Ever since I first said “go faster” to my dad from the back seat of our family station wagon, I’ve loved cars. In 1985, shortly after earning my driver’s license, I first learned to drive a manual transmission in a friend’s classic VW Beetle. It had four forward gears, a stick shift, and a top speed of 65 miles per hour. Despite it only having roughly 60 horsepower, I found a way to rapidly destroy the clutch.
In a car, the clutch pedal is a lever on the floor, which you push with your left foot to shift gears with a manual transmission. It takes finesse, skill and experience to use it to shift gears smoothly, especially in a race car.
Decades later, clutch pedals are headed to extinction. Relentless advances in technology now allow robotic automatic transmissions to shift gears more quickly and efficiently. Today’s consumers have no interest in learning to operate the clutch pedal of a manual transmission.
In today’s increasingly robotic world, there’s something magical about operating a car with three pedals. As a driver, there’s a directness, connection, and communication with the vehicle and the road that disappears with automatic transmissions. What is lost when technology moves forward? What is gained? It’s not always an easy question to answer.
The Clutch Pedal is the name of my new blog and podcast. I share my thoughts and observations in the blog, and interview fascinating people from the worlds of startups, technology, and racing on the podcast. In particular, if you’re interested in cars, robots, and rockets, you’ll be right at home.