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Why do so many Americans drive automatic cars? © Getty Images

Why do so many Americans drive automatic cars?

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Asked by: Joseph Wood, Oxford

Automatic cars in the US are generally cheaper, more powerful, and are used to drive long distances on relatively straight roads. Europe is more densely populated and its old roads are small, bendy and require more anticipation, so manual gears allow the driver to be more reactive, selecting the right gear at the right time.

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American driving can also involve a lot of stopping and starting: stop signs tend to be used in place of roundabouts, so manual gear changes become a nuisance.

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Authors

Dr Peter Bentley is a computer scientist and author who is based at University College London. He is the author of books including 10 Short Lessons in Artificial Intelligence and Robotics and Digital Biology: How nature is transforming our technology and our lives.

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