I had an interesting rant in the office about the validity of clutch in a modern car. Trust me, I’m an engineer. I can have this discussion even though I shouldn’t be having with just anybody. Having said “modern” car we’re running oxymorons in a first place as we still meant gasoline powered car and by “clutch” we mean the manual pedal, however the argument spans deeper. Here’s when one can quickly check validity of their thinking against the masters of the car engineering art. The assumption is that you take that top cars are made by top engineers but I hope it’s an easy assumption to make. By masters of the art I take Ferrari, Mercedes, BMW and alike.
If you enter shops on the “ground floor” of each vendor they’ll give you cheap versions of their cars, typically the entry models aimed at casual drivers, families and housewifes. As you move up the ladder and ask about the performance models and get interested in the models that represent the pinnacle of car engineering you’d find that none of the big vendors are actually shipping their top performing cars with a clutch as pedal that is operable by the driver. The top performing models are built with pure engineering in mind. There’s no soft suspension, few cup holders here and there, several docking spaces for your glasses, iPods, umbrellas etc.
The top performing models are built for the purpose of driving as efficiently as possible with no distractions from the main objectives: acceleration, speed, taking corners. Now if you look closer and take the assumption I’ve made in the beginning you’ll notice that the top performing models are either: fully automatic of semi automatic with gear shifters implemented as buttons (pads) underneath the steering wheel, which is where they should be in every commercial car in the first place and if you were engineer enough you should get that without any superfluous discussion in the first place ;-)
Funny enough I can understand the opinions of other people who are engineers however they don’t see the full picture. The clutch is perfectly required in many cars, always has been. It is just the wrong to ask human being to operate it as no human can make good and quick enough decisions on how to operate (we’re talking fractions of seconds instead of two second clutch release as you do driving in your neighborhood). If you were in my mindset you’d even say that having to ask human which gear to engage is wrong from engineers standpoint. Very few people can make better decisions on which gear in which second of any journey exactly is the right one over the decision that can be made by a machine (either electronic or… yes – manual). The gearbox is another matter for another post maybe.