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When Vanellope is being taught how to drive Ralph is guessing the functions of the 3 pedals in her car. His guesses were:

  • Right: Accelerator
  • Middle: Brake
  • Left: Useless

But when Vanellope is driving by herself after being taught, we see she's only using the Right and Middle pedals and she seems to only use the left pedal when she shifts gears (suggesting it's the brakes?)

So what are all 3 pedals for in Vanellope's car? Or did one get added by mistake?

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    I honestly can't get over just how weird this question is. Are there really some countries with no manual boxes, all autos?? – Tetsujin Jan 12 at 10:36
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    @Tetsujin in Australia there are still manuals but i never learned to drive one (and thus only licenced to drive an auto). when i see in movies people's cars jerking while changing gears (as they learned to drive) i thought they were applying the break as they changed gears – Memor-X Jan 12 at 10:52
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    I suspect the line in the movie was also a subtle joke. In a lot of arcade racing games, you can put them into a mode where you don't have to clutch to shift, which makes the third pedal literally useless. – Eric Lippert Jan 12 at 17:27
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    @Tetsujin I would say automatic transmission cars are pretty dominant in the US so I'm not surprised when people see a clutch pedal and don't know what it is. – Kodos Johnson Jan 12 at 19:23
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    @Memor-X Such people are changing gears at the wrong RPM :) – Luke Sawczak Jan 12 at 19:26
69

Someone doesn't drive stick...:)

The third pedal is the foot clutch and is only used when changing gears in a manual transmission automobile.

A clutch is two metal plates in the engine. When you press the clutch pedal down the plates come apart separating the engine from the drive wheels allowing you to change gear. Bringing the pedal back up re-engages the plates which in turn connect the engine to the drive wheels.

Quora

Also - http://www.drivinghelp.com/Pages/Controls_Pedals

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    so when we see vanellope uses the left pedal, she's using the foot clutch? so then the middle is the break as Ralph guessed – Memor-X Jan 12 at 10:49
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    That's correct. – Paulie_D Jan 12 at 10:51
  • Spock also has some helpful advice; go here ("A Piece of the Action, STOS") chakoteya.net/StarTrek/49.htm and search for clutch – DJohnM Jan 12 at 20:21
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    @Memor-X "brake", not "break". – Roger Lipscombe Jan 13 at 16:16
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Because Vanellope is from a car racing game, where, unsurprisingly, they drive race cars.

High performance cars classically used manual transmissions, because the human can make better decisions about when to shift gears than a computer can*, and the difference is plenty enough to be the deciding factor in winning races.

You may know that engines perform best in a certain range of engine speed, and that is not proportional to the road speeds. That is why cars have a number of gears like a bicycle. That's not the pedal, that's the stick between the seats. To match up engine speed to the gear you are changing into, automatics handle that with a hydraulic coupling... but on a manual, there's a gadget that allows thedriver to select a certain amount of "slip" between engine and transmission. That's what the left pedal does.


* least of all a hydraulic computer as would be in a non-computerized performance car, such as the THM350 or 700R4 loved by hotrodders who want automatics.

Cool 80’s story: There were two truly excellent brands of automatic transmission, ZF and Hydra-Matic. The latter is General Motors, yes really - any random Chevy got a world-class automatic. Once Rolls-Royce gave a trial to the Hydra-Matic. It ran fantastic, exactly what they wanted. But they did a tear-down and found a bunch of rough castings inside the hydraulic computer (valve body). Fine for a Chevy, but hardly up to Rolls standards! So they painstakingly cleaned up all the rough casting ripples and marks and made it look fantastic. Reassembled it, and suddenly it shifted badly. The mechanics were losing their minds, what did they do wrong reassembling it? They asked GM. GM said "You smoothed the valve body!? We deliberately leave the casting rough to crate turbulence to the hydraulic flow. No wonder."

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    Trying hard to think of a high performance car which still uses a manual clutch with a pedal - paddle based sequential shift seems ubiquitous. – Pete Kirkham Jan 12 at 20:38
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    Of course, nowadays the situation's reversed (a modern car's computer knows when to shift better than the driver does, and this also lets the driver concentrate on driving rather than having to shift gears every so often). – Sean Jan 12 at 23:58
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    I mean, a computer can beat the best humans in chess. It can also drive cars with fewer accidents and mistakes than a human in areas much more complicated than a race track. I'd be a little surprised if it couldn't implement a heuristic that outperformed humans at figuring out when to shift gears in racing. Whether anyone has done the research necessary to develop such an algorithm, of course, is another question.... – Obie 2.0 Jan 13 at 5:36
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    Of course a fully computer-controlled race car vs. a human-controlled car would hardly be fair in any case. The computer weights less. ;) – Obie 2.0 Jan 13 at 5:39
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    @Obie2.0 : But the computer cannot guess the driver's intention what to do next, so there are still some situations where the driver knows best, simply because the computer not having all the information. Chess is not a good example. Using such an example, I could say that machines could beat humans in tug-of-war more than 200 years ago, and this must mean they are better at everything. – vsz Jan 13 at 13:03

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