Cars have changed a great deal over the last hundred years, and the technologies on board have developed from basic mechanics to high-end technological marvels. This development has had its role in three areas: vehicle operation, entertainment/ease of use, and safety.
Most fundamental to the use of a vehicle are functions such as steering, brakes, and other operational aspects. These have evolved from raw mechanical features to largely electric processes.
- (1911) Electric starters: Previously, you had to use a system of cranks to start your vehicle. An electric ignition made this process much easier and safer.
- (1921) Automatic transmission: Alfred Horner Munro invented the first automatic transmission, but it was too weak to be implemented. About ten years later, a hydraulic version was developed by General Motors.
- (1929) Four-wheel brakes: Greater stopping power was added with brakes on each wheel. Later, anti-lock brakes would replace this method.
- (1934) Coil spring suspension: Improvements to suspension with coil springs improved the handling of cars and prevented some types of damage.
- (1956) Power steering: Hydraulics help take the weight off of steering in the 50’s.
- (1973) Catalytic converter: Pollution from exhaust is reduced with the introduction of the catalytic converter.
- (1982) Electronic fuel injection: The use of microprocessors made the process of mixing air and fuel much more precise.
- (2000) Hybrid engines: Saving on fuel becomes easier with hybrid engines that use both electric power and gasoline to power your car.
While the term “technology” can encompass virtually anything that is or was invented by a human mind, the term usually recalls circuit boards, LCD screens, and blinking lights. The technology used to make driving more pleasurable has made huge leaps and bounds over the last few decades, but it all has fairly humble beginnings.
- (1925) Cigarette lighter: Back when smoking was considered a harmless pastime, cigarette lighters were installed in vehicles for driver convenience.
- (1930) Radio: Car radios saw their debut in the ‘30s, making the task of scanning through radio stations the burden of passengers ever since.
- (1970) Cassette player: About 5 years after the 8-track deck began seeing use in cars, the cassette player took its place on the dash.
- (1985) Disc player: As music technology evolved, it sooner or later saw implementation in the car’s dash, and the disc player was no exception.
- (1995) Navigation systems: The first electronic navigation system came about in ’95, but it wouldn’t be until 5 years later that it would become the ever so widely useful GPS.
- (2001) Hands free systems: Invented in 1994, Bluetooth technology saw its first use in a vehicle at the turn of the millennium.
Car safety is always a priority, and no expense has been spared in making driving as low-risk as possible.
- (1984): Air bags: After years of development, air bags are finally safe enough to become standard.
- (1995): Collision avoidance technology: The first radar-based warning system, called FOREWARN, came about in the mid ‘90s. After that, cameras, scanners, and other technological wonders have taken their role in keeping drivers safer than ever on the road.