How quickly has car technology developed?

If a car in current climes doesn’t have electric windows and power steering, it’s looked upon as being prehistoric. However, such perks haven’t always been a given, and while there’s a debate about who invented the world’s first automobile, one thing that isn’t up for argument is that is certainly didn’t resemble the hi-tech vehicle that we see on our roads today.

Many believe Karl Benz was the inventor of the car and his first petrol-powered car, created in 1885, was powered by a single cylinder four-stroke engine. Fast forward 133 years and your typical petrol-fueled economy car has either three, four or six cylinders.

But, what are the other developments in the car manufacturing world? Here, we look at car developments throughout time and how technology has changed the car industry. After all, as technology keeps advancing, so too will the car we drive.

Car radio

One of the first things many of us do when we get in our car is choose our radio station. While this is second nature to us these days, it was first introduced to our vehicles in 1930.

Invented by Paul and Joseph Galvin and William Lear, the concept allowed drivers access monophonic AM radio. Compact cassettes arrived on the scene in the 1960s, before car stereos started to rival home versions for their sound quality in the 80s. Nowadays, a lot of drivers connect their own music systems – often their mobile phones – to listen to their favourite tunes, and if we don’t, many car radio systems are now touchscreen.

Anti-lock brakes

Anti-lock braking systems now come as a standard safety feature in cars, but this hasn’t always been the case. ABS’s development has been a long process since first being a concept in the 1920s. Until the 1950s, the system was primarily used on aircrafts, but by the 60s, car manufacturers began to experiment with the technology. It wasn’t until the 90s that ABS and related systems became commonplace.

Parking sensors

Some cars still don’t have them, so you’d be forgiven for thinking parking sensors haven’t long been introduced. However, they first burst onto the scene in the 70s and were originally supposed to be guidance devices for the blind.

Parking sensors use ultrasonic technology that is installed on a car’s bumpers to detect obstacles or surroundings as your vehicle approaches them, alerting you by beeping louder and faster as you get closer. This device become widely used in the early 2000s and is now the most common and basic parking system available.

Camera technology

A new car can find many uses for a camera. Whether it’s a dash-cam to record everything that is happening around you – where there’s blame there’s a claim, right? – or reverse cameras to help you park, these are really becoming a staple addition to any new car.

However, like parking sensors, the camera used for reverse parking has been around for a considerable amount of time. In 1956, Buick’s Centurion concept car included the technology. However, again like parking sensors, this helpful tool wasn’t used mainstream until the turn of the millennium.

On-board diagnostics

In theory, the days are gone in which you’d break down without any given notice. Since 1994, on-board diagnostics have been able to indicate to us that there is a problem before it’s too late. We may not know what the symbols always mean, but by detecting a fault or an issue, we are able to seek the help to fix the problem before it causes further issues.  

Electric cars

While the electric car is starting to rise in popularity, they were actually introduced over 100 years ago. By 2030, the UK’s government has proposed that three-fifths of cars sold should be electric.  Whether this target is met remains to be seen, but with Vauxhall dealers ready to introduce the new electric version of the popular Corsa to their fleet next year, it’s clear that many manufacturers realise the importance of the electric car’s future.  

Of course, there are a number of advances in technology that could be mentioned, including 1921’s introduction of the cigarette lighters, intermittent windscreen wipers being introduced in 1969 and, more recently, lane departure warnings in 2010. With plans in place to have fully autonomous cars rolled out as soon as 2021, it’s clear that technology will never cease to change the car industry. The invention would mean that in less than 150 years, we would have gone from our first car to our maiden autonomous car. Now that is fast!


Leave a Reply