Every time I look at my car, I smile. Every time I turn it on, I smile. Every time I drive, I smile. Driving, to me, is one of the most incredible things that someone can do with their time. Man and machine coming together as one to create an incredible experience that teens forever dream about before they get their license. It is the most magical day when you take your driving exam and you hear the State Trooper say, “You passed.” A million thoughts go rushing through your head. “Where am I going to go to first?” or “I cant wait to road trip across America!” “Freedom!!!”
Unfortunately now, cars these days have a million and a half driver aids all supposedly geared towards “safety.” The issue is we are no longer engaged when we are driving. Auto manufactures have gotten so much pressure from Washington and the European Union to make cars safer, they are now putting things into cars like lane departure warnings, and giving the car the ability to actually brake for us. We are so far removed from the task at hand, we miss what we are supposed to be doing behind the wheel, which, is driving. It all ties back to the automatic transmission. Something I despise.
I spent Mother’s Day driving down to Newport, RI in a Subaru Outback. Great car. Incredibly safe, cheap to maintain, leather interior, up nice and high, plenty of cargo space. The list goes on and on. But I found myself actually having a somewhat difficult time driving it, all because it is an automatic. There is something about that continuously variable transmission or CVT (something that Subaru is so proud of, in fact, its an option on the WRX which is a SIN!) that makes the car to want to keep going forward. No matter how hard I pressed my right foot into that oversized brake pedal, the car just did not want to seem to slow down! Poor mother Catherine was left grabbing the “oh shit” handle far too many times. Not only that, my left foot kept looking for that pedal known as a clutch.
Now let me preface this, I have my commercial drivers license. I am an incredibly good driver and I was not getting stumped by an automatic transmission by any means. I am just complaining about what is this horrible thing that is making driving horrifically unsafe.
I digress. I am willing to bet off of absolutely zero scientific data that if auto manufactures were only allowed to produce manual transmissions, we would see a drastic drop in car accidents. Driving a standard is infinitely more engaging. You actually have to think, “If I downshift now will I redline?” It forces you to think about upshifting when you are in traffic, you actually find yourself reading the traffic and finding yourself being incredibly more efficient in your driving, as well as attentive. Which is the point I am trying to drive home here (pun very much intended).
We simply need to get away from all the silly distractions, including stupid driving aids. Driving should be about getting your heart racing, never lifting the right foot when you go into a corner, and having a car that breathes fire and gets you to think “… Wow.” There really is no better feeling when you find that back road that has beautiful sweeping bends, tight turns that makes you feel like you’re pulling a million G’s, and have the windows down with the music cranked.
It’s a pity really. How we have decided that driving somewhere is now a chore, and not something we can get excited about. Gone are the days of waking up and going for a Sunday drive, or spending all afternoon detailing your car. Its about snapchatting the fact you have a Mercedes-Benz, while the collision avoidance driver aid kicks in to keep you and your beautiful car in one piece. All thanks to the pesky automatic transmission… Rest in peace manual transmission… Rest in peace.