Is there a word for the opposite of a driverless car? I want a simple term to describe the (now) normal cars that require a human driver. I'm writing a story set in the near future after driverless cars become the norm. (Not just the norm, but expected.) The main character meets somebody who doesn't trust driverless cars, refuses to buy one, refuses to ride in one, and drives an old car. She prefers to drive herself even though it annoys other drivers on the road.

We now have several terms for driverless cars (autonomous car, self-driving car, robotic car, and smart-car), but none for normal cars.

  • Try manual car. – GoldenGremlin Jul 9 '16 at 2:52
  • In this future world of yours, you might call it a "manual car," which would be a car driven by hand. – Benjamin Harman Jul 9 '16 at 2:52
  • Lol. Great minds think alike, @Silenus. – Benjamin Harman Jul 9 '16 at 2:53
  • 1
    @Silenus, Benjamin Sorry, the phrase / compound 'manual car' is already taken as the opposite of 'automatic'. – Edwin Ashworth Jul 9 '16 at 3:08
  • 2
    Edwin -- not necessarily. I mean, I might say, "That car's a manual," to refer to a car with a manual transmission, but I don't call it a "manual car." But even if that were the case, we used to say "regular gasoline" for gasoline that was leaded. Now we say "regular gasoline" for gasoline that isn't premium. So in this future world where cars are driven automatically, it makes sense that the antithesis would be cars that are manually driven being called "manual cars," leaving behind any antiquated notions about manual transmissions, also called "standard transmissions." – Benjamin Harman Jul 9 '16 at 5:01

Though I wonder why in your future world they would still allow people to drive (leave alone make/sell) such cars, talking academically you may use one of:

human-driven, manually driven, or perhaps, vintage car

  • I like manually-driven better than vintage. Vintage already has a meaning when referring to cars. I don't want to confuse the readers by using the term "vintage" to mean something different from what they expect. – RichS Jul 9 '16 at 5:29
  • 1
    @RichS Nowadays, vintage car means those automobiles manufactured early 20th century. It will certainly change in the future. – user140086 Jul 9 '16 at 5:32

You can mention the two opposite sets of cars as follows:

auto-driven cars/ driverless cars vs. manually driven cars/ human-driven cars.

I do not subscribe to the term "self-driven car" to mean a driverless car, as the term may, to many, mean a car not driven by the chauffeur, but by the owner himself.

  • @Dinesh Kumar Garg - The term "self-driving" car is already in use for smart-cars as shown by this Wikipedia page. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Autonomous_car Even though some people say "self-driven car" to mean a car driven by an owner and not a chauffeur, that term has already acquired an additional definition. – RichS Jul 9 '16 at 6:07
  • @Rathony. I did not edit or attempt to edit. I do not have that power. I can only suggest edit and I had done just that. I will definitely pay more attention so that an edit suggested by me is not rejected. – Dinesh Kumar Garg Jul 9 '16 at 9:21
  • @Rathony. This is just first time that you have pointed out the mistake to me. I doubt if I ever committed such a mistake. Kindly provide the reference. If committed, I will certainly take care that I do not commit such a mistake in the future. – Dinesh Kumar Garg Jul 9 '16 at 10:33
  • @Rathony. Rejection of suggested edits is one thing, while suggesting edits is the other. The suggested edits could very well be rejected, but that does preclude one to suggest edits. – Dinesh Kumar Garg Jul 9 '16 at 17:48
  • @Rathony. Typo! Please read "not" between "does" and "preclude". – Dinesh Kumar Garg Jul 9 '16 at 17:58

Automatic is cognate with autonomous and often contrast against manual and while I do object to the use of the word manual for anything that does not involve the use of the hands, in the case of a car the word is apt because the primary method of directing them involves the use of the steering wheel, which is hand held.

Additionally, it is a very natural progression of terminology, in large part because we are already distinguishing between automatic and manual transmission, so manual is a word that is likely to come to mind by anybody caring to make the distinction.

Driving a car with a manual transmission—also called a stick shift—requires more skill and understanding than operating a vehicle with an automatic transmission. In a stick shift vehicle, you will be manually shifting gears to adjust your speed, rather than letting the car do it for you.[1]

However, rather than manual cars, I would imagine that these would be called manually-driven cars which uses an adverb to modify a past participle to form a sort of compound adjective to describe the cars. Manually driven is not a very new term, and as a matter of fact, this seems to be the terminology which is already in use for this purpose:

Simulation studies by Minderhoud and Hansen show that the application of automated trucks on a dedicated lane using the platoon concept is possible, although additional traffic control measures are required to ensure safe crossing of manually-driven vehicles with the automated trucks. [Emphasis my own][2]

It is also possible that automated cars in the future will have manual-override for cases when a properly trained human driver wants to go somewhere other than a predestined location, or ascertains that the automated driving is going haywire. In these cases the distinction between autonomous and manually-driven cars may be rendered moot, except for historic contexts.

1 How to Drive a Stick Shift by the D.M.V.

2 Page 9 of The Future of Automated Freight Transport: Concepts, Design and Implementation (© Rob Konings, Hugo Priemus, Peter Nijkamp 2005)

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.