« Wanna Grow Up to be a Debaser | Main | Stopping the Herd on Coverage Reform »

October 07, 2009

Comments

"An automatic transmission reduces driving to a task."

I think it is for most people -- they just want a way to get from point A to point B with the least hassle.

"Driving a manual is a joy."

Unless you live in a city with steep hills, and have to wait for a traffic light to change while on the incline, with cars behind you, and have to immediately drop the car into gear while taking your foot off the brake and hitting the accelerator, without sliding back into the other car's front end, and causing $700 worth of damage, and having your insurance rates increase 10% for 2 years --

Ouch, Jay. OK, except for that case. Since I once drove a manual through San Francisco (a rental!*), I might allow a "San Francisco exception" to my rule.

*It turns out that if you look downmarket enough, you can still find fly-by-nite rental car companies in the US that rent manuals. At least as of 1999 or thereabouts .....

Other important driving information: If you're driving way off the beaten path in Spain, and you're in need of gas, and you're not driving a diesal: always confirm that you are at the "sin plomo" pump. (This near disaster also occurred in the 1999-2000 timeframe.)

I don't know, driving a manual shift in Friday afternoon traffic jam is simply aggravating. It doesn't require you to think; it only requires you to work on blood pressure control techniques.

And pitchfork was never anything but worthless. As long as you came out with an indie album where you sang high-pitched falsetto or whispered throughout an almbum, used unique to nonsensical instruments in the songs, and used whiny lyrics, you were assured at least a 7 review.

I find most music reviews incomprehensible. I suppose that's because it is hard to describe a sound with owrds, or perhaps its because there is a sort of code or jargon used in reviews that I don't understand. In any case my ususal response to a review is. "WEll, OK, but what does this music sound like?"

It's a lot more enlightening just to go to Amazon and listen to snippets.

I'm with von on the manual/automatic debate. Love a manual (although it is a bit of a pain on slopes as described by Jay Jerome - but I learned in an area with hills so I kind of got used to it)

All of my siblings drive a manual shift car. They say it gives them more control. They have each had more and worse traffic accidents than me -- because they have to exercise that control correctly each time, and people make mistakes. I prefer to reduce the number of ways I can make a mistake when operating a very large piece of equipment at high speeds around other people.

Similar comments apply to using Linux, tho without the physical risk.

Bring back the manual!

I have the same fond feelings towards manuals, but you have to recognize that it's an aggressively dying technology. Electric motors have no need for gearing. So while you can fake gears in one (by intentionally unsmoothing changes in power, I assume) it would be expensive and almost completely pointless. So I assume they won't. Teslas, which are the current crop of electric-motor sportscars, do not have gears, for example.

And once internal combustion is only 50% or less of the fleet, and manuals are only some small fraction of that, it'll be a small enough population that it won't be worth teaching your kids to drive it. It'll be some arcane skill like shaving with a straight razor. I'll give it 20 years to be generous.

Unless you live in a city with steep hills, and have to wait for a traffic light to change while on the incline...

You didn't mention the emergency break in your scenario, so you were doing it wrong. Living in Seattle with 45 degree inclines downtown and driving a manual, you learn well how to accelerate out of your emergency break.

Animals IS much better than all those albums, though.

Unfortunately I'm forced to agree on the difficulties of a manual transmission if you commute during rush hour and encounter stop-and-go traffic. Or live in San Francisco. I've had some very annoying clutch burnouts there.

If you don't, it's a pure joy to have the engine and the wheels directly connected, and to know that the engine isn't going to lurchily downshift if you press the accelerator just a little harder. We have a manual Subaru Legacy GT wagon - a car perfect for me but apparently so unpopular they only made that combination for a year - and it's great fun to drive on twisty roads or in the rain. Sadly Subaru looks set to drop the midsize station wagon sector entirely, which is idiotic if you ask me, but they didn't.

We also have a Tundra with an automatic, which is probably the most boring car I have ever driven. Even though in a straight line it's very fast, it's so heavy and big that you definitely don't want to throw it around, and even if you did, the stability control will stop you. (You can turn it off, but then how stupid will you feel when you're upside down in the ditch 5 minutes later?) The auto further removes you from any connection with what's going on. On the other hand, for towing a big trailer the auto is great - when pulling away all you have to do is push the gas until it all starts moving, no hassles.

Anyway, Americans seem to have resoundly voted against the manual transmission, so I guess we'll have to stick to imports.

Oh, and if Animals is a 10, does that mean Wish You Were Here was a 12.5?

An added benefit of the manual transmission, is that it is near impossible to hold a phone or text while driving one. One somewhat related curiosity I have noticed is that while there are fewer and fewer cars with manual transmissions, it seems like more cars have tachometers.

The first manual car I drove was an early 80s Honda Civic 2-door coupe that was possessed by demonic forces (it caught on fire THREE TIMES! There was an epic incident in 1986 to recover the car from Annapolis MD in late December that STILL GIVES ME NIGHTMARES!).

There is no way on GOD'S GREEN EARTH I will ever a) own a Honda or b) drive a stick shift ever again.

an early 80s Honda Civic 2-door coupe that was possessed by demonic forces

I had a car possessed by demons, too, many years ago (Threw rod in middle of Triborough Bridge, when my dad borrowed it; badly damaged by airplane part falling from sky; eventually totaled by beer truck with defective parking brake)

because they have to exercise that control correctly each time, and people make mistakes.

I've always wondered if manual transmissions were associated with a higher accident rate for just this reason. If you have to pay attention to the transmission, that's attention you can't pay to what's about to dart in front of you or the craziness of the other drivers. Then again, maybe people just use the attention they would spend on futzing with the transmission on talking on their cell phones....

Similar comments apply to using Linux, tho without the physical risk.

Whenever I approach windows, I'm always astounded at how much effort one has to go through to accomplish simple tasks that just work out of the box in Linux. Even OS X can stand some improvements in that regard (although no where near as much as windows).

...it's a pure joy to have the engine and the wheels directly connected, and to know that the engine isn't going to lurchily downshift if you press the accelerator just a little harder.

The first 250 miles in my Honda Fit had me thinking that I was going to have to give up on it, as the automatic transmission and I seemed to disagree frequently and fairly violently over which gear to be in. By 500 miles this had gone away; the mechanic at the dealer tells me that the transmission is software-controlled and learns your "style". I know that on the infrequent occasions when my wife drives the Fit, she complains about where and when it shifts.

What I really want to try is one of Honda's continuously-variable transmissions where the software runs both the gearing and the engine speed to do what you're asking as efficiently as possible.

Another great things about manual transmissions: they save you a few thousand bucks.

And 10 may be high for Animals, but surely by a point at most. (Nice to see some love for The Final Cut--finally something we agree on, Von!)

You didn't mention the emergency break in your scenario, so you were doing it wrong. Living in Seattle with 45 degree inclines downtown and driving a manual, you learn well how to accelerate out of your emergency break.

I was taught that using the emergency brake on hills was for wimps, but I did it anyway.

My great fun car was a Saab Sonett, a neon-colored two-seater with a fiberglass body that was made for a few years in the early 70's. It not only had a manual transmission, it free-wheeled, meaning if you took your foot off the gas it went into neutral. You could turn that off if you felt like it.

"you really should be reading Patently-O"

Reading the comments at Patently-O, however, is entirely optional.

One somewhat related curiosity I have noticed is that while there are fewer and fewer cars with manual transmissions, it seems like more cars have tachometers.

On my Civic Hybrid, I can optimize my milage by holding the tach at about 2000 to 2500 rpms. So a tach is a useful thing to have, even with an auto transmission.

AS this has been designated an 'open-thread' the CBO just reported it's estimate of the health care bill costs as $829 billion over the decade following passage.

"The measure would be paid for through a variety of tax increases and spending cuts, including savings of hundreds of billions of dollars from Medicare, the federal health care program for seniors."

Those Medicare savings would be realized by grabbing elderly people out of their wheelchairs by the throat and violently shaking them, so that any loose change that falls free will be colleted as offsets to finance the expansion of the program. And by charging them a 'meter' fee of .25 cents a minute while they wait in offices for doctor's appointments; as wait-times are expected to drastically increase over the next decade, the 'meter' fees will generate additional billions, and barring any back-door immigrant amnesty legislation by the current administration that would add another ten million new members to the rolls, or prolonged double-digit unemployment, or deleterious stock market fluctuations, or extended prolongations of troop increases overseas, should keep the program afloat through 2020.

Which is the most fuel efficient, automatic or stick shift? I suspect it is the manual, which is another reason to want to keep it.
Also, if you have to learn to use a manual in order to drive, you will get a few marginal drivers off the road.

Manuals usually get one or two more mpg than the automatic, because the automatic transmission is not a direct mechanical linkage, but loses some energy in the torque converter (the "slushbox").

You may also save a little gas by idling with the clutch in (zero external engine load) rather than with your foot on the brake (where the engine is somewhat resisted by the torque converter).

Some newer automatics have locking converters with no loss, or are actually manual transmissions with a computer-controlled clutch (or two). Those would get the same mileage as the manual versions.

Another vote for the manual shift here. Drove one for 7 years in SF, no problem at all. Of course, after a while you learn to avoid the streets with the really bad hills (and there are a couple much worse than the typical SF hill).

One of the basics in passing your driving test in the UK is learning how to do a hill start. You fail if the car rolls backwards, even a little bit. Simple as that: don't let people drive unless they can drive using a manual shift.

...of course that would require major investment in public transport all over the country in order to make not having a driving licence an option...

I'm not a big fan of PItchfork. And I greatly prefer U2 to Pink Floyd.

But Animals IS better than Boy. And maybe better than The Final Cut (a greatly underrated album). And just because they rated it a 10 (which, by the by, it's not) doesn't mean Wish You Were Here can't be too. (Although it's not a 10 either.)

I drove a manual for years, but have always lived in hilly areas (near SF, Santa Cruz and in San Diego) so frankly I'm ok with the automatic.

Also I think the 1mpg increase is with nearly perfect manual transmission driving--which isn't everyone.

I drove manuals for twenty years, until my arthritic knees told me I really didn't want to deal with a manual in rush-hour traffic. For me at least, shifting became so second-nature that I rarely had to pay attention to the shifting rather than traffic - I could just feel what gear I wanted to be in.

Now that I'm retired, I could consider a manual again, but I found out last year when car shopping that the stocking habits of car dealers (manual mid-size cars in stock are strippers) and my requirements (my partner's disability means I need a trunk large enough to handle a wheelchair and leather seats he can slide across for entry and exit) meant I had to go with another automatic in my Mazda6. Oh well...

Oh, btw, the only car of mine that was stolen in my adult life was a Mustang GT manual in 1991. The thieves wanted the wheels (the car was recovered the same night sans wheels), so I suppose they made sure to send the guy who knew how to shift since the GT has a fairly high take rate for manuals.

Better than "Yoshimi" (8.4)?

yes

Better than U2's "Boy" (8.3/7.1/8.9)?

yes


Better than Floyd's own "The Final Cut" (9.0)?

yes

In the same league as "Abbey Road"?

no

I had a manual transmission Saturn. I loved it. This was when I lived and worked in Orange County, CA. Later, when I started working in Los Angeles but still lived in OC, I grew to hate it: Shifting through all five gears -- multiple times -- while on the *freeway*! Automatic transmissions may reduce driving to a task, but the L.A. freeways during rush hour made manual transmissions a chore. Things weren't much better when I moved closer to work, the traffic in Hollywood just doesn't leave much room for the joy of driving a manual transmission.

Besides, Manual and Automatic, I say ditch 'em both. Continuously Variable Transmissions, that's the future.

Similar comments apply to using Linux, tho without the physical risk.

Though you can also make a very good argument for an analogy to Von's argument about the manual being a less desirable theft target. There are people out there who want to hijack your computer, and most Windows users wind up using the equivalent of The Club, a car alarm, Lojack, and a couple of other theft deterrent devices. With Linux, OTOH, the thieves just don't know how to drive your machine- and the basic security architecture is better in the first place- so you can get away with an old-fashioned car key as your only protection.

Major vote for manuals here. I live in a fairly small, but relatively congested city in the midwest, and I drive a manual yaris.

I had driven automatics in the past, but got a manual because I had always wanted one and it was about 1.5k cheaper. Have to say it was worth it, having a manual car transforms driving from something I could do in autopilot to an exciting experience. It helps keep me focused on driving and not other distractions. It probably also helps the the yaris is small enough to drive somewhat like an oversized go-kart.

My girlfriend has an earlier model of the yaris in automatic and now I can't stand to drive it, it feels sluggish and ungainly to me.

Since this is an open thread, I'll point you lawyerly types here:

"It's erected as a war memorial!" replies Scalia. "I assume it is erected in honor of all of the war dead. The cross is the most common symbol of … of … of the resting place of the dead."

Eliasberg dares to correct him: "The cross is the most common symbol of the resting place of Christians. I have been in Jewish cemeteries. There is never a cross on a tombstone of a Jew."

"I don't think you can leap from that to the conclusion that the only war dead the cross honors are the Christian war dead," thunders Scalia. "I think that's an outrageous conclusion!"

So explain to me why Scalia is supposed to be the smart one.

So explain to me why Scalia is supposed to be the smart one.

He's not smart. He's glib. That fools people, especially when he glibness is deployed in support of causes they like.

"I don't think you can leap from that to the conclusion that the only war dead the cross honors are the Christian war dead," thunders Scalia. "I think that's an outrageous conclusion!"

`When I use a word,' Justice Scalia said, in rather a scornful tone, `it means just what I choose it to mean -- neither more nor less.'

`The question is,' said Eliasberg, `whether you can make words mean so many different things.'

`The question is,' said Justice Scalia, `which is to be master -- that's all.'

I never noticed Pitchfork, and was embarrassed when people found out that I didn't know about it. Does this now mean that I am, as it turned out, actually secretly cool after all? Finally?

The Mountain Goats were the musical guest on an especially wicked edition of the Colbert Report last night, so your replies shall be as stones thrown against especially thick glass. Like, really seriously thick stuff.

Having driven a manual transmission on a VERY hilly island on the left side of the road (U.S. Virgin Islands), I will gladly throw in my vote for automatic transmission. It's just one more thing for me to think about when I should be thinking about not driving over an embankment into the sea. Thankfully the driver's seat was on the left side of the car, or I would have had a complete nervous breakdown trying to shift with my left hand.

I've also read that drivers of manual transmission cars experience more stress while driving than those who drive an automatic. The comments above about driving stick in congested traffic seem to bear that out. This isn't necessarily inconsistent with it being more fun. Fun things are often stressful. A great, competitive game of Mario Kart is pretty stressful. But I don't want getting to the grocery store and back to be stressful.

nice topic for an open thread. I drove a stick in HS and college, but here in Japan, it has always been automatic, which is fortunate, because I'd be using my left hand instead of my right. In fact, I think it is rather difficult to get a stick on anything that is not a sports type car. I'm wondering if there is any research on handedness in relation to manual transmissions. Perhaps the motor movements are not fine enough to make a difference. Also, what are the options for UK cars in that regard? Is manual a very pricy add on or is the market split 60/40 or something like that?

And just because they rated it a 10 (which, by the by, it's not) doesn't mean Wish You Were Here can't be too. (Although it's not a 10 either.)

It's not a question of it also being a 10. It's a question of it being better. If one album is better than another but is scored the same (because you've reached the maximum of your scale, for example), that sort of undermines the point of the scale, which is to theoretically score better items higher.

All of which is pointless, because scoring albums is a mug's game. What you really want is recommendation based on what you like, which modern software is (and pre-modern friends are) quite good at.

While automatics are great in urban situations where there is plenty of stop-starting, I prefer manuals everywhere else, especially where hills are involved. I've driven an automatic in New Zealand and California with lots of hills and I found it frustrating not being able to control what gear was being used. It's also preferable to learn on a manual as switching to an automatic is much easier than switching the other way.

I live in Silicon Valley, and have for thirty years done a lot of stop-and-go during commute hours.

Nevertheless, I'm with von on this one. Every car I've ever bought had a manual transmission, and I don't intend ever to buy an automatic so long as I have a choice.

Driving an automatic transmission is like preparing and eating a Swanson frozen TV dinner - simple, but the results are never brilliant.

[angry internet man]If you love manual shift so much, why don't you move to England?[/angry internet man]

Also, what are the options for UK cars in that regard? Is manual a very pricy add on or is the market split 60/40 or something like that?

Manual shift is standard. You can get automatic shift, but those cars are more expensive.

Also, if you pass your driving test in an automatic shift, you can only drive an automatic shift car - and manual shifts are both more common and cheaper.

Interesting question about whether manual drivers cause more accidents than automatics. While manuals have an extra thing to do, maybe that keeps them more focused, or maybe the lack of the extra thing to do allows autos to focus more on things going on outside the car. Of course, maybe this is shifting now as auto drvers may be tempted to text with the free hand while manual drivers can't (tho I somehow manage to drive a manual while holding a travelmug).

Also, my recollection from driving in australia and NZ is that driving on the left side of the road was much harder to get used to than shifting with the left hand (it helped that the clutc was still on the left).

And are manuals stolen less, as suggested upthread?

I drive a manual, and have fo rover 40 years. I live in a small city with some very steep hills with traffic lights at the top. Hills are never a problem, they just require experience. Driving a manual transmission in town is fun and occasionally challenging.

One very important safety positive is that talking on a cell phone is nearly impossible when constant shifting is required.

I also must drive to DC on occasion and have been caught in the rush hour traffic on the beltways. A manual transmission is a terrible car to have when moving 50 feet every 5 minutes. Rentals with automatic transmission are preferrable for my DC trips.

Drove a manual from 16 till I was 29. And then I got sick of doing the I-95 parking lot commute home.

Switched to an automatic. I miss the manual on the weekends when I'm traveling, but not on my evening commute.

In Europe most cars have manaul shifts. I switch gears without thinking, and starting on a steep hill just comes naturally. I don't worry about miles of stop-and-go either. It's all just a matter of practice.
The one big advantage with high gas prices in Germany is that manual mode gives me a lot of control over my milage. Manuals usually get 10% more than automatics, and by driving in gas-saving mode I save another 10%.
And, what Mudge said, I'm never tempted to use the cell phone while driving.

As long as you came out with an indie album where you sang high-pitched falsetto or whispered throughout an almbum, used unique to nonsensical instruments in the songs, and used whiny lyrics, you were assured at least a 7 review.

See everything Jeff Magnum ever did. They retroactively changed their rating Neutral Milk Hotel's In the Aeroplane Over the Sea a perfect score. Complain all you want about Animals' rating, it's still an excellent album, and exponentially better than this garbage. It actually got a low review when it came out--probably because it sucked--but then people discovered that pretending to like it gave you indie rock cred, so they redid the review and gave it a 10.0.

In Germany it is the same as in the UK: learn on manual and you are allowed to drive automatic also but not the other way around (you get an entry in your driving licence about that). At least in the beginning of driving lessons dealing with the transmission is 90% of what you do, everything else is secondary. I'd say automatic is a true rarity except in the true upper class. To be nasty, if you can afford such a car, then you probably have a personal driver.
I have to admit that the day I got my driving licence was the last time I steered a car (and that was in February 2005). There simply has not been the need because public transport tends to be excellent in these parts.

The first manual car I drove was an early 80s Honda Civic 2-door coupe that was possessed by demonic forces (it caught on fire THREE TIMES! There was an epic incident in 1986 to recover the car from Annapolis MD in late December that STILL GIVES ME NIGHTMARES!).

OK, another exception. It is permissible not to drive a manual transmission if, because of some genetic abnormality (or other cause outside of your control) you (1) open a dimensional vortex (2) EACH and EVERY time you use the transmission AND (3) as a result, one or more of the following comes through:

Demonic forces.
One or more Lords of Chaos.
One or more members of the Cthulhu mythos.
One or more of the Goa'uld.
That pinhead guy from Hellraiser.


It actually got a low review when it came out--probably because it sucked--but then people discovered that pretending to like it gave you indie rock cred,

personally, i love In the Aeroplane Over the Sea. i gave it a 34.

no, it's not an everyday album. and there are aspects which seem designed to irritate. but when the mood is right, it's amazing.

but, yeah, i don't doubt PF revised their ratings once they saw other people like it. they're all about maintaining their own indie cred.

there are aspects which seem designed to irritate

Like Jeff Magnum's voice. I did like most of the stuff on your list though. Spoon is a vastly underrated band, but I wouldn't put them number one. Good to see Remain in Light and Midnight Marauders get some props.

Welcome to the 8%-
92% of the cars sold in America are Automatics.
Most people in America want Autos, instead of Manuals.
The car makers, including Mercedes, or Toyota, or Ford, all recognize this, and stock cars on the dealers lots accordingly.

So while a few people- statistically provable as less than 10%- like manuals, most people here do not.

Now, we all know most people are wrong about most things- McDonalds, George Bush, and Brittany Spears come to mind- but selling cars is a business, and the lack of manuals is directly traceable to profit, y nada mas.

Oh, someone asked about the right/left-hand transition. My wife drove manuals in Australia (shifter on the left) for years, then moved to the US and switched right to driving manuals here with maybe a single day's adjustment. Muscle memory picks that stuff up very quickly. Also, it helps that first gear seems to always be on the left (you're just pushing instead of pulling to get there).

More proof that, to survive -- and thrive -- in the Great Recession, it pays to be connected: Mr. Secretary, Wall Street on Line 1.

You may also save a little gas by idling with the clutch in (zero external engine load) rather than with your foot on the brake (where the engine is somewhat resisted by the torque converter).

I save even more by not idling at all. Slow enough and the electric motor cuts over -- 0 mpg FTW! [hybrid owner gloat]

Why Animals? Dogs is a great song, IMO, but Sheep and Pigs are just pretty good. WYWH was much better, and although it's gotten a ton of airplay, DSOTM is their best work.

And then there's The Wall, which was also high up in the fairly good end of things.

I dislike comparing different groups, though, because I like different groups for different reasons.

As stated, an interesting concept that driving a manual may produce more accidents. I'm a manual driver myself (20+ years). My driving record is not clean but my mistakes, and they were mine, were due to foolhardiness. Shifting isn't a conscious effort. You just do it.

Personally, I've long been of the opinion that if more people were driving manuals traffic woes would ease. When you have to work the clutch a lot you start allowing more space between your car and the one in front of you.

If anything, a manual transmission would make it less convenient to be texting and smoking while driving. I give it a thumbs-up.

You would not believe how many people I see texting at 75mph. It makes me wonder how I could safely remove them from the gene pool. That's a whole lot of stupid genes that just shouldn't be passed on.

The comments to this entry are closed.

Blog powered by Typepad