Automobile history dates back to 1886, when the first car was invented. Since then, a lot has happened which has led to the modern and advanced cars we see on roads today. Each feature we see as a standard today has a history.
And this is what it’s all about. The history of cars and how technology has advanced over the years towards excellence.
First Car (1886)
All vehicles have evolved from steam power systems. But it wasn’t very practical due to physical limitations. In efforts to explore a better and more practical car, Karl Benz invented the first car with a combustion engine in it. Quite interestingly, this was a three-wheeler car.
So automobile history dates back to 1886, when Karl Benz laid the grounds for future development in the history of cars.
World’s First Production Vehicle (1908)
In 1908, Ford established an assembly line and manufactured the world’s first production vehicle called the Model T. This car was capable of achieving 45mph with its 20hp gasoline engine.
Due to the economies of scale, the cost of production decreased, and for the first time, a car was available to the public at affordable prices. This was a giant leap in automobile history.
Electric Ignition Starters (1911)
Remember the manual hand crank engine, which had to be rotated to start? This technique was tough for many and often led to injuries. Keeping this in mind, an electric ignition system was invented. The world’s first electric ignition system was incorporated in a Cadillac which was well received by the automarket.
Cigarette Lighters (1921)
In early 1900, when smoking was (wrongly) considered healthy, auto manufacturers had the idea for cigarette lighters. In 1921, cigarette lighters were introduced into the cars, which all auto manufacturers widely adopted. These were removable components that were heated electrically to ignite the cigarette.
Though, now that the harmful effects of cigarettes are well known, this feature has gone extinct in modern cars.
Car Radio (1930)
In 1930, the world’s first monophonic AM frequency radio was installed in a car. 22 years later, when FM frequency was invented, cars in 1952 had radios that could use both FM and AM radio frequencies to play audio.
Coil Spring Suspension (1934)
When the first car was invented, there was hardly any damping material used to avoid bumps. In 1934, auto manufacturers began using coil spring mechanisms for the front wheels only for a smooth and comfortable ride.
Car Keys (1949)
In 1949, auto engineers invented a key that could work as both an electric starter and the ignition key for the car. Soon all car manufacturers were using this key type to turn on power features and ignition of the car.
Power Steering (1951)
Efforts to increase driving pleasure begin right after the invention of the car. Continuation of these efforts led to the invention of power steering in 1951. Initially, a hydraulic system was used to turn the wheels as you rotate the steering wheel.
Today, most vehicles come with electronic power steering as a standard option.
Air Conditioning (1953)
In 1953, a car named Chrysler Imperial was the first production car to feature air conditioning.
It was very basic air conditioning with only low, medium and high settings to control the AC speed. But it did serve the purpose of increasing the driving pleasure.
Cruise Control (1958)
In 1958, once again, Chrysler Imperial was the first car ever to have cruise control. This function enables the car to drive at a constant speed without any interference from the driver. In 1960, all Cadillacs had cruise control as a standard option.
In 1959, Volvo’s safety engineer invented three-pin safety belts. As a gesture, Volvo gave away patents to every car manufacturer to incorporate seat belts in their models. These lifesavers were soon made compulsory to wear.
Power Windows (1960s)
In the 1960s, premium cars introduced electric windows as a luxury. However, with time these became standard in the automobile industry.
Intermittent Windshield Wipers (1969)
Initially, car wipers could only be operated at a fixed speed. In 1969, intermittent windshield wipers were introduced, allowing speed adjustment of windscreen wipers for the first time.
Cassette Stereos (1970s)
Initially, the radio was the only option to listen to any audio in the car. Later, In the 1970s, cassette tape stereos were introduced. This feature enabled drivers to listen to their favorite songs on the go.
In 1971, ABS was introduced, allowing for superior control when hard braking the car. Surprisingly, cars were not the first vehicles to use ABS. Trains and aircrafts were the first to incorporate ABS technology.
Catalytic Converter (1973)
Catalytic converters were introduced in 1973, and after two decades, these were made compulsory for petrol cars. The purpose of a catalytic converter is to clean combustion gasses to minimize pollutants from releasing into the environment.
Digital Dashboard Displays (1974)
Aston Martin Lagonda was the first car ever to feature a digital dashboard display in 1974. All new cars currently have at least a partial digital display for important information like trip readings, etc.
Most premium cars are only using digital displays these days.
CD Players (1984)
As Cassette tapes began to age, new CDX-1 technology was introduced in 1984 to support CDs.
The concept of airbags isn’t new. In 1970, airbags were installed in all government cars in the United States of America. Later, in 1988, the Chrysler Imperial was the first production vehicle to come with an airbag. Today, there are multiple airbags in modern vehicles, maximizing cabin safety.
Parking Sensor (1992)
In 1992, electromagnetic parking sensors were introduced. This feature notifies the driver of the hazards when parking the car.
On-board Diagnostics (1994)
The first on-board diagnostics was developed by Ford in the 1980s for its production line in a car-making facility. Later on, the same concept was introduced in cars with a 16-pin connector in 1994. These systems notify drivers of malfunctions in the car system.
These were made compulsory features for cars in the United States and the UK in 1996 and 2001 respectively.
Connected Cars and GPS Sat Nav (1996)
In 1996, General Motors introduced an advanced OnStar safety system capable of calling emergency contact in case of an accident. OnStar technology can fetch location from GPS and notify local law enforcement agencies in an emergency.
As an excellent safety and security feature. GPS Sat Nav was integrated as an option for the first time in 2000.
Hybrid Cars (2000)
The concept of hybrid cars was first brought up in the 19th century. In 2000, Toyota introduced its first hybrid car – Toyota Prius. Toyota Prius soon gained popularity, pushing all other car manufacturers to manufacture hybrid cars.
In 2001, cassette tapes were replaced by a wireless technology called Bluetooth. Later, several advancements took place, including speed recognition, integration with infotainment display, and steering control switches.
Reverse Camera (2002)
Surprisingly, the reverse camera was invented after parking sensors. In 2002, a reverse camera was used for the first time to stream live footage of the rear of a car.
Automatic Parking (2003)
As basic driver assistance features like parking sensors and the reverse camera keep advancing, a new parking feature was invented. An Intelligent automatic parking feature was introduced. Toyota was the first to showcase this feature in Lexus in 2006.
Driver Assistance feature (2010s)
From 2010 onwards, several advancements took place to help drive the car safely and comfortably. These technologies include lane departure warnings, auto headlights, blind-spot detection, etc.
Tesla was the first production car to feature autopilot on Model S. It’s not legal all around the world. However, it’s an interesting technology that keeps getting better and better with time.
Data Hotspots (2014)
Modern infotainment displays can act as a data hotspot for the passengers ensuring seamless connectivity throughout the journey.
Self Driving Cars (2020)
The success of autopilot led to the discovery of a completely autonomous driving experience. Self-driving cars were introduced in 2020 that can drive independently without the driver’s attention or assistance.
These are some of the most notable and interesting car features that have evolved overtime. Let us know in the comments which invention fascinates you the most and why?