Illustration for article titled Flappy Paddle Gearboxes Are The Future Of Driving: Point/Counterpoint

Automated-manual "flappy paddle" gearboxes are rapidly becoming the drive-ratio selectors of choice for high-performance cars. Some see this as meaningful progress with numerous benefits, others as a step away from driver control towards a computerized compromise.


We asked Jalopnik readers whether automanual gearboxes were the wave of the future or completely sacrilegious. Here are the best replies, with a twist: one recognizes a moving change, one argues for the retention of the classic method, and one considers what the future might really hold.


Progress Is Not A Clean Sweep, by Alex likes cars

I think there will always be people who will want a manual transmission. At least until this generation dies out (probably the last one with factory-new manual cars), that's just the way it will be. I don't think the automakers will continue offering them, though. Financially speaking, it doesn't make sense. The paddle shift (dual-clutch, for the sake of argument) are generally superior to traditional manual transmissions in every way; they shift faster and smother, they get better gas mileage most of the time, and they can shift automatically. If it were my money, 5 years from now, I wouldn't buy a new car without one.

I love driving manual transmissions, but I don't think this is a sad thing at all. As technology moves forward, other technologies become obsolete. While we may retain a nostalgia for the old, the new will always take over. For example, as fun as old arcade games are, they hardly compare to what even the smallest game developer can put out these days.

I truly believe either our children or our grandchildren will think a car that runs on gasoline and has a, what was it called? Ah yes, a "clutch pedal" will be hilariously antiquated. Consequently, most won't ever know the joy of your whole body being needed to drive a car, that sense of involvement that that paddles can almost- but never completely- replace. They wouldn't spend their money on a car with a manual, just like many are reluctant to spend their money on a car with drum brakes or carburetors; they will just be another antique novelty.

I don't think it matters at all, though. Over the past century, there have been so many beautiful, fun, fast, and interesting cars built. Many of them were built with sticks. If a driver wants a manual transmission, all it takes is a look though the used car ads. So, yes, I think the paddles will completely replace the standard manual transmission, but there's no need to get upset or say you'll miss driving a stick; they're all around us and they will be for a few decades to come. They just won't be new.

Manuals will be welcomed into being just another aspect of the classic car hobby at some point, and I, for one, will welcome them as "a quirk" with open arms.

Power Is Nothing Without Control, by hexagonist

Industrial designer Don Norman talks about this phenomenon in his book "The Design of Future Things."

We need the physical connection to our machines both for enjoyment and safety. He talks about the paradox of ever-increasing technology in cars making us worse drivers. As the car creates a greater and greater illusion of safety, we become less engaged with the process of actually driving.

The example he gives as a model for future automotive interaction is a horse and rider. When you ride a horse, there are all sorts of subtle cues from the horse about what's going on. Cars, he argues, should have similar attributes.

When you drive a purely mechanical car from the 1960s, there are all sorts of ways to know what's happening, from the sound of the tappets to the feel of the unassisted steering.

A gearshift is part of that symphony of sound and feel. You can feel the clutch disengage, you can feel the moment the transmission finds its gear, you can even feel the speed of the engine's revolutions.

Fly-by-wire systems have many advantages, but driving enthusiasts are always going to have a better experience if their physical connection to the car remains as intact as possible.


The Long View, by claiborne

No. Neither will be around long enough for one or the other to win out.

Simply put the gearbox in car will be redundant with the fall of the internal combustion engine.

Generally speaking an electric car has no gears or clutch.

Share This Story

Get our newsletter