Death of the gearbox? Automatic driving test numbers increase by 260% over the past decade

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The gearbox could become a thing of the past as new drivers ditch manual cars for simpler-to-use automatics.

In 2007-8, 70,429 driving tests were taken in automatic cars, according to Driver Vehicle and Licensing Agency (DVSA) data.

That figure soared to 324,064 tests in 2022-23, which is an increase of more than 360% over the course of 15 years.

Manual tests meanwhile have seen a decline. Around 1.69 million tests were taken in manual vehicles in 2007-08, down to 1.36 million in 2022-23.

The number of tests taken more widely has seen a slight drop since 2007-08, down from 1.76 million to 1.69 million in 2022-23, but the pass rate of those taking tests is up from 44.2% to 48.8%, DVSA data showed.

Most instructors are still teaching learners in manual cars, AA Driving School data suggests, but the number of people learning in automatics is on the rise.

In January 2022 86% of instructors were teaching in manual cars, and that number had dropped to 81% by July 2023.

Overall, in 2023, 37% of people training to be a driving instructor with the AA chose an automatic vehicle.

A surge in electric vehicles

No new petrol or diesel cars and vans will be sold in the UK after 2035, so it makes sense that people are turning to environmentally-friendlier automatic cars - the majority of which are automatic.

The ban was set to come into force in 2030 but was pushed back five years by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak in September.

The number of pure battery electric vehicles (EVs) on UK roads was expected to hit one million at the start of the year, according to analysis by the RAC Foundation.

The increasing popularity of electric cars will make the ability to drive a manual car less important, Camilla Benitz, Managing Director AA Driving School, said, but it will be a natural transition rather than manual test numbers "falling off a cliff edge".

"In the near future, most people will only need to drive an automatic, because all EVs are automatic ... In terms of whether there will be an issue for those who want manual lessons after 2035, we believe there will be a natural transition towards more automatics as EV adoption becomes more prevalent."

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