Car Technology

Car Technology - Past & Future

We rely on our cars and other vehicles for a majority of our day to day journeys. From taking the kids to school or commuting to and from work, to going on holiday in the UK or Europe. In previous years, having a car was seen as a luxury, however, we now see having a car as a necessity in our busy lives. The first car or automobile, that was brought out was massively different to what we are now accustomed to, with many features not existing. In this blog, we take a look back at the technological breakthroughs that have revolutionised the vehicles that we now have on the roads, plus the not-so-successful ideas and what the future brings for the automotive industry.

Headlights

Having vision whilst driving on the roads is now an apparent necessity and is easily given with the use of your electronic headlights. However, back before 1898, drivers relied on oil burning or carbide headlamps to light up the road. These were highly ineffective and would only allow for short journeys in the dark to be undertaken. They were also highly dangerous and could leave your vehicle in flames if left unattended! The electric headlights were first introduced in 1898 by the Electric Vehicle Company and were fairly unreliable to begin with, by tweaks and development on them now mean we can travel in the dark. 

Indicators

Indicators, or flashing turning signals, were brought in in the 1960s. Originally, drivers would indicate their turning direction by using their arms to signal. Developing the indicator was more difficult than the headlights due to the fact the light was required to flash. Car technology innovators got around this issue by purposely creating a short circuit which creates a flash of the bulb that other road users can see. SImilar to headlights, this was developed over many years due to the danger of sparks and potential fires being caused.

Electric Starters

You may be familiar with hand crank vehicles from watching cartoons and older films. However, these were real and people relied on the heavy crank mechanism to get their vehicle started. This crank was awkward, hard work and time consuming to use, with it taking many attempts to finally get your vehicle started. We now rely on an electric starter which is as easy as turning a key or pushing a button on our current vehicles. These were originally installed in 1912 in the well-known Cadillacs. 

Power Steering

If you have ever had the experience of driving an older car, you will have learnt that power steering is amazing and a must-have for your vehicle! However, power steering was first brought in in 1926 but was still not fully rolled out till later, with cars being released as late as 1997 without power steering installed! A basic power steering system works by the steering linkage and hydraulics system being integrated together so that you as the driver don’t have to work hard to turn round a sharp bend! Newer vehicles now also come with extra sensitive power steering so that you are able to full lock your steering wheel using your little finger to turn the steering wheel slightly!

Reduction of harmful gases

After many successful years of car manufacturing, the roads became increasingly busy with vehicles and therefore caused a build-up of soot, smoke and harmful gases to linger in the streets. Therefore, car manufacturers looked at methods of reducing harmful emissions. The first effort was the introduction of a positive crankcase ventilation in 1963, which meant harmful gases were kept inside the vehicle. Shortly after this innovation, in the 1970s, catalytic converters were introduced. These are installed in the exhaust system to convert the harmful gases into safe to inhale gases. We still use similar converters to this day!

Airbags

Airbags were only introduced in the 1970s after vehicles were now able to reach higher speeds and could put the driver and passengers in danger. Originally, airbags were only installed on the drivers’ side but were later installed on the passenger side. Some cars as late as 1996 still only had the singular airbag in the drivers' side! Safety in vehicles is now one of car manufacturer’s top priorities when designing new vehicles.

Heating

Imagine driving your car in the winter or cold weather with no heating. It would be horrible! However, this is what people had to do before 1929. The first in-car heaters appeared in the 1929 Ford Model A. It may have only been the hot air created from the engine being sent to the cab, but it was better than nothing! This idea was developed further by the introduction of a fan and a hot coolant to push air through to the cab when required. 

Future car technology innovations

It can be hard to predict what car manufacturers are looking to bring out in their next model, however, there are a few that we have a good inkling about! But like previous innovations, some might not be as successful as others, we will just have to wait and see! Check out our predictions of what the future will bring for car innovations to make our journeys safer, more enjoyable and cheaper:

Self Driving Cars

They have always been an idea and dream, often a feature of sci-fi and futuristic films. However, in 2018, the initial release of the self-driving car became a reality. The first test on real roads was not as successful as desired, however, after some small tweaks and development, I am sure that we will see a self-driving car again. They are tipped to be a huge success when fully operational due to the increase of commuting travel times. If you were to commute in a self-driving car, it would be similar to using public transport but you’d be able to pick the destination and not have to sit next to people that you did not wish to! Self-driving cars will also potentially reduce the number of traffic accidents on our roads with the use of sensors and cameras to pick out any potential risks and act in response, such as braking when nearing another vehicle to leave enough room to come to a stop safely.

Wifi and other connectivity

Wifi in vehicles has been around for many years, however, there is room to develop this functionality further to allow your vehicle to self-diagnose any issues that it is experiencing and learn your driving style so that it can adjust to suit you. Similarly, a touchscreen has been developed in new Tesla cars to allow you to control and monitor your vehicle with the swipe of a finger! 

Unsuccessful car innovations

5th Wheel

Parallel parking can be annoying and difficult. This is why the idea of a 5th wheel in the rear of the vehicle was developed. The idea behind it was that the 5th wheel would deploy at the push of a button to allow the driver to manoeuvre their car into a parallel parking space. However, this idea was scrapped when the retractable function failed and people were taught how to parallel park properly!

Amphibious Car

In all the cool Bond films, we have seen characters effortless go from driving on a road to travelling through water. This is why car manufacturers began developing this innovation to be a common feature of your regular vehicles. However, many issues were thrown up during testing such as water-tightness and the vehicle actually sinking! Similarly, there were designs drawn up for hovering cars but the scale of creating these would be huge and require a lot of power to lift a full car off of the floor.

Single Pod Cars

Manufacturers believed that drivers would like to be secluded during journeys so decided to create single passenger cars, such as the G-Wiz. Due to it being such a small design, it was not only unsafe due to the little protection you had, but the engine was tiny and therefore the distance you were able to travel in it was minimal. The small vehicle also meant other drivers on the roads could not see you, putting your life at risk. 

Unnecessary Accessories

We always dream of being able to have pizza or hot drinks on demand whilst travelling to work. This did become a reality with companies creating coffee makings, kettles and even microwaves that could be powered by your cigarette lighter. Not only would this drain your vehicle's battery, but it was a huge danger to the driver and other people on the roads. This is why this idea was scrapped and did not become a success!

The world of cars is confusing and constantly changing, with car manufacturers bringing out new models with all new features every day! If you are looking to purchase a new car but are unsure of the features and technology included, contact AP Autocare today for invaluable advice or to view their top of the range vehicles that they currently have to offer on 0117 963 8916

Published: Thursday 26th April 2018