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How America lost its love for the stick shift (cnbc.com)
234 points by acheron on Sept 11, 2018 | hide | past | favorite | 715 comments

Speaking as someone who has owned a number of sports cars with manual transmissions, I can tell you why I finally made the switch to automatic:

Adaptive cruise control in stop and go traffic.

I used to have to deal with a six-speed manual transmission in stop and go traffic for an hour every day, and it was pure torture. I mean, sure, it was fun for a weekend drive in the mountains, but it sucked the rest of the time.

Oh, and as a side note, my new car with an automatic transmission and a 400+ HP engine accelerates from zero to 60 faster and smoother than any one of my previous cars. I will never go back! And I have paddle shifters, if I ever want to manually control the gears.

I just do like the truckers do, leave it in second and crawl. It helps to not be concerned with maintaining a 6 inch gap with the car ahead.

I truly believe that stop and go is caused by automatics. All of the brake tapping tends to bunch people up at the end of long lines forcing them to a complete stop. In a manual just let off on the gas a little and the engine brakes a little, no brake lights to create cascading braking

> I truly believe that stop and go is caused by automatics.

A simple hypothesis like this is easy to test: does stop and go traffic exist in places that are predominantly manual transmissions?

I live in Asia and I can tell you unequivocally that, yes, stop and go traffic still exists even when every single person has a manual transmission.

Brazil is the same. New cars with automatic transmissions are now at least 40% of sales, but on the roads, manual must be still at least 80%, and 10 years ago it'd be virtually 100%. Stop and go exists here since always, Sao Paulo is a nightmare.

Italy has the same stop/go issue. Roundabouts are the main cause, with jammed zip merges coming in second. Both allow only a short burst of cars to pass when at full capacity, which backpropagates into the queue as multiple stop and go.

It has been proven that one person over braking when there was no need can cause a traffic jam for hours.

But it hasn't been proven that this happens more with automatic transmissions.

But it is pretty obvious. In an automatic, you pretty much have to touch the brakes to slow down. In a manual, you have other options. Taking your foot off the gas in a manual tends to slow the car quite a bit more than in an automatic, for example.

While technically true, there is not much practical difference.

Like on a motorbike I tend to tweak slow speeds with the clutch only and leave the throttle in one position most of the time.

With an automatic car since the brakes are not binary and automatic gearboxes have often forward creeping I only tweak the brakes. Helps to force the gearbox into 2nd gear as well for even slower creeping.

In fact, I think automatic gearboxes reduces traffic jams as fewer parts to think of so less likely to accidentally make a mistake and cause congestion.

Wonder how many jams are due to accidental stalling a manual gearbox.

Traffic jams without an automatic gearbox is no fun. (or even less fun)

I've driven quite a bit with both manual and automatic and, while there is definitely a difference, I've found that moving my foot from the gas works quite well in both.

Depends, right?

If, left in drive gear, yes. However, many cars have several options.

In my current car, a Honda, rhe lowest gear will just creep along, next gear up will slow the car rapidly on gas pedal release.

Both gears are very well chosen for traffic. I rarely apply brake.

> In an automatic, you pretty much have to touch the brakes to slow down.

Not with the regenerative braking in my hybrid.

Stop and go traffic happens in countries where almost everyone drives a manual, so I doubt automatics are to blame.

Stop and Go is caused by trying to maintain a constant distance to the front car but isn't caused by automatics, people with stick behave the same.

The simple solution is to behave like an inductor in electronics; if the front car starts, take a bit of time to get going and don't try to maintain the gap. That way you average out the speed of the stop-and-go traffic more than if you were maintaining distance.

It might help to think of stop-and-go as a wave of stop-traffic through go-traffic where the reaction time of drivers shortens or lengthens the stop-traffic duty cycle. If a driver maintains enough distance to eat an entire stop-cycle without stopping themselves, they have effectively nullified the stop-wave. If they can't do the entire cycle they can still help in reducing the duty cycle of the stop wave.

I don't know where you live that you can stay in 2nd and crawl. Where I live, the moment you leave a few inches between your front bumper and the car in front of you, someone is guaranteed to cut you off and force you to brake to prevent hitting them. When I say "inches", I mean inches - 6-8 inches of space is enough for someone to think "I'll just squeeze in here".

Hello New Jersey? :)

I worry there's a sampling bias going on.

When I commuted to work, I'd keep the same tight pattern everyone else used, and it felt like any time I let up, some jerk would take advantage.

Then, for a while, I was suddenly paid to go between buildings on opposite sides of one of the worst traffic cities in the US. I always left with plenty of time and no urgency, so I would just stubbornly maintain plenty of stopping distance while everyone else was inches apart. Smoothing my braking pattern became a game.

If you constantly leave that much room people weaving in becomes rare enough that you barely care when it happens.

I feel like there's some bias affecting perception. Maybe it's a confound, or availability heuristic.

Confound - if you're trying to hug a bumper, and suddenly there's a gap, maybe that's because your lane is suddenly moving faster and someone's taking advantage of that. If you always have space, you'll have it even when your lane is less attractive. (ie, The space doesn't make your lane attractive, the pace does.)

Availability heuristic - if you care about people cutting you off and are adopting a strategy to prevent it, you will notice it more and put more weight on those occurrences than on all the seconds where no one is cutting you off.

Before I had that job, I would have read this comment and thought it was nuts though, so not sure if anyone will actually believe me.

FWIW when in traffic I always try to maintain enough distance ahead of me that I do not have to ever stop completely, and that I can also hopefully not use the brake.

I swear I've watched traffic clear up around me. Of course it's anecdotal, but it tends to keep things moving, even if slowly, rather than bringing everything to a halt.

Are you already familiar with "traffic waves"? Your comment reminds me of it.


Do you never merge or change lanes in heavy traffic? Because if you’ve ever done any of those things, you rely on people leaving space and letting you in. Why deny others the same opportunities?

Driving in traffic is a cooperative activity. The only times you don’t need to accommodate and be accommodated by other drivers are when there are hardly any around.

> Why deny others the same opportunities?

Almost exclusively these people will zip around a line and force their way in at the end. Even kindergartners are taught budging in line is not good.

Why is this the problem on the people actually being considerate and are in the correct lane at the appropriate time?

No one was born in the correct lane at the beginning of time. They inserted themselves there at some point. In traffic, the only way they could have done so is to move in front of another driver.

Zipper merging [0] exercises a different kindergarten skill, taking turns. Still, "lines" are a small minority of lane-changing situations, all of which involve taking the open space in an adjacent lane.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Merge_(traffic)

Yeah and zipper merges don't increase traffic flow, they combine backup congestion so that the impact of the selfish driver is minimized. It is implemented so those who will not take their turn as intended don't have as much negative impact on other drivers.

"Lines", to use your emphasis, are by far the major time component so for me this is a meaningless distinction. Normal traffic merges should of course be accepted gracefully.

Because merging early is worse. How is creating an artificial backup in one lane considerate?

I find it inconsiderate frankly, because it forces an arbitrary decision rather then just patiently using the available road as marked.


I have a casual theory that driving in the US relies upon every individual enforcing their own idea of what the rules should be, inherent to our culture. I really enjoy driving in Europe, but maybe it's delusional. There's an aggressive indifference that I perceive.

We should mostly be on bikes and scooters anyway.

I have driven in both the US and a few European countries, and I would disagree with your proposed cause but agree somewhat with the effect. Having driven on long-distance road trips in the US, drivers are noticeably more competent than in (sub)urban highways, probably because the latter are filled with drivers who don't drive as much at those speeds. This is often inherently true in many western European countries in which driving usually has reasonable public transit alternatives so the selection of drivers on roads may tend to be more skilled and experienced.

That being said, in some European cities drivers are not very keen to stop for pedestrians in crosswalks, even when pedestrians are already in the median "island." I haven't noticed any US city of a similar size that had drivers quite so negligent about crosswalks.

In every US city I've ever spent time in, including San Francisco and Portland, you're taking your life into your own hands every time you use a crosswalk. Or even a sidewalk, as people will just turn into driveways without checking if the sidewalk is clear first.

I agree with one exception- Seattle. For all of Seattle's faults the drivers are very aware of pedestrians and very courteous towards them.

Agreed. Also, some college campuses I've been to are great with drivers stopping for pedestrians.

Isn't that against the regulations?

We were taught that squeezing in is forbidden unless you're heading for an exit or something like that.

Keep in mind that slightly depressing your brake pedal without pushing it down turns your brake lights on but you do not actually brake. This is used to warn cars behind you of possible danger ahead.

It really depends on your car. A lot of cars have a little give in the brake light sensor...

> just let off on the gas a little and the engine brakes a little, no brake lights to create cascading braking

Same thing with an automatic transmission. With DSG it's obvious why, but even with a torque converter you tend to have a clutch that locks up once there's no need for slip to improve efficiency.

> I truly believe that stop and go is caused by automatics.

If that’s the case then it should eventually be solved by a critical mass of vehicles with adaptive cruise control (assuming they optimize for fuel efficiency and/or smooth acceleration/braking)

Traffic is not when you can constantly drive on second. Traffic is when you stall even on first, every damn day.

What? Stop and go exits because cars brake faster than they accelerate and humans have non-zero reaction time. The average velocity tends to zero until the number of cars on the road is few enough that those factors are less meaningful than the speed limit.

Isn’t it still true that an AT will have a no-pedal-applied speed of > 0 mph, whereas an MT will have a no-pedal-applied speed of 0? (Assuming flat surface and MT in neutral or assuming MT stalls engine in-gear)

Interesting point. I definitely notice that I 'coast' more in a manual.

My current car allows for a quick click to neutral, and will drop right back into drive gear.

I coast nearly as much with it as I did using a manual.

That works in many areas, but no chance anywhere which has much traffic.

Second in a car is optimistic. I often have to put it in first and just let the engine tick over. Some people don't think their car can do this. I'm not sure if that's true or if they are just bad drivers, though. My car will happily roll in third if it's flat.

I find I'm usually able to keep rolling in gear, which doesn't use any more fuel than just idling, and not apply the brakes in most "stop and go" traffic.

My car does it but it's a small diesel 4x4 with gearbox optimized for lower speeds. It happily rolls in the first on low slopes. I have yet to try this with a normal petrol engine car. I have to leave some free space in front of my car and sometimes aggresive drivers from neighbouring lanes will annoyingly slip into that space without signaling, causing a stop on my side.

Yeah, especially not-ancient-TDIs with low and high idle (~800 and ~1100 rpm, out of and in gear, respectively) put out a surprising amount of torque without hitting the gas.

This is what I usually try and do when stuck in a queue, especially on the motorway. First or second depending on the speed of the traffic, clutch up, foot off accelerator. Pointless racing to the stopped car in front of you only to have to stop and start again.

Driving a manual car isn't about efficiency. It is about driver engagement. Yes, you can row your own gears with paddle shifters, but no automatic will ever give you the same kind of engagement or connectedness with the car as a manual with three pedals will.

But yes, if there is a smoking gun for the death of the manual in America, it would be our crumbling, congested roads and absurdly long daily commutes.

> Driving a manual car isn't about efficiency.

It was about efficiency and cost for ages though. That's why manuals were popular and why they aren't popular in the US anymore. Modern automatics (dual clutch, CVTs, even computer controlled single clutch and plain old torque converter slushboxes) are so much more efficient now that manuals don't make as much sense as they used to.

Agree, simply in that by changing my driving style I could get 30+ miles per gallon of gas using a manual but not an automatic of the same type of car. It's interesting that people don't even know that anymore. Additionally, manual can be very useful in a snowy/icy climate -- starting into 2nd can get you going on a slippery road where some automatics will have trouble. Much more control of torque.

For new cars today, though, automatics are almost always more fuel efficient.

Mechanically more fuel efficient, absolutely.

But when I still drove a manual it always felt like I was planning ahead, engine braking early at red lights (which often meant I could coast though it without completely stopping) etc, which you can't do with the lesser control on an automatic. Driving "lazily" in a manual means reducing shifting which often translates to more fuel-efficient driving. Driving lazily in an automatic is very different.

I'd love to see a study on hypermiling with auto vs manual in real-world condition. AFAIK all the efficiency numbers we have are just based on purely mechanical tests on a driving cycle on a dynamometer, and we all know what that kind of testing leads to.

> But when I still drove a manual it always felt like I was planning ahead, engine braking early at red lights (which often meant I could coast though it without completely stopping) etc, which you can't do with the lesser control on an automatic.

Sure you can.

A modern DCT transmission doesn't use a torque converter, which is where most of the efficiency was lost. A DCT is effectively a manual transmission that's automatically operated.

Even torque converter automatics don't use torque converters for anything other than low speeds anymore. Most modern automatic transmissions have the ability to mechanically couple the input shaft directly to the transmission effectively bypassing the torque converter in most if not every gear.

It's one the of the reasons the ZF8 transmission is used in everything from the new BMW 8 series down to the Dodge Charger.

Even torque converter automatics don't use torque converters for anything other than low speeds anymore.

Unless something has changed radically in the last few years, that's just not true. The torque converter will drop out of lock-up as soon as you demand sufficient acceleration (this will vary tremendously by engine - i.e. an inline four will do it regularly, a big V8 may meet most of your acceleration needs without dropping out of lockup) or tap the brakes. Torque converter with lockup have been around since 1950ish.

Locking out the torque converter isn't a new idea, it's just that newer transmissions are very aggressive with engaging the lockout thanks to all the software that lives in a modern car.

Having spent a decent amount of time with ZF8 speed the torque converter is almost always locked out. Throttle response and engine braking don't lie.

I don't understand what throttle response has to do with demonstrating that it's in lockup. With an average car engine, you're going to get fairly disappointing acceleration with the torque converter locked up. I suspect that what you're seeing is the effect of having a torquey, high performance engine, based on the example cars you listed. They just don't need to drop out of lockup to deliver the day-to-day acceleration you want. Also, performance car transmissions have been tuned to behave differently than run of the mill transmissions for at least as long as I've been driving. For example, engine braking in my college friend's then-new 90s Mustang GT, whereas my family sedan would prefer to free-wheel.

Edit: by the way, I looked up the ZF8 and it's available in a bunch of configurations. One of them is a wet clutch instead of a torque converter, which I imagine has to operate like an electronically controlled manual transmission. There's even an option to have an electric motor instead of a torque converter for hybridization!

This is the first time ever I hear about efficiency in this context.

Have you driven one of the new automatics or an electric car? The best engagement happens when you don't have to think about what gear you're in, or plan for the downshift lag.

That's true engagement! My plugin hybrid minivan with an e-cvt knocks the socks off of my old 5-speed Subaru wagon. A Minivan!

(Edit) The reason why is that it takes me about a second to shift gears. A modern automatic can rev up before I'd even move the shifter, let alone before I'd get the clutch back in. An electric car doesn't need the gears at all.

Don't get me wrong, I enjoy stick. But the arguments you make are nonsense.

Well if you're an experienced stick-shifter and familiar with the car you don't have to think about what gear you're in. Combination of revolutions, engine noise, speed and gearshift position make this and planning for the downshift lag as natural as breathing air.

Only time I think about gears is in low range, when I'm in an off-roader.

For many people, myself included, engagement with the transmission and engine speed is part of the "engagement" we want when driving. If you're more interested in the handling dynamics, etc. I could see how an automatic could remove other distractions.

I drive the Pacifica EV hybrid and the ride is almost flawless, except it uses the ICE when you floor the pedal which is odd since the electric has more boost in it. Can’t wait until the super capacitors become common.


I wish they did a smaller engine and a larger battery. I suspect the battery just can't deliver enough amperage for full acceleration.

Frankly, I wish it was completely electric... Also, I hate to say this... The minivan is just overpowered. I hardly press the accelerator and it's like driving a rocket. At least when I drove a Leaf I had to push down a bit when I wanted to go fast

> driver engagement

The same reason I love(d) driving motorcycle. It's a full body engagement. Both hands, both feet, and super alertness and focus on everything around you.

As a bike owner myself, I also believe in the: "Four wheels move your body. Two wheels move your soul"

"You've got more control over the car because you're shifting your own gears instead of waiting for the car to shift for you," from the article sums it up. I recently bought my first car with cruise control, still manual transmission, and while I find it useful at times, it also makes the driving experience more relaxed, and not necessarily in a good way.

However, I'm all for the aspect of automatic transmission changing gears at the right moment to get as much power out of the engine as possible. But it doesn't weigh up the disconnected feeling they provide on my behalf.

> Driving a manual car isn't about efficiency. It is about driver engagement.

Speak for yourself. I have a manual (actually, I've never driven an automatic, come to think of it), and I couldn't care less about "connectedness with the car". My car is a device that takes me, and sometimes my family, from A to B as safely and conveniently as possible. It's a car, I'm not in a relationship with it.


Some people really like engagement and fine control in their things. There has to be something in your life, like coffee or operating systems, where you can understand this.

Sure. Just saying that deriving great satisfaction from owning and/or driving cars isn't some universal trait in humans. For many of us, it's just a means to an end.

Sorry, can you connect what you’re saying for someone who hasn’t driven manual? Are you saying you only drive manual because it’s safer and more convenient? Or that there’s no difference and you happen to drive a manual out of habit?

UK resident here; I've been driving for 20 years and never had the opportunity to drive an automatic.

I suppose I could have gone looking for one when we were buying a new car, but they're not exactly common.

I do enjoy driving a manual car, but I can't honestly say my preference is due to personal experience.

The second. In my country (perhaps I should have said in my previous post that I don't live in the USA) manual transmissions are the norm, although automatics are certainly becoming more popular.

I don't have anything against automatics per se, I can well see myself getting a car having one in the future.

Why is a stick and three pedals the optimal number of controls for “driver engagement”?

Having just come back from Hockenheim with my racing license, I can tell you that driving a manual car very fast is much harder and more demanding than doing the same with an automatic. That's precisely why I drive a manual: it's more challenging and makes me learn more about race driving techniques, not to mention controlling the car. It demands of me to be an ever better driver. I have to be at least twice as good as other participants with automatics. I like that.

You can get into a slide easily by disengaging the clutch temporarily. Few dual clutch cars can do this e.g. Porsche GT3. You also can do heel-toe downshift without unbalancing the car's weight distribution, if you do it right. Newer cars blip the throttle for you so you don't miss it, but that's kind of missing the point.

I drive both a manual and an older (mid 2000s, 5 gears) automatic CVT. The CVT always seems to get me annoyed as if shifts very conservatively. When going up a slope it feels like the engine is having a hard time. Or it's upshifting in the middle of an overtake at 70 kmh when the gearbox is not in 5th. Always makes me switch to manual in those situations. I've also driven a DSG which works great until you have to drive down a mountain road with tight curbs.

Do you want a choke, too?

A choke gets used once upon start, a shift happens dozens of times per drive, it's not the same thing. And no paddle replaces the sheer joy of rowing your own.

A choke gets used once upon start, a shift happens dozens of times per drive, it's not the same thing.

It's still "increasing engagement" which is what GP claimed to want. How about a persistent pull to the right in the steering? That's continuous and increases engagement. How about occasional "death wobble" as found in many Jeeps? That will really sharpen your focus and keep you engaged.

And no paddle replaces the sheer joy of rowing your own.

That's a purely subjective statement.

Electric or manual?

Driver engagement is exactly what I don't want, so I strongly prefer automatic.

>Driver engagement is exactly what I don't want

Not to be a jerk, but there's a big difference between a Dodge Dart and a Dodge Viper or a Chevy Cruze and Chevy Corvette. Cars that are designed to provide the driver with mechanical feedback and tight handling are not something that manufacturers are concerned with in most of their vehicles.

Even among sports cars with "automatic" transmissions (most likely dual clutch), the transmission is programmed very differently from the regular models. Take an automatic BMW M4 for a spin and compare it to a regular 4 series. The M4's transmission will be far jerkier and rougher shifting despite having mechanically identical components. It's programmed for faster shifts for better performance while sacrificing comfort.

You're correct but I'm going to be the ass that points it out: the M4 has a 7-speed getrag DCT yeah but all other versions come with the ZF 8 speed traditional auto (which is really good, mind you). BMWs with DCTs other than M cars are really really rare (only one that comes to mind is the Z4 35i/35is).

>BMWs with DCTs other than M cars are really really rare (only one that comes to mind is the Z4 35i/35

Wasn't aware they dropped it for the F8X's, the E9X 335i's had the option for a DCT.

I agree with the engagement aspect, but I'm sure dual clutch equipped cars are just as fun to drive. I rode a motorcycle with an auto-shifter, I didn't miss using the clutch (on up-shifts) one bit.

I traded a dual-clutch sports car for a manual after two years because the disengagement is real. If you want to play a driving video game, just play a video game. :)

Now I have two cars, one for rough traffic trips. I realize this isn't practical, though, so I don't hate anyone for their automatics.

> but no automatic will ever give you the same kind of engagement or connectedness with the car as a manual with three pedals will.

Good- I'd rather you focus on the world around you.

I think if you drive a manual the OP sees it as being _more_ involved in driving and more aware.

There are some situations where driving a manual incorrectly is more dangerous (clutch coasting) but others where the extra control is better (Ute off-road).

Maintaining the appropriate gear requires that you're focussed on the world around you.

So does “staying in your lane” and “maintaining appropriate speed”.

Adding arbitrary other things requiring focus doesn’t seem like it would help prevent accidents.

I can’t speak for others but I personally find driving a manual does help prevent accidents. Driving an automatic feels a bit mundane. Just hold the gas pedal in the same spot the whole time. It’s easy to slip into a boredom state (zone out) and not focus on the road. Even more so when tired.

A manual car sort of kicks you in the butt every now and then: “hey, you’re in the wrong gear. Stay sharp, and upshift!”

This is the kind of thing I was talking about elsewhere. You need to take responsibility for maintaining mental engagement regardless of the transmission. Using a manual transmission as a crutch for mental focus is a terrible idea.

Of course. We're just claiming that it's easier to not give up on your responsiblity when you're managing your transmission alongside everything else.

And I'm saying that is, in and of itself, a huge problem. To be blunt, if you require a shifter in order to stay engaged while operating a two ton hunk of metal, you have no business being behind the wheel in the first place.

My wife insisted on an automatic car because she doesn't drive much and wanted to keep it simple. I was a bit hesitant, because when I first got my driver's license I really liked driving my parent's manual car. Now I've really come to enjoy driving an automatic. The two main benefits are when I drive in heavy traffic and either have to switch lanes or when I'm in a slow moving queue; in both situations there's one less thing to think about. I'm sure it makes it easier for me to focus on the surrounding traffic because there's less stuff on my mind.

Other benefits, when I think about it, are that an automatic frees up one foot and one hand. I can drive with my cup of tea or coffee without having to shift, which is great. I don't know if it directly helps with awareness, but it helps me stay awake.

My wife and I both have manuals and we sit in stop and go traffic every day. Having to shift in traffic doesn't even register with my brain that it's really anything at all. I simply don't notice.

Yeah, I don't at all understand this mentality that stick shift is a burden in stop and go traffic. I've since switched to a motorcycle, but when I used to drive stick I can't say I ever really noticed or paid attention to the fact that I was having to shift, even in stop and go traffic. After you've gotten comfortable with shifting it just fades completely into the background.

> Yeah, I don't at all understand this mentality that stick shift is a burden in stop and go traffic.

It's a burden if you're stuck in bad traffic, if you've got a heavy clutch, or if you're crawling up a hill. Worse if you've got more than one of those compounding factors.

My Mazda 6 manual has a very smooth and light clutch and “hill assist” where the car will brake for you on hills as you ease into gear. It’s an awesome combo and I get virtually no fatigue from driving in stop and go traffic trough hilly areas. My old manual though was another story- you’d have a sore leg after a long drive in bad traffic, and getting stopped on a steep hill with the automatic drivers crawling right up to your rear was nerve wracking.

I do think the clutch is a factor. I've driven more "pure" sports cars and often their clutches require a lot of force. But I've never owned a car with a clutch like this. So yeah, maybe my comment was a bit naive.

For me, motorcycles in traffic has been painful due to having to hold a heavy clutch in with your hand.

Just an aside, you shouldn't be holding the clutch in much. Only when coming to a stop in first gear (hold until the vehicle behind you stops so you know you won't get rear ended) and when starting to move (i.e. a few seconds before a light changes, or once traffic clears and you're planning to start moving again). You should be in neutral while stopped otherwise.

If the clutch is a problem, it's time to change the master or the clutch cylinder or change the car.

Same. Started driving a manual when I was 15. Been daily driving a motorcycle for commuting the past 8 years (not one of those weird automatic ones that Honda makes now either). I never have once wished for an automatic motorcycle. I commute in Boston traffic, and have also done so in NYC, with significant travel through Chicago, SF, San Diego, LA, DC, etc

I really don't get what the issue is. Maybe my ADHD benefits focus-wise from having another thing to do? I rarely even use the cruise control unless I'm on a 3+ hour trip.

After training for some time, the handling of stickshift is not processed consciously by the brain, it's more like walking, which is actually quite impossible to do consciously.

The same applies to pretty much everything in driving, of course. Initially, when learning to drive, the information flow overwhelms people, because the brain tries to understand and process everything. Eventually, routines take over and the low-level things like how to turn the steering wheel, or how to handle brakes or shifting, is done unconsciously.

Same here, my hands and feet just "do their thing". I don't think about it particularly at all.

You will when you have to have your disks changed.

At this point performance cars are no longer truly exploitable on a road legally. Yeah you can do a quick acceleration at the occasional stoplight, but on pretty much no public road are you going to get to a speed that's close to the car's limit. And if you do, it'll be insanely dangerous because even though safety systems are amazing these days, your reaction time isn't any faster than it used to be and the people around you may not be as well protected.

It's useful on the track you say? Maybe, and I have no doubt I'd rather a paddle shifter for outright speed and ease. It's probably safer to learn to drive at high speed having removed one of the variables at least at first. That said, I'll never be Michael Schumacher.

Bottom line when you buy a performance car: what are you trying to do? It can't be "win" or see the limits of the car, so what is it? Clearly it's to have fun. And I think it's hard to argue that driving a stick is more fun, except perhaps in traffic. In the end I'd rather endure minor annoyance in traffic and in the city in exchange for the fun that comes elsewhere. I've put my money where my mouth is, own 2 cars, both stick.

Acceleration is a lot more fun than velocity for most people. You can experience high acceleration (in all directions) at low speeds in a good nimble sports car, and stay completely within the spirit of the law.

Second that. There's an effectively five-way intersection near me, where I need to turn left from a side road onto a state highway that's busy during the day. So I basically drift from a standing start. I shift from first to second in the middle, which shapes the drift. And at no point do I exceed the speed limit.

People want that acceleration in something that is not a 'good nimble sports car', so a Porsche SUV is nearer the mark, or, a generation ago, a hot hatch.

There is a rough measure of power going on with these status symbols. Everyone would be driving Ariel Atoms and Caterham Lotus 7 cars or Mazda Miatas if 'good nimble sports car' really satisfied what was allegedly wanted.

So the 'what do you want, what are you trying to achieve' aspect of owning that fancy car that can do silly speeds has to have more to it than that thrill of acceleration. It is about where you see yourself in the world - status.

Curious how it's so deeply important to the core of people's identities to loudly and proudly assert that others are enjoying things for the wrong reasons.

I may as well claim that because bicyclists are always wearing spandex and carrying helmets around, there must be more to it than the alleged enjoyment of cycling - they don't actually like riding bikes, but only want hipster-fitness lifestyle points.

>At this point performance cars are no longer truly exploitable on a road legally. Yeah you can do a quick acceleration at the occasional stoplight, but on pretty much no public road are you going to get to a speed that's close to the car's limit.


(Besides, it's not like most use them "legally" all the time)

This is why the low-end sports car market is slowly dying. Cars have improved so much that modern family sedans are faster than dedicated sports cars from a few decades ago.

People always say this, but frankly I find stop-and-go traffic isn't that bad if you put the car into neutral instead of holding down the clutch the whole time. I haven't looked back since I bought my first manual car. I never use cruise control at all though, even when I had an automatic car.

I'm not sure you understand persistent stop and go traffic -- shifting between neutral and first gets awfully tiring after 45+ minutes when you have to do it every day. Putting the car in neutral doesn't really solve that problem.

Adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go support is not really the same as cruise-control in free flowing traffic. I rarely use cruise-control in normal traffic, but the stop-and-go cruise control is a luxury I never realized I wanted until I had it.

I used to drive from Connecticut to Queens every single morning. I am familiar with the concept of traffic. Nobody in their right mind enjoys driving in heavy traffic no matter what car they're in.

> I used to drive from Connecticut to Queens every single morning.

That doesn't seem like a bad drive. Try two hours from Western SF to the Golden Gate Bridge (roughly six miles).

Question: why do you drive? You could easily walk that distance in 2 hours, and driving just makes the problem worse for everyone.

> Question: why do you drive? You could easily walk that distance in 2 hours, and driving just makes the problem worse for everyone.

Agreed 100%. About the only time I drive within the Bay Area is if I'm going outside the SF / Oakland / Berkeley urban core. This Labor Day I was going to Marin and planned poorly (driving the day of instead of leaving earlier).

Once you get out of that urban core (or if you're traveling late at night) public transit nearly evaporates. Without traffic that would have been around a two hour bus ride. However there are no dedicated lanes for buses along 19th / Park Presidio so that would've been easily a 3-4 hour bus trip with a few untimed transfers thrown in for good measure.

It's like sixty miles. It takes 90 minutes without traffic.

> It's like sixty miles. It takes 90 minutes without traffic.

At an average of 40 miles per hour that's not particularly bad. The people complaining about driving in stop-and-go traffic are almost certainly in much worse traffic than that.

The example I gave of getting from one end of San Francisco to another happens pretty much every holiday weekend. Average speed? About 3 mph. The worst part is the uphill approach to the GG Bridge.

Or you can look at the other SF bridge. In traffic (which has gotten so bad you'll see it like this on pretty much any weekend afternoon) it'll easily take an hour to get from the 280/101 interchange to the Bay Bridge approach (about 7 miles).

Traffic like that is why I rarely commute by car, but also why many people simply don't want to drive a car with a manual transmission.

> At an average of 40 miles per hour that's not particularly bad.

I gave you the time it would take if you drove at mid-day, not at rush hour (hence the "without traffic" qualifier). A lot of people commute to New York, as you might imagine (and you have to go through toll booths and there was non-stop construction), but my hours were variable at that particular job so I didn't always get the same experience. It wasn't part of my normal commute, but I assure you the George Washington Bridge isn't any better than the Golden Gate, and I have also driven over that in heavy traffic.

Anyway, I've done that and I've commuted on Massachusetts highways (allegedly among the worst in the country). I didn't enjoy it but my point is that driving an automatic car didn't make it any better.

I would love adaptive cruise control for Seattle area traffic. What kind of car do you have?

I had a Mazda, but gave it up a few months ago when I moved to the Seattle area... Now I commute by bike (which has manual shifting, but no cruise control :-)) Though my Eastside commute is nothing at all like my old Bay Area commute, not nearly as much traffic.

Here are some other car models with full range adaptive cruise control:


And here's what looks like a more complete list of 2018 models supporting it:


The key word in the parent post is "adaptive". With adaptive CC, you don't do anything in stop and go traffic other than minor steering. The car just keeps about a car length distance with the car in front. It is very nice convenience feature.

I'm familiar with the concept, but I can't imagine I'd use it any more than I use regular cruise control on an empty highway.

You may not be able to imagine it, but the GP is saying that they actually do

Yes, he's sharing his experience. I am sharing mine. I'm not seeing the issue here.

Your inability to imagine something is hardly an experience worth sharing.

"I rarely use cruise control" was in the first place a parenthetical concession until someone felt like "correcting" me.

How many hours per day do you spend in stop and go traffic? I spent 20+ years driving stick in hour-long commutes (each way), and I can tell you that there is no free lunch to be found in N.

I love having a manual car in traffic simply because it gives me something to do to pass the time. I can play around with the gears, the shifting etc keeps me engaged and focused on the road. I imagine with an automatic it is much easier to mess with the radio or gps and, god forbid, a cell phone.

Yep exactly. I rarely have issues in stop and go traffic. And if its just slow moving traffic, just keep it in first.

I love manuals, and everytime I drive an automatic I just hate it. It never does what I want.

I used to feel that way, I was a die-hard manual guy for a long time. Then I decided to get a car that only came with an automatic, and it was a good automatic, and all my gripes about autos went away.

The car in question was a used Audi A8. In "S" mode it would shift pretty much the way I'd shift my manual Audi S4. In D mode it was more sedate, but if I needed to downshift in order to be ready when a gap opened in traffic, I could pull on the left paddle twice and it would downshift. I thought that worst case if I hated it I could just use the paddles or the same thing on the shifter. It had a mode where it would not shift unless you told it to as well. I tried that a few times, but in the end just used D most of the time and S for the twisties.

Now I'm not sure what I have. Is a Tesla a Automatic or a Manual? It is direct drive, so you don't touch it once you "shift into gear", but it isn't making gear changes for you either. Hmmm. :-) It's also fast and smooth and absolutely no lag, either through induction/turbo or through gear changes. I worried as a car guy that I would find it too isolating, but the things I like about good cars, this has in spades (smooth, responsive, powerful engine).

That's what you are supposed to do, isn't? I think most (all?) car clutches are dry, so that means that not going to neutral at a stop would eat your clutch in a few months.

Captain Pedantic here, and it looks like you might have facts confused, citizen. Sitting with the clutch pedal pushed in will shorten the life of the throw out bearing, but the clutch plates (which are generally what get “eaten”) will be fine because they’re not touching anything.

From what I have observed, many people do not, which would explain how they talk about their legs killing them. I don't like driving in heavy traffic, but I don't like it any more in an automatic car.

It's more effort to push the clutch in and out between stops (keeping the pedal in doesn't take much effort, it's moving the pedal that takes work).

I guess it depends on what you're driving, but that certainly hasn't been my experience.

It might depend on your size? I am tall and long-legged, so the effort of using the clutch is lifting my leg above the pedal and feathering it. Holding the clutch to the floor is no different than resting my foot on the dead pedal next to it. The only reason I would not want to hold the clutch for a long time is if I am worried I would be distracted and forget I was in gear.

I would never put my manual in neutral unless I am about about to set the parking brake. It represents a mode shift in my attention and vigilance. I always did this startup sequence (and its reverse for shutdown): foot on clutch, foot on brake, start engine, release parking brake, transmission into gear, foot off brake and over gas pedal, feather clutch to pull away.

Like many on this long thread, I eventually compromised and got an automatic because of the narrowing options in the new car market here in the US as well as to make my wife comfortable sharing the car.

I am learning to enjoy the extra gears and the aggressive automatic shifting program that gives a quiet, comfortable cruise. With a manual, I would never shift my way so close to the idle speed when cruising, because my ear would be telling me it is time to downshift. But, knowing that the computer is handling it means I enjoy the comfort and can be impressed by the fuel efficiency in this mode.

I do miss the engine braking though. I think automatics are tuned to an irritating preference for coasting. I'd much rather have to keep the gas pedal depressed in order for it to sustain speed, and to have it automatically downshift and slow the car when I start to raise my foot. I'd like the automatic to do this all the way from highway speed down to the slowest crawling speed in the lowest gear, without any other inputs.

Newer electric cars (with regenerative braking) have a "one pedal" mode like you're describing (it engages some amount of regenerative braking by default, unless you have the accelerator depressed a little, so you can just take your foot off to slow down).

I'm pretty short. Maybe that's it. Otherwise it's kind of mystifying to me.

I've never had a huge issue with driving in stop-go traffic with a manual.

It really depends on the type of car you're driving though, I guess. Driving a sports car with a grippy clutch is going to be painful. Driving a $750, 20 year old Mazda with a 2 L engine and a soft clutch isn't too bad at all, you just sort of ride the clutch (which I am aware isn't great for it).

I think that there is nothing that beats driving a stick shift in winding hills. Autos and paddle shifts just don't feel the same. There's just something about the mechanical action of shifting manually that I love.

It isn’t that manual is bad at stop and go traffic. It is that adaptive cruise control is really great at it, and adaptive cruise control is only available on automatics.

My manual VW Golf would like to have a word with you.

I don't drive in stop-start traffic, so I don't know how well it would work, but my manual VW Golf MK VII has adaptive cruise control. If you need to shift up or down, you just do so and cruise control re-engages.

I'm pretty much always in 6th gear when I've got ACC enabled.

European cars have cruise control on manuals.

They said "adaptive cruise control". That's where the car will speed up or slow down based on the traffic around you automatically. Sort of like self driving but not nearly as demanding.

Obviously manuals have had normal cruise control for decades.

Yes, but there are also adaptive cruise controls with manual gearbox, and it's a useful combination in highway traffic. Or even in suburban roads: I don't have it, but I use regular cruise control quite a lot on roads that have traffic lights every 1-2 km, and the speed of traffic varies between 40-70 km/h.

I live in the UK, manual cars have had adaptive cruise control here for some time.

So as the parent comment said, you can go to 0 and back up to 60 with no clutch/shift engagement whatsoever?

No, adaptive cruise control where the car changes speed based on the car in front is also present on manuals. It only works above certain speeds though.

Me too but rarely there are these hard core foot by foot stop and go traffic where I wish I had an auto, but rarely.

funny enough, my 2002 protege had a sporty clutch that def too some getting used to.

that said, I'd take it oven an automatic anyday.

Oh, and as a side note, my new car with an automatic transmission and a 400+ HP engine accelerates from zero to 60 faster and smoother than any one of my previous cars.

Yes, automatic transmissions have a big advantage in acceleration which is why they're so common in drag racing. The torque converter means there's an "extra low gear" to provide more torque from a standstill, and there's no need to operate a clutch that can take repeated slipping without quickly wearing out --- cars can "slip" the torque converter at full throttle for a moment and launch with the engine already running near the optimal RPM for peak power.

In fact, one of the most popular transmissions in drag racing is a two-speed automatic from the early 50s:


To each their own, but stop and go traffic does not exist in the absence of stoplights if you leave adequate space in front of you. If you tailgate, ride your brakes, or have to stop completely you are contributing to traffic jams behind you. I drive a 6 speed in one of the worst traffic areas in the US every day.

To all the folks replying that someone will fill the gap in front of you: that’s the point. It isn’t about reaction time. It’s about letting traffic flow easier, not fighting with each other.

It removes the need for your fellow drivers to feel a tension when it is time to switch lanes, to not have to make a risky maneuver. You get to relax when driving because now you aren’t competing to get to your destination, and you can feel more confident others are not going to accidentally hit you in a desperate attempt to go where they are going.

That impatient driver behind you? They will get around you and play the rat race. Let them. Most drivers don’t do that unless you are much obviously slower than traffic flow. Let people win the game they are playing. You are making it generally safer, and your consistency on the road helps them make decisions easier.

I’ve been doing this for about 10 years. No accidents, no cause of accidents, no angry honkers, none of that nonsense. Try it for a week! Give others space to move. Watch traffic jams ease up a little around you. It’s very neat. My space clears spaces so I can move easier after people get in front of me. I’ve seen others follow my example (or be their own example).

You beautiful zen traffic wave surfer you. This, a thousand times this. Somewhere on the web there is a great video of a guy doing this pretty effectively. I guess it's maybe five years old now but worth a watch.

I think this wsj vid may contain excerpts from the original: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MtwY9xKfaYo

If everyone could just relax out there, some of those traffic standing waves would diffuse away to nothing. Ahhh...

When I get in bad traffic and struggle against the urge to tailgate I play a game where I try and give enough space to where I just roll up to the car in front of me as it is starting to move again. This gives me a time-local goal to aim at instead of fixating on supposed "bad actors" I might want to judge instead.

Edit: I found it! (from 2008 it appears) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iGFqfTCL2fs

At least in my city in my commute this morning (~30 minutes), I was forced to hard brake 3 times to avoid having an accident with someone wedging themself in at the end of an exit lane.

I find the problem isn't people merging into your lane in front of you, but doing so badly (ie not leaving a safe amount of space behind their rear bumper and your front bumper).

Semi drivers have this even worse.

Are you allowing enough space in front of you for cars to merge in without wedging themselves in front of you?

That's the worst problem I see around here -- cars in the freeway running bumper to bumper, and then a block of 3 or 5 cars also running bumper to bumper trying to force their way in, but none of the cars really leave enough room for a smooth merge, so the cars on the freeway end up hitting the brakes when the merging cars force their way in.

Yes. I'm guessing because drivers are so used to "forced merging", they don't know what to do when they have an appropriate amount of space.

> Semi drivers have this even worse.

There are some advantages to driving a semi in traffic:

- Lots of gears to choose from and massive torque in order to find that perfect 'idle forward' speed.

- Far more comfortable ride then a car, it's not even close.

- Radio communication with trucks ahead, so you know what's happening ahead and which lane to be in long before the cars figure this out.

- Visibility over the top of vehicles in front (except another truck, obviously).

I think the only thing better than a semi for heavy traffic might be a luxury car with adaptive cruise and a little roof-mounted drone-cam that you could launch to check out the view ahead (though this sounds like something Homer Simpson would dream up). Your own little personal traffic copter/R2D2, with a recharging dock on the roof. Someone please tell Elon Musk to make this a priority for new Teslas. It could even check out side streets in cities and find quicker routes.

I was thinking stop-and-go traffic, which is murder.

Heavy load = longer stop distance = lengthier minimum safe following distance

Minimum safe following distance > 1 car length = motorists darting in front of semis

Rinse and repeat. Assuming a heavy load and ignorant motorists, there's no way to avoid constant unsafe situations. As soon as you create a new safe gap, someone slides in.

So, no. It's terrible. (And I'm not even mentioning the additional gear shifts)


This comes up often, but you gotta think about what would happen if everyone suddenly tripled the gap they leave in front of them. The same road surface would suddenly have 1/3 the throughput. I shudder to think what kind of traffic jam / commute time that would lead to at the edges of the road network.

I do appreaciate when people drive densely packed and I try to do the same (up to a safety limit). For merging there are turn signals.

> The same road surface would suddenly have 1/3 the throughput

At the same velocity. It's quite possible that with the increased gap and increased flow (less stop & go), you could get higher velocity out of it to compensate. Maybe not 3x the velocity, but 2x gap and 2x velocity seems within the realm of possibility (a 60mph road that slows down to 30mph because people are driving stupidly).

Edit: on the low end, this seems quite possible. Increased gaps raising the mean velocity from 5mph to 15 or 20mph.

I'd edit again, but it's too late. This question kept nagging at me. I figured this must be a studied phenomenon.


This is super interesting! As kind of expected, there's a middle zone that balances out density and velocity. In the context of what we were talking about, the fourth "Basic Statement" jumps out at me: "If one of the vehicles brakes in unstable flow regime the flow will collapse."

The problem is people trying to maintain ANY fixed gap. If they learned to treat the gap as a spring and then use their mind as a damper while still maintaining safety, they can cancel out many of the pathological oscillations and standing waves that disrupt traffic flow. This task is also much easier when people learn to monitor the road further ahead than just the bumper and taillights they are following.

Following too closely removes any margin for error and so requires you to either mimic every change in speed or create dangerous conditions.

Higher density may allow for more volume but it can increase viscosity.

> To each their own, but stop and go traffic does not exist in the absence of stoplights if you leave adequate space in front of you. If you tailgate, ride your brakes, or have to stop completely you are contributing to traffic jams behind you. I drive a 6 speed in one of the worst traffic areas in the US every day.

Come over to Los Angeles and take me to work for a week and we'll see how well you can make that work.

As someone who drove a stick shift far too often in LA traffic jams, I understand your point and agree with it. You have to try really hard to juuust get to the car in front as it's starting to accelerate or you will burn the heck out of your clutch.

However, if you leave the appropriate gap, someone WILL jump into it in LA. And the people behind you will start frothing at the mouth.

It's really hard to be nice to a clutch in Los Angeles.

This is pure conjecture. You cannot control how traffic behaves, and if you constantly let people go in front of you, people behind you will get irrationally angry (danger exposure).

Yeah you can smooth things out and inject a bit more zen into your experience by accelerating and decelerating more gently and leaving a larger than normal gap, but stop&go simply exists and is a pain even with an automatic.

Adaptive cruise is a godsend.

Nah. When freeway traffic slows, you halve the speed of the vehicle in front of you. Leave 4-5 car lengths between you. Regulate your gas pedal usage so you never have to touch the brakes. You mostly just coast. Sure, there’s one vehicle that will come up quickly behind because that’s how everyone usually deals with it. By the time they slow, wondering why there’s so much space in front of you, they have time to recognize the other lanes are deadlocked and stop-and-go, while the lane they’re in never ceases moving. You’ll notice they start mimicking your movements/behavior. Occasionally, a car in the next lane inevitably thinks they’re going to get somewhere by getting in front of you—let them. They’ll just ride up on the ass of the vehicle in front of you while you again adjust speed slightly to leave the same amount of space. I’ve been driving this way for years and I never see a noticeable effort by the people behind me to get in front of me or ride my ass. People hate stop-and-go-till-you-move-five-feet-then-stop-again. People are happy, however, to be constantly moving, even if it’s only at 10-15mph, passing everyone sitting in the lane beside them.

Adaptive cruise control is easy to achieve no matter the car, and without any technology doing it. You just do it yourself.

> Adaptive cruise control is easy to achieve no matter the car, and without any technology doing it. You just do it yourself.

The whole purpose of cruise control is to not do it yourself.

Here’s an experiment proving this idea: https://www.technologyreview.com/s/607841/a-single-autonomou...

That's great in a single lane. What happens in the real world when the moment you leave a gap, the car in an adjacent lane cuts over to fill it?

What do you think is happening when you change lanes in heavy traffic?

This is impossible to achieve since every vehicle has different acceleration and every driver has different response times.

There will always be stop and go traffic once the carrying capacity of the road is reached. Once the capacity of the road is reached, it's actually most beneficial for everyone to be as close to each other as possible, and fill gaps as quickly as possible, since there's a finite amount of road at any given time, so only way to maximize is is to fill up as much if it as possible.

Also why you should use all lanes available and create zipper merge at the very end.

This is arrant nonsense, and is just short of telling everyone who drives in freeway stop and go traffic that they're just idiots who don't know how to drive.

Unless you can control the behavior of adjacent lanes there is no achievable amount of buffer space that eliminates stop and go. The best you can do is increase the glide time between stops. At times you will see, e.g., semis lining up side by side to help keep a zipper merge flowing, etc., but those cases are rare and not understood by other drivers.

> The best you can do is increase the glide time between stops

Do you understand what causes traffic? That harder you brake, the bigger and longer the wave of people braking behind you will be. By braking less hard, you are causing less traffic.

And yes, 99% of people driving in traffic are idiots who don't know how to drive or they wouldn't be tailgating and slamming the brakes every 6 feet wasting thousands of hours of people's collective time by causing needlessly large waves of braking behind them due to the fact that those people are also following too close, amplifying the problem.

See http://trafficwaves.org/ for further reading

I have somewhere between 5,000 and 10,000 hours operating a stick vehicle in high congestion traffic. I went to engineering school and studied traffic both academically, and experientially. Yes, I understand traffic better than you do.

Do you understand traffic? I pretty much doubt it.

No, 99% of people driving in traffic aren't idiots. About 5% are, and that's all it takes. My most pleasant finding from all those years of driving was to note that the vast, vast majority of Houston daily commuters were absolutely pro drivers when it comes to congestion.

So how does tailgating people and braking hard and often not make traffic worse? Or is it the same? You didn't explain why you think slowing down more gradually is not better or how tailgating does not cause traffic.

I have more than 35 years driving all kinds of vehicles and what i've learned is that "all the other drivers are wrong" or at least is what everyone says. Probably we all need to learn to better ourselves and be a bit more patient and courteous.

You know what else increases traffic? Merging too soon.

A good friend of mine and I have a standing argument about proper behavior when, driving, one encounters a "lane closed ahead" sign. He insists that the right thing to do is to abandon the to-be-closed lane as soon as feasible [tangent: he also gets mad at drivers who want to merge later, describing them as "cutters"], while I maintain that the best way to minimize the effect of a lane closure is to use whatever lanes are legal/open for as long as possible -- because leaving an open lane of travel unused only exacerbates the problem.

Who's right?

Disclaimer: I grew up driving in the Boston area (yes, among other "Massholes"), and my philosophy is "try never to use your brakes on the highway, and try even harder never to require anyone else to brake unnecessarily".

What's right, if drivers are doing it, is to zipper at the point of the merge.

But that's a big "if" -- too many drivers are like your friend, and work themselves up into a blood-boiling rage at the thought of someone "cutting" by engaging in proper zipper merging. Tell your friend the problem is he's thinking of the merge as a competition with a "winner" (person who ends up in front) and "loser" (person who ends up behind), instead of looking for the option that maximizes efficiency for everyone.

I maintain that the best way to minimize the effect of a lane closure is to use whatever lanes are legal/open for as long as possible -- because leaving an open lane of travel unused only exacerbates the problem.

I agree with you. Fully packing an 'ending' lane until it actually ends is most efficient from a road usage point of view.

(I have lived for 10+ years in the Boston area but did not grow up there.

You are right.

If everyone merges early, the cars that could have been in that mile of unused lane, will instead be in the full lane, moving the entire queue backwards a mile, clogging up more exits and onramps, and making the jam worse.

Use all available road, that's what it's there for.

German traffic law also says you're right (StVO §7(4)). Does the US not have a law for that?

You are wrong. You can drive like truckers, just roll, maintain space, and keep off the brakes.

FTR, statistically, there's not a whole lot of agency involved. Wish I had a good citation here but IIRC there's almost no difference between real-world commuter traffic and fluid dynamics w/ static "dumb" particles.

I can drive a stick. I borrowed my sister's car for 3 months and drove it on occasion at other times.

I define stop and go traffic as when I'm in 0-15mph traffic during rush hour on the Interstate.

If I leave a large enough gap so that I don't constantly have to press the clutch from stalling then someone else will move in front of me and then I have to hit the brakes as well.

No thanks. Automatic for me.

> someone else will move in front of me and then I have to hit the brakes as well

I don't know what to tell you. Works on my machine.

Maybe it's because I don't do it in the left lane but I never see 4+ people force their way in front of me at the exact same time with no time to decrease my speed. The occasional one will buffer out so it works for me.

How much space do I need to leave if the car in front of me is stopped?

Enough so you can gradually slow down until they start to move without stopping yourself. Watch how big rig drivers drive in traffic where it is almost required that you don't keep repeatedly stopping.

Big rigs definitely stop in these situations. No matter how much space they try to leave, other drivers speed around them to fill it and they have to stop anyway.

Sometimes they do, more often than not they aren't stopping, and somehow they seem to do better time than me on top of it.

Yeah if _everyone_ left adequate room, but that just is never gonna happen.

If you leave more than a few car lengths between yourself and the next guy at rush hour, someone will quickly fill that gap.

Never found paddle shifters to be in the same league as a manual transmission even in modern high performance cars. There's always that bit of lag and delay with automatic that there isn't on a manual.

Maybe you've only driven traditional automatics with paddle shifters slapped on? I've driven quite a few high performance sports cars with twin-clutch automated manuals, what most people would call an automatic (Cayman, GT-R, Evo X, etc) and the shifting using the paddle shifters is WILDLY faster than I could ever shift (I drive a 400+whp manual every day). There's a reason sports cars with heavier twin clutch transmissions still beat their manual counterparts in 0-60 and quarter mile... No human can shift as quickly as the computer controlling the clutch.

Drive a Porsche newer than 2012, like a 981 or 991.1 or newer. The PDK transmission is very good, almost telepathic. Slight push on the throttle and it downshifts into the meat of the torque band. I currently drive an E92 M3 DCT which suffers from the "lag", which is why I'm on manual mode most of the time.

I can't be as fast as a modern automatic. Maybe it's just me, but the time taken to depress the clutch, shift, then release the clutch is always longer than in automatics today.

When in college and working full time, I used to start my day by driving through some of the worst of LA traffic 405/101 and then in the evening come full circle by going 101 to 23 to 118 to 405 and back to 101, essentially circling the west part of San Fernando Valley, Conejo Valley, Simi Valley and back to central San Fernando Valley. Now that was a commute! Total time on the road 4+ hours in a 6-speed manual sports car with that exact heavy clutch.

Don’t think I’d be able to keep my sanity if it was an auto - at least I could focus on something other than the miserable drive and crazy work/study hours.

Priorities change, but if I was making a choice today just for me - manual all the way!

Now if I could only find a car without electric power steering... or any power steering at all... (Those old NSXs were a blast to drive!)

> Now if I could only find a car without electric power steering... or any power steering at all... (Those old NSXs were a blast to drive!)

You want a Lotus. It's a glorified go kart. Even the radio is optional.

My previous car, a 2008 Subaru WRX, in manual had cruise control; while it wasn't adaptive, it was the most important thing I will consider in any other manual transmission going forward. Stop-and-go traffic to my previous job made driving a chore and weekends weren't enough. I miss having that kind of control over the car, but the automatic Mazda3 I replaced it with has made that traffic an afterthought.

Would adaptive cruise control in stop-and-go traffic work at all with a manual? When the speed of traffic is vacillating between 0 and 30mph, there's never any one gear that you can stay in for long.

It works in highway traffic, it's not unusual in new cars where I live (Finland). Most cars are manual shift, almost all have cruise control, some of the cruise controls are adaptive.

Of course, in city traffic the adaptiveness is not very useful with manual transmission.

No, it wouldn't. Technically you could have it adapt within a narrow range of speeds, but it would be annoying, fuel-wasting, and worse than just dealing with the speed yourself.

CC on stick shifts works fine at steady highway speeds over a consistent grade.

Various manufacturers do sell cars with adaptive cruise control in manuals, but obviously it's limited to whatever gear the car is currently in.

I test drove a 2008 WRX a while ago and the clutch was pretty heavy, IIRC. I remember thinking to myself "this would be a major pain in traffic".

I tried to learn to drive stick on a Subaru WRX, I believe it was a 2002 or 2003 model year. It did not go well. Almost ended a friendship and I had leg cramps for days. Fortunately I managed to get the hang of it later on a more forgiving Mazda Protege.

i learned to drive stick on my WRX and it was the only manual I've ever driven for 5+ years. It wasn't until I had to pick up my brother in laws car from the shop where I noticed how heavy my clutch was and how boggy the first and 2nd gear are at low speeds.

but i never had the cramping problem and love driving it in stop and go traffic. keeps me entertained / sane with something to do. recently noticed my left calf is bigger than my right

If you think any modern hydraulic clutch is hard to push you should try an old z-bar clutch from the 70’s or early 80’s

It actually wasn't hard to push all the way down, it was just hard to feather. The spring back near the top is really aggressive.

I test drove a manual 2010 Impreza before I bought mine in automatic. The automatic has a 4EAT which sucks, but the clutch on the 5 speed would have sucked so bad in traffic.

As one of my friends with the same car said "it's a heavy clutch. It's not that bad to use if you are a tall guy, but if you are a short woman who weighs less than 120 pounds, you are going to have to stand on it or pull the steering wheel to use it"

He has the Saabaru, and his GF can't drive his car at all because of how heavy the clutch is.

Now that I only use my car for errands in the city I wish I had the manual, but I am so glad I didn't have it when I had a 1 hour commute each way in stop and go traffic.

Definitely. I drive a 6 MPS (Mazdaspeed 6 to the US), and the clutch was a nightmare stuck in Melbourne traffic back when I was commuting.

My previous car had paddle shifters (DSG system) and I did not find it to be a great shifting experience at times, especially under 20mph between first and second. I saw it most pronounced when approaching a stop.

There were other times during fast up or down shifting that the car would get confused and pause before figuring out what to do.

Also, these newer automatic transmissions still do not give you anywhere near the level of control you get over the car, which I found to be really annoying whenever it snowed.

I'm sure these systems have improved, but last year I sold that car and bought a manual instead. It was hard to find, but I'm glad I switched back.

I'm on the other side of the fence. My previous car had an automatic, a lovely one too: the 7-speed getrag dual-clutch that bmw puts almost exclusively on the M models. When I bought it I thought that because the car was so good and it had so much power I would be ok with having it.

Nope, I was bored out of my mind and the paddle shifters were no replacement. Sold it after 6 months, bought a manual again and am never going back to automatics. Yes, they're slower and less fuel efficient but they're so much more fun; like Hammond said "changing gear is a vital form of self-expression".

Probably helps that I don't drive in traffic, only for fun.

Why not both?

I have two manuals and an auto, the auto is used for the commute to work while I have a racecar and a four wheel drive (to take the racecar to the track). The auto is lovely when you have a coffee on the go, and the manuals do a far better skid.

They all have their merits, it's purely down to individual choice and don't see any need to try and justify it.

Because if I'm sacrificing money/space to keep and maintain 3 cars, that means I'm not using it for something more important. A matter of perspective, I guess.

> as someone who has owned a number of sports cars > stop and go traffic

Well theres your problem, you wouldn't take a tractor on a track day why would you take a sports car into stop and go traffic? buy a small manual, sit in second problem solved, will pay for itself with the petrol you will save.

I have never owned a deportive car but in my country automatic transmission is not common. For a long time automatic cars were much more expensive.

I have owned manual my entire life and IMHO after the first month driving switching becomes something your brain does automatically, pretty much like biking.

But nowadays, to stop quickly in an emergency, shouldn't you simply stomp as hard as you can on the brake while still remembering to stear? Or do you find that people don't even know that?

Do you use the paddle shifters. Ever? I have one of those triptronic things thinking I can always get manual control when I want and I don't think I used it even once

I use it it mountains, much the same way I downshift an old automatic. Mine still down shifts when I'm in manual mode with the pardles, which is kinda annoying.

If you live in an urban area, most of the time you will be going from zero to zero every 10 seconds.


But yes, automatics are just so much more comfortable during rush hour.

> pure torture

You're just not worthy of a stick. I'd get a crash box if they offered one. Synchromesh is for wussies.

In Europe, the manual/automatic situation is quite the opposite of that in the USA. Here all standard, cheap cars are manual, and only the expensive luxury cars have automatic transmissions. (At least in the Netherlands) driving lessons/tests must done in manual cars, unless you have some medical reason not to (then you'll also get a note on your license, prohibiting you from driving manual cars).

Automatic transmissions are therefore regarded as either boring, or for people who do not have the skills to drive a manual.

I drive a car with an automatic transmission and people always ask me why I'd drive a 'boring' car. Then I explain it is actually 'sporty' because it has paddle shifters (which I never use), and suddenly it becomes acceptable again.

I believe the main issue in Europe was due to torque converters being inefficient. With expensive gas and small engines, the performance hit is non-negligible. Nowadays you can get good robotized gearboxes that have almost none of the disadvantages, except for a slightly higher price. And given that most people drive manuals in an idiotic way, they can easily be more fuel efficient.

Yep, this was always the main argument against them when I was growing up.

Some of the older automatics were also hilariously bad, with clunky gear changes and noticeably long delay on kick down. Perhaps American drivers were more tolerant of this because they drive such long distances, so a relaxing drive was more important than an engaging one.

American automatic transmissions were historically much better than European ones. GM automatic transmission were used everywhere for a long time. I had a 2000 BMW 328Ci with a GM transmission.

Nowadays the ZF automatic transmission from Germany is one of the best around. Thankfully my Grand Cherokee has an 8 speed ZF instead of an unreliable Chrysler 5-speed.

VW Group seems to charge about £1300 for a DSG - not sure I'd call that "slightly higher" on a £22K car.

I never owned a car and I don't ever plan on buying one new, but 6% doesn't seem that high given the added comfort.

Also I quickly checked, it seems that if you're willing to buy from dealerships' inventory, the sticker price is a moot point. Let's say you want a Golf 1.5 TSI (which is probably the most popular compact car over here in Switzerland), I find 14 of them with a manual transmission, and 96 with a DSG, and it seems trivial to find the exact same model for a similar price, or even cheaper.

"Nowadays you can get good robotized gearboxes that have almost none of the disadvantages, except for a slightly higher price."

1. These automatic transmissions are still the weak spot on most vechicles.

2. They still use clutch bands that wear. The trannies are anything but simple. Most mechanics farm out rebuilding a tranny. I would recon that a malfunctioning automatic transmission us the number one cause of junked vechicles, besides wrecked vechicles.

3. It's straight forward weekend job to replace a clutch.

4. We all know modern engines can put close to 300,000 miles on them. Manufacturers know it. There's a reason they only give 70-100k on the tranny.

5. A modern automatic transmission is not a simple fix. Even AMCO guys are learning on your dime (notice they won't just give a price for a complete rebuild over the phone? AMCO in San Rafael, CA. Yea, I remember you slick.)

6. When checking a used vechicle, check that tranny fluid. It should be pink as a baby's butt. (Even then--there's no guarantee. The seller could have just changed the fluid. It shouldn't be black, brown, or smell burnt.

7. Sorry about my tirate on automatic transmissions. I've been to Automotive school, and worked as a mechanic for two years. The Automatic Transmission always intimided me.

If anyone could come up with clutch bands that don't wear, well let's say, you could dine with the 1 percenters? Tyat that be hell though?

I think you might be getting downvoted for using an abbreviation for 'transmission' that also happens to be a homonym for a slur against transgender people. You've written a good, informative comment drawing on your specialist expertise, so it seems a shame to have it lose visibility. You might consider editing to change the word that could be upsetting some people.

To be upset you would have to take it out of the context its presented in, at which point its out of context. Seems like people are trying to be upset, shame on them.

In electronics/electrician-speak, "tranny" is also commonly used to refer to transformers, but I'd never confuse that meaning with the automotive one nor the gender one given the context.

I don't think older automatics are hard to work on (50s-70s era), but I agree that the modern electronic ones are horribly complex.

>You might consider editing to change the word that could be upsetting some people.

Are you serious right now?

I'm not being sarcastic, if that's what you're asking. It seems silly to to lose a worthwhile comment to censorious flagging.

Can whoever flagged the original comment please STOP and THINK. Nothing wrong with the post. OMG.

@icantdrive55 you are 100% right.

On investigation icantdrive55, someone is systematically killing your posts. All you can do it create a new account.

Maybe it is a bot trigger by certain words since I can’t imagine anyone is that stupid.

I guess I have a higher opinion of the capabilities of stupid people.

"Dead" is generally admin activity, "killed" is user flags. Seems to date to 2016, though I don't see an admin comment.

I imagine vividly you visiting places like diyAudio or electronicspoint forums with this suggestion. May be you should try it.

Please don't be serious. If anyone is offended by transmission being abbreviated to tranny... well, they need to rethink their priorities.

I agree that all cheap cars in the Netherlands are manual. Especially the under 10.000 euro small kind of car like a Hyundai i10, small Kia or similar.

But over the last few years the automatic has increased dramatically in popularity with the more serious brands like BMW and Audi. Not just in their top models, BMW has been selling an 8 speed automatic as standard even on the 1-series.

A big part of that is because modern automatic gearboxes are not slow and boring anymore. The dual-clutch type really made sales increase. And so does the increase in hybrid and electric cars which are very popular due to tax reasons and all of them are automatic.

The driving test is a choice. You don't need a medical reason, you can choose to do the test in an automatic (or hybrid / electric) car if you want to. But almost nobody does that, because you are indeed not allowed to drive a manual car after doing the test in an automatic.

In the UK you don't need a medical reason, you can simply choose to take an automatic test. But then of course you can only drive automatic cars, just like in the Netherlands.

Ironically I believe an American who has never driven a manual would be able to come here and rent one, because (please correct me if I'm wrong) their licences don't distinguish between the two.

I think manuals are slowly on the way out here as well, although they'll persist for a long time on cheaper cars, and a few sportier cars.

A friend's new (automatic) Audi has both faster 0-60 and higher MPG (and lower CO2 output) than the manual equivalent, so manual gearboxes are becoming more difficult to justify, even for petrolheads.

It's the same in Sweden as well. You can simply choose to do your driving exam with an automatic, but then you are not allowed to drive with a manual transmission.

Also, a year or two ago was the first year where half the new cars sold were automatic. The first time I ever tried driving an automatic was actually when first driving my own car; we bought our car just before I got my license, so I couldn't test drive it then but I could drive it home when it was delivered. I quickly decided that I would not ever be getting a car with manual transmission.

This is especially funny to me since I'm working on Need for Speed which is all about car culture, where people have a lot of passion for driving stick.

Manual transmissions could offer 2 advantages today:

1) They are most likely cheaper and lighter than automatics. They make more sense in cheap small cars. So if cost is an issue you may opt for this.

2) They could be more fun, depending on the car they're on. There are people who genuinely enjoy being engaged while taking a drive for fun. The more disconnected you get and the more stuff is done for you, the more it feels like you're a passenger instead of the driver. It's not just about getting better mileage, or better acceleration. The manual can be part of the fun.

For almost all other purposes an automatic transmission is the comfortable, efficient choice.

This being said, automatic transmissions can still be infuriating in some corner cases where they just can't pick the right gear. As long as there's a way to shift manually that shouldn't be a problem.

There are people who genuinely enjoy being engaged while taking a drive for fun. The more disconnected you get and the more stuff is done for you, the more it feels like you're a passenger instead of the driver.

As someone who drives both automatic and manual cars, and rides (manual) motorcycles, I take umbrage with this sentiment. It regularly gets trotted out in these types of discussions and is used as a way to dismiss anyone with a different view.

If you don't feel engaged while driving an automatic, the problem is with you, not the transmission. You may find manual shifting gratifying or fun, but if you need that to feel engaged then you need to stop and think about what your mind is doing while driving.

> I take umbrage with this sentiment

> is used as a way to dismiss anyone with a different view

I'm sorry but being offended that some people might like something different than what you like is not complimenting you at all. You complain about others dismissing your point of view while you're dismissing their point of view. And you completely ignore the fact that I didn't state it as a universal truth. It's even highlighted: "could be more fun". Your argument revolves around "I don't understand it or like it so it must be wrong". Under no circumstance do I have to like the same things as you to be right. When talking about my tastes I am always right. No exception. If you don't feel like this applies to you then it just means you're not in the target group for my statement.

The rest of your comment is just insulting which doesn't help you make a point or even make you sound like a reasonable person.

I don't enjoy riding a motorcycle but you don't see me offended by the fact that you do. Maybe you feel engaged snoozing in the train. Don't hate the people whose minds like more. And don't contradict or insult them about what they want or like. Makes you look petty and insecure. If you need validation for your tastes this is definitely not the way to go about it.

Manual vs. Automatic is gradually going to become irrelevant as electric drivetrains gain market share.

Except perhaps for a few exotic sports cars, electrics use fixed-reduction transmissions.

What if I have an Automatic Driving Licence (UK) and I go to America and rent a Stick Shift then the Police pull me over?

Also could I go to a developing country, get a licence there, then it is valid in the UK and America?

These questions came to mind when I read your comment.

> Also could I go to a developing country, get a licence there, then it is valid in the UK and America?

Depends on the country you get the license from. https://www.gov.uk/exchange-foreign-driving-licence has a simple click through questionaire that implies your 3rd world license would be valid for 12 months. Looks like you can also get an IDP [0] which will be recognised in most places in the world, but again only valid for 12 months.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Driving_Permit

The US doesn't care if you took the test using a manual or automatic, so that restriction wouldn't be recognized. You'd get a ticket (or whatever the appropriate action is for the offense) for whatever reason the cop pulled you over.

I doubt the police in the US would even mentally register that restriction, since it's a completely foreign idea to people in the US.

These are interesting questions! I don't know the answers, but I guess international law is often bad at dealing with edge cases.

Is it an international law situation?

I am probably using the wrong terminology. I guess there are reciprocal agreements between countries to recognise each others driving licences. I'm not sure whether that counts as international law.

"What if I have an Automatic Driving Licence (UK) and I go to America and rent a Stick Shift then the Police pull me over?"

First off, you would have to find a rental manual transmission. I don't know if I have ever seen a manual in all the times I have rented here in the U.S.

The police will not care about that status on your license. They probably will not notice it.

I think you’d have quite a hard time finding one. Maybe at a specialty rental place, but not one you’d likely find at an airport.

In India & Middle East too, if you take driving test in Manual, you can drive both Manual & Automatic. If the licence says Automatic, it is Automatic only.

Same with prices, repairs; Auto are expensive than Manual.

Sort of fits in to the more general point that we Europeans mostly drove smaller, cheaper cars with fewer luxuries.

The basic model, no frills European car still comes (here in Ireland) with manual transmission, manual windows (at least in the back), no Aircon (heater/fan only), no cruise control...

Since there are a lot of these, it's what people are used to, and they keep driving manuals.

Idk if Americans have ever really bought many nissan micra-esque cars.

you live in past, nowadays even middle class cars have automatic transmission because it saves petrol opposed to past when it was exactly opposite

even cheap cars can have automatic transmission, it's just option and not standard

If you add options to a cheap car, it becomes an expensive car.

Dacia sandero costs 7990€. Dacia Sandero with automatic transmission costs 13750€.

i doubt the automatic transmission itself cost 4700€, most likely combined with most luxurious equipment

and dacia it's not good example, they produced budget cars and their prices for standard features of other brands are extreme, for 14000€ you would be insane to buy sandero

Exactly, Dacia Sandero is a cheap car. Dacia Sandero with automatic transmission is not a cheap car (it automatically gets other expensive options).

In the UK you can elect to do your test in an auto, but then you are not allowed to drive a manual, so very few people do.

Personally though, I find driving an auto much more fun. I also have a car with paddle shifters that I never use!

Here in the Netherlands I see most people going automatic when the are often in traffic jams and their knees start to complain from constantly having to push the clutch.

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