What do automotive manufacturers have against the manual gearbox? It has been a fight to the death (quite literally) for years and I still can’t wrap my head around the reality that my kids will never learn how to use a clutch pedal. I suppose it’s part of a larger issue that stretches well beyond our cars and to our innate desire to live an automated lifestyle. Why should a human being have to perform a task that can be done by a machine? Why learn to write cursive when you can type on a keyboard? Why type on a keyboard when you can use a voice command? Seem my point? The human race seems to be moving in a direction where “do it yourself” does not compute.
Automation is intended to make our lives easier, free our minds from the menial tasks that once dominated countless hours of our days. Yet in 2013 people have more friends on the Internet than they do in real life and more are diagnosed with depression than ever before. Our collective unhappiness boils down to the simple fact that our desire to create, our desire to accomplish something isn’t being utilized because technology does it for us. As highly social and intelligent beings, it is our job to create, to do tasks and to be active members of the physical world that surrounds us.
Driving a car used to be a highly physical experience. It required practice, skill and depended on the driver to be the least bit coordinated. The act of pushing in a clutch pedal and shifting a gear stick is a physical experience, but in this world of automation it’s been deemed unnecessary. We’ve all known this evolution in the way we drive our cars has been coming, but today’s announcement that Porsche would not be putting a manual gearbox in their upcoming GT3 RS, further cements the reality. While recent 911s were merely a shell of their spirited predecessors, they were one of the last high end sports cars to offer a full driving experience with a manual gearbox. In some ways it made them a bit more special than their peers. However the new model will continue with the same electronic steering that’s infected all 991s and the addition of a PDK.
Sure some will be quick to mention the GT-R and how the immediate power delivery and phenomenal handling, fill the void left by the absence a manual. But at what point will the automation end? At what point is the driver no longer part of the equation? Formula 1 has had the technology to race cars without drivers for years. Google has designed a car that doesn’t need your help. But do we really want that reality? Formula 1 implemented regulations that kept the focus on act of driving because what is a sport without the human element? With no mental or physical challenge can it even be considered sport?
There’s a reason we tune into all 58 laps of a Formula 1 Grand Prix, pay our hard earned money to watch Kobe Bryant play LeBron James and still see more live action films than anything with a digital cast. It’s because of our demand for the human element of sports and entertainment. It’s something we can relate to and it’s the one thing we all have in common. Surely we’d want to keep that human element as part of our daily lives as well? Surely we find satisfaction in cooking dinner from scratch, drawing a picture or properly driving a car?
We live in a generation of new equals better, but is that really the case? I’m not so sure.