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On June 1, 2009, Air France Flight 447 fell into the Atlantic Ocean on a routine overnight flight from Rio de Janeiro to Paris, killing all 228 passengers on board. While the cause of the crash is still under investigation, here is what Federal Aviation Administration investigators think unfolded on that fateful night.

Four hours into the flight, the Airbus A330 experienced turbulence and extreme icing, causing its speed sensors to malfunction and stop transmitting critical information to the plane's automatic pilot, which apparently caused the plane to slow down. The pilots in the cockpit shut off the autopilot before the plane stalled. Unfortunately, they were as blind and confused as the autopilot. Rather than increase the plane's speed and thus lift, they apparently slowed the plane even further, a move contrary to basic rules of flight. As a result, the plane began to stall and plummeted to the sea.

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If this course of events is true, it raises a question: How could seasoned pilots for a top airline, flying one of the industry's most advanced jets, not know how to regain control of the stalling aircraft? Investigators concluded that modern airline pilots spend so much time minding automated systems and so little time actually flying that some are not up to the task of piloting a plane when the automation fails.

So why are we telling you about Flight 447 in a story that is supposed to be about automobiles? It's a warning: We fear that car drivers, pilots of the roadways, are becoming too reliant on automated systems and have let their driving skills lapse, and even worse, that our kids will never know how to drive without these systems.

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Smarter Cars

While not as automated as airplanes, cars are clearly becoming increasingly computerized. These computers have input in controlling everything from braking to navigation to traction. Anti-lock braking systems keep us from braking too hard. Traction control keeps us from skidding out. Adaptive cruise control makes sure our vehicles automatically maintain speed and slow the vehicle when it comes too close to the vehicle in front. And these are only a few of the technologies that automakers are working on to make vehicles safer. Their efforts are paying off; vehicle-related fatalities are at an all-time low.

However, what happens when these automated systems fail? Will we — or, more importantly, will our children — be up to piloting an automobile without all the high-tech bells and whistles?

Frankly, we don't know. So, just what skills are in danger of disappearing? Here, we list five driving skills that are very important but that are becoming increasingly unnecessary.

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Manual Shifting

Fewer than 10 percent of new cars sold have clutch pedals, and driver's education courses haven't featured manual transmissions in their cars for decades. Consequently, the chances that a driver will encounter a manual transmission along with someone willing to teach them how to use it are growing rare. Even the Richard Petty Driving Experience, a NASCAR-themed driving school, has found it necessary to push-start patrons so they can take off in fourth gear for their oval-lapping fun.

It's a shame, really. Manual transmissions provide unexcelled vehicle control. But probably their greatest benefit is that they more thoroughly involve the driver with what he or she is supposed to be doing: driving. It doesn't take a behavioral scientist to conclude that a more engaged driver is a safer driver.

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