models of these style transmissions, but the later ones seem to be working better. Very nice to drive when they do work, six speed automatic and no problems in the Fusion I've found driving with the 'cycling' problem between gears.

. Those things are crapping up a lot, though the one's that don't seem prime to last a very long time. Industry is backing off but not abandoning that technology, a big joint company factory got cancelled, but it's bound to return once improved.
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Re: America's love affair with the (automatic) car

Postby Broomstick » 2016-09-12 06:24pm

Aether wrote:And tangent to that, should there be more push for manuals in the US especially for drivers tests?

If 90%+ of the vehicles on the road are automatic transmission what's the point of requiring skills with manual transmissions? What's next, requiring every driver to get a professional chauffeur's license? It's not a needed skill to drive in the US.
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Re: America's love affair with the (automatic) car

Postby bilateralrope » 2016-09-13 12:22am

Sea Skimmer wrote:With the trend going towards electric-hybrid or pure electric setups as a soon to be rule and not exception for new car production pushing manual driving lessons is pointless


The only thing I see disrupting that trend is self-driving cars.

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Re: America's love affair with the (automatic) car

Postby Jub » 2016-09-13 12:45am

bilateralrope wrote:
Sea Skimmer wrote:With the trend going towards electric-hybrid or pure electric setups as a soon to be rule and not exception for new car production pushing manual driving lessons is pointless


The only thing I see disrupting that trend is self-driving cars.


Why would self-driving cars make it more likely that human drivers would need to know how to drive a car with a manual transmission?

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Re: America's love affair with the (automatic) car

Postby bilateralrope » 2016-09-13 01:01am

Jub wrote:
bilateralrope wrote:
Sea Skimmer wrote:With the trend going towards electric-hybrid or pure electric setups as a soon to be rule and not exception for new car production pushing manual driving lessons is pointless


The only thing I see disrupting that trend is self-driving cars.


Why would self-driving cars make it more likely that human drivers would need to know how to drive a car with a manual transmission?

I'm thinking they disrupt the trend in the other direction, reducing the need to train human drivers.

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Re: America's love affair with the (automatic) car

Postby Jub » 2016-09-13 01:16am

bilateralrope wrote:I'm thinking they disrupt the trend in the other direction, reducing the need to train human drivers.


That's only true if said cars lack manual controls, otherwise I can't see untrained drivers being allowed behind the wheel even if it's unlikely they ever need to actually drive.

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Re: America's love affair with the (automatic) car

Postby General Zod » 2016-09-13 02:03am

Jub wrote:
bilateralrope wrote:I'm thinking they disrupt the trend in the other direction, reducing the need to train human drivers.


That's only true if said cars lack manual controls, otherwise I can't see untrained drivers being allowed behind the wheel even if it's unlikely they ever need to actually drive.


Requiring a license for a robotic car kind of defeats the whole point of having the robot car in the first place.
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Re: America's love affair with the (automatic) car

Postby Jub » 2016-09-13 02:12am

General Zod wrote:Requiring a license for a robotic car kind of defeats the whole point of having the robot car in the first place.


Yes, but can you honestly see people trusting a first or second generation self-driving car without the ability to manually override things?

Going by the assumption that robot cars will, for the time being, have manual controls can you honestly say that operators could operate them without some form of licensing?

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Re: America's love affair with the (automatic) car

Postby General Zod » 2016-09-13 02:14am

Jub wrote:
General Zod wrote:Requiring a license for a robotic car kind of defeats the whole point of having the robot car in the first place.


Yes, but can you honestly see people trusting a first or second generation self-driving car without the ability to manually override things?

Going by the assumption that robot cars will, for the time being, have manual controls can you honestly say that operators could operate them without some form of licensing?


Google is heavily pushing for it, from what I understand.
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Re: America's love affair with the (automatic) car

Postby Jub » 2016-09-13 02:44am

General Zod wrote:Google is heavily pushing for it, from what I understand.


I hope that goes through, the roads will be a lot safer when we don't have monkeys in charge of kinetic impactors zipping about them everyday.

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Re: America's love affair with the (automatic) car

Postby Adam Reynolds » 2016-09-13 03:52am

Self driving cars would actually do a great deal to eliminate congestion on the roads as well, because once enough of them exist, they would automatically clear traffic jams. The reason that traffic jams become as bad as they are is due to the nature of braking by people who fail to pay as much attention as a computer would.


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