AA Driving School predicts one in four driving test passes will be in automatic cars by 2026

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AA Driving School predicts more than 25% of practical driving test passes will be in automatic vehicles by 2026, fuelled by the switch to electric vehicles. In the latest data released by DVSA, 17% of all passes are in an automatic compared with 13.4% the previous year, and just five percent a decade earlier. This figure increases around three percentage points per year.

In 2022/23 there were 324,064 automatic tests (1,688,955 overall) conducted with 138,354 producing a pass (816,775 overall). Based on that trajectory (of an increase of 3 percentage points per year), AA Driving School predicts that in 2023/24 20% of all passes will be in an automatic, 2024/25 23%, and 2025/26 it will be 26%. This is set to rise even further with the ban of sales of new petrol and diesel vehicles on the horizon.

The rise year-on-year reflects the numbers of instructors teaching in automatic vehicles. In January this year, 21% of AA Driving School franchisees were teaching in an automatic compared with 79% in manual. This broadly represents the percentage split between manual and automatic practical tests being conducted.

The data also shows more females than males are taking automatic tests, though the gap has lessened since the pandemic. Prior to 2019/20, typically around three-quarters of automatic tests were taken by female pupils. This has reduced every year since, but currently stands at more than 60%.

AA Driving School data also shows older learners are more likely to have lessons in an automatic than younger learners. Of the school’s current automatic pupils, 43% are over 30 (10% of overall pupils) compared to just 17% who are 17-20 years old (4 percent of overall pupils).

There are many reasons pupils opt for learning in an automatic including the perception it is simpler as there are no gears or clutch to master. This isn’t replicated in pass rates as the automatic is around six percent lower than manual. The difference in pass rates may be because automatic pupils develop the basic skills sooner and take their test before they are totally ready.

It’s likely the automatic numbers will increase further and faster after the 2035 ban on new petrol and diesel sales. As EVs are automatic the need to learn in a manual vehicle will decrease and we should see automatic rates comfortably overtake manual. The number of people training to be an instructor in an automatic has also risen. In 2023, 37% of those learning to be a driving instructor with the AA chose an automatic vehicle. The AA Driving School recently celebrated the second anniversary of adding electric vehicles to its fleet.

Automatic driving tests were introduced 55 years ago, in 1969. From June 2nd 1969 a separate driving licence group for automatic vehicles was introduced.

Camilla Benitz, Managing Director, AA Driving School, said: “As EVs and hybrids become more popular due to lower day-to-day running costs and as the impending ban on sales of new petrol and diesel cars gets closer, more people are choosing to learn in an automatic.

“As more people become confident with the idea of their driving future being electric, the idea of needing to drive a manual vehicle will feel irrelevant to many. Indeed, we see many are already choosing to not only learn in an automatic, but to learn in an electric vehicle.

Tests manual v automatic Tests

YearTotal all testsPassesPass rateAutomatic conductedPassesPass rate% Auto testsAuto as % of all passes
2012/131,436,481677,25547.187,84434,74939.66.12%5.10%
2013/141,477,585695,58047.195,75937,26638.96.48%5.30%
2014/151,532,504718,71246.9105,94841,39139.16.91%5.70%
2015/161,537,735723,44447.0114,99445,23839.37.48%6.20%
2016/171,730,936815,16847.1141,26456,17239.88.16%6.80%
2017/181,718,519795,89246.3163,79063,72738.99.53%8%
2018/191,664,219761,97245.8185,04371,87038.811.12%9.40%
2019/201,599,566734,60045.9202,50679,95139.512.66%10.80%
2020/21437,352217,80749.860,20924,99641.513.77%11.40%
2021/221,538,314751,91448.9242,713101,23141.715.78%13.40%
2022/231,688,955816,77548.4324,064138,35442.719.19%16.94%
2023/24(YTD)1,384,681     22%*20% *
2024/25      25%*23% *
2025/26      28%*26% *
*Predicted based on current trends

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