April 7, 2017
This week it was announced that the 2018 Subaru Crosstrek will continue to be made available with a manual transmission. Each year we “save the manuals” folks cringe as the drip, drip, drip of models no longer featuring stick shifts is announced. Each preservation of driver control of gear selection, such as that of the ’18 Crosstrek, is a ray of hope.
It seems that the overwhelming majority of American motorists seem to prefer automatic transmissions, which is, of course, a form of self-driving. For in the hoopla attending the announcement of cars that park, steer and stop themselves, it is easy to forget that most already own cars that shift themselves. In other words, there’s a gradation of self-driving cars. From automatic transmission to cruise control, to automatic headlights that illuminate when natural light dims, to anti-lock brakes that “self-pump” in low-traction situations, to stability control that actuates both accelerator and brakes when the vehicle approaches limits of adhesion, to lane departure correction systems that put you back on track when you drift across a divider line, to collision avoidance systems that brake automatically to avoid hitting an immobile object, to automated parallel (or perpendicular, or angular) parking systems, each year more and more drivers purchase vehicles that accomplish for them a task heretofore incumbent on the driver herself. Indeed, back in prehistoric times when I got my first driver’s license, changing a tire was part of my driver’s test! Today many tires can travel fifty miles with no air pressure: soon changing a flat tire will be yet another task motorists just won’t have to accomplish.
And this trend is continuing. There’s little risk of encountering Christine (a killer Plymouth Fury with a mind of its own), but Teslas are upgraded automatically and even repaired at night while their owners sleep. The 2014 BMW X5 with the Traffic Jam® option can drive itself up to 25 miles per hour so long as the “custodian” keeps a hand on the steering wheel.