Forget self-driving cars - bring back the manual transmission

Technology meant to save us from distraction is making us less attentive

Sales of cars with manual transmission are falling, and many carmakers are discontinuing the option in the US. But the manual transmission increases a driver's vigilance instead of diminishing it, the writer argues, adding that a car with a stick shi
Sales of cars with manual transmission are falling, and many carmakers are discontinuing the option in the US. But the manual transmission increases a driver's vigilance instead of diminishing it, the writer argues, adding that a car with a stick shift and clutch pedal requires the use of all four limbs, making it difficult to use a phone or eat while driving, and lapses in attention are therefore rare.PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

I was backing my wife's car out of our driveway when I realised I wasn't watching the backup camera, nor was I looking out of the rear window. I was only listening for those "audible proximity alerts" - the high-pitched beeps that my car emits as I approach an object while in reverse. The problem was that my wife's car, an older model, doesn't offer such beeps.

I had become so reliant on this technology that I had stopped paying attention, a problem with potentially dangerous consequences.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 26, 2019, with the headline 'Forget self-driving cars - bring back the manual transmission'. Subscribe