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A photo of the dashboard in an automatic car.

I’m sorry, can you tell me how it works?
Photo: Honda

At the end of the year, I finally made it on the roads for my first trip on American soil. And despite a few weird differences, it was great to be back riding the countryside and embracing the freedom of driving for the first time in almost a year.

But, while discussing the wheels I chose for this first foray on the American highway, an admission sparked debate in Jalopnik’s office. That’s because, while describing the details of the mighty Honda CR-V that I picked for my first road trip to the United States, I dropped this little bombshell of truth:

“Fun fact, it was also the first automatic transmission I drove. ”

Since then, my fellow writers here in Jalopnik have been amazed that after 10 years of driving I have never got behind the wheel of an automatic. Not while I was learning, not when I rented cars, and certainly not in the few cars I have owned. This, it seems, is very anti-American of me.

A red vintage Mini with a learner badge stuck on the front.

Everyone in UK learns to drive in a car like this I promise.
Photo: Oli Scarf / Stick (Getty Images)

Erik Shilling even went so far as to say, “In America, taking your driving test in a manual car is like increasing the difficulty level for no reason.”

But while you take your test in automatic mode, it seems like the easy and sensible option for most learners in the United States.S., IIf you do this at home, you might find yourself limited to your driving choices later in the day. life.

It’s because there are two different licenses for young drivers. One for all those who pass with a manual and another, Category B (Auto), for all those who choose to take their test automatically.

That’s right, kids, an automatic is for life, not just your driving test.

Perhaps this is why taking your test in a textbook is so ingrained in the minds of young drivers. When you reach 17, and you and your friends start to learn, you are all excited to share stories of your first janky records, frustrating dropouts and satisfying shifting into fourth gear.

The interior of a Vauxhall Corsa.

POV: You are me, I am learning to drive.
Photo: Opel

As a result, the number of people who choose to take their test in an automatic car is much lower in the UK than it is for manual testing. In October 2021, the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) reported that there are 996,857 people who currently hold Class B (Auto) licenses UK.

On the other hand, the agency declared 39,848,740 people now hold the full category B license. This license allows you to drive both a manual transmission and an automatic transmission.

So that means there are almost a million people on UK roads who are cursed to only drive an automatic car. And, if they ever change their mind and decide they’d rather have a manual, here’s what the DVLA has to say to them:

“If your license is only for automatic cars, you can upgrade it by passing a driving test in a manual car. “

That’s right, you have to go through all the stress and cost of a second driving test, and who wants that?

But it’s not just the test drives that are biased in favor of the manual engine.

A photo of the interior of an electric Ford Mustang.

Is this the electric interior of the future?
Photo: Ford

While cars with a shifter only accounted for 2.4% of vehicles sold in America in 2020 it’s a very different story with us in the UK. Manual cars accounted for 70% of vehicles on the road in the UK, according to a 2020 study.

But the wind could turn in favor of the automobile.

Car sales for 2020 show it was the first year on record that automatic cars were selling better than new manual ones in the UK. And while they still have a long way to go until they’re considered the norm, statistics from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders found that the number of automatic models in the UK has increased by over half a million units since 2019.

This automotive adoption will only be encouraged by the abandonment of the manual by various car manufacturers. Mercedes announced it will phase out manual transmissions by 2030, and the the ever-increasing deployment of electric cars will be also reduce the need for young drivers to learn the baton.

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