Does a surge in automatic driving tests signal manual’s decline?

Automatic transmission gear knob

More learner drivers than ever before are choosing automatic vehicles for their driving exams, signalling the demise of the manual gearbox.

Official records show that the number of driving tests conducted only in automatic vehicles has reached a record high, with 324,000 tests conducted in automatic vehicles last year.

This was the largest number of automatic gearbox driving tests ever recorded, up 33% from 2022.

According to statistics released by the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA), tests conducted in automated vehicles accounted for over one-third of the 865,000 driver qualification checks conducted in the previous year.

However, more drivers failed their tests in automatic cars than in manual ones, with 48% of candidates passing in manual cars compared to 43% in automatics.

Disappearing manuals

Mark Winn, the DVSA’s chief driving examiner, said: “DVSA constantly reviews tests for all vehicle types to take account of changes in technology, driving habits, regulations and highway infrastructure, as well as to respond to accident trends.

“We have already started work to look at the impact of electric vehicles on driver and rider education and assessment and to plan for any changes that this shift in vehicle type and use will need.”

Passing an automated exam disqualifies learners from driving cars with manual gearboxes; they must pass an additional test to be able to drive manual vehicles.

An industry association called the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders states that in 2022, two out of every three vehicles on British roads had a manual transmission.

Over the next ten years, new manual cars will become rare as the government gets closer to banning petrol and diesel vehicles in 2035.

Test backlog

Instead of using a conventional multi-geared gearbox, the motor in an electric car is usually connected directly to the wheels. This eliminates the need for gearboxes.

As part of an effort to make the cars “fun to drive,” Toyota, on the other hand, defied this trend last year by stating that a manual or semi-automatic transmission will be an option on its next generation of electric vehicles.

The complete suspension of all driving tests during the Covid lockdowns has resulted in a massive backlog of tests.

Since then, officials have been working to reduce the backlog; however, the DVSA reports that the average wait period to get a driving test spot is at 15.1 weeks.

Loveday Ryder, the DVSA chief executive, said in January: “We’ve made some good progress, but we still have a long way to go.”

5 thoughts on “Does a surge in automatic driving tests signal manual’s decline?”

  1. John Billingham

    Put up the driving test fee and pay the examiners what they deserve. ADI’s can earn far more than an examiner, it’s crazy.
    This massive delay in driving tests is adversely affecting the economy because it is preventing new drivers progression in the workforce.
    Look at the bigger picture not the bottomline.

  2. These are useful statistics to know. Many new learner want to learn in automatic car thinking that automatic cars are easy to pass, but the above data confirms that is not correct.
    When it comes to future use of gear in electric cars, we need to wait and see how other car manufactures will respond to this trend.

  3. I ❤️ Manual gearbox
    It’s a skill
    It’s pleasure
    It’s driving
    Long live the combustion engines!

  4. I think the surge in automatic tests could also be the result of not being able to get any test dates and the fear of failing which could potentailly be higher risk in manual than auto and having to wait six to seven months for a re test
    i personally have had more manual inquiries the last few months than auto and it flutuates between the both to be honest

  5. Kevan Chippindall-Higgin

    I have found that those wishing to learn in an auto have little interest in learning to drive properly and wish to do the bare minimum to scrape through the test. What is needed is a proper, formal theory and practical syllabus with the objective of producing far better and more knowledeable drivers. This will inevitably result is more falling by the way side.

    Those who really want and need to drive will make the effort. Those who do not must be kept away from lethal machinery in public places.

    While there is an increase in auto tests, will this continue? New EVs are not selling to private buyers and ex fleet EVs are seeing their values plummet. Nobody wants them apart from virtue signalling fleets. Of course, Benefits in Kind tax breaks are fantastic for EVs, which is why there is less consumer push back. What happens when this ceases? What happens when EVs start paying road tax? What happens to the economy when the immense cost of putting in charging points everywhere becomes clear? The Treasury has estimated £1 trillion and if HS2 is any measure, this figure can be multiplied 4 to 6 times.

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