Semiautomatics are now available in a new form. They are derived from F1 transmissions, so they use paddled attached to the steering column to shift the gears. The transmissions are normal manual transmissions that have computer controlled hydraulics to up- or down-shift when the driver hits the appropriate paddle. The computer also automatically blips the throttle on down-shifts, and can be put in a fully automatic mode, although it's no where near as smooth as a torque converter style automatic.
The purpose of these transmissions is easy shifting, with two advantages over traditional automatics. They don't suck power with slippage in a torque converter, and they don't affect fuel efficiency, which is a big draw in Europe.
Only three cars in my knowledge in the U.S. have had these new types of semiautomatics; the Ferrari 355 and 360 series, and the BMW M3. In Europe, new Fiats and the Toyota MR2 also utilize F1-derived transmissions, and many more are to follow because of gas prices and fuel-efficiency taxes.