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These days, if your car hasn’t got electric windows or even power steering, it’s viewed as being ancient. However, such luxuries haven’t always been around. Precisely who came up with the idea of the world’s first-ever car is highly contested — Karl Benz is widely believed to be the father of modern motoring — but what cannot be debated is that it most definitely did not resemble the hi-tech vehicles we use in the present day.

Benz’s original petrol motor vehicle, prodced way back in 1885, was powered by a single cylinder four-stroke engine. Jump 133 years into the future and your typical petrol-fueled economy car has either three, four or six cylinders.

In addition to powertrains however, what else has changed in the car we all know and love today? 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.

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In-car radios

Upon getting into our cars, for a great many number of us, the first thing we usually do (well, second, after we put our seatbelts on – safety first!) is to choose our radio station that we plan to listen to on our journey. While this is second nature to us these days, it was first introduced to our vehicles in 1930.

Such a revolutionary invention by brothers Paul and Joseph Galvin and William Lear enabled drivers to have access to monophonic AM radio for the first time in their vehicles. 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 braking systems

Although anti-lock brakes now come as standard for safety reasons, 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.


In this day and age, you would be forgiven for thinking that parking sensors haven’t been around for too long; many cars still don’t have them. However, they first burst onto the scene in the 70s and were originally supposed to be guidance devices for the blind.

By using highly sensitive ultrasonic technology installed on a car’s front and rear bumpers, parking sensors detect any obstacles or surroundings as the vehicle approaches them, 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.


Recent developments in camera technology means they are now often included in new cars. 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.

Yet, as with parking sensors, parking cameras has been around a for longer than you may have expected. 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.

Diagnostic features

The days when you’d break down without knowing what’s wrong now seem like a distant memory. 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-powered vehicles

Remarkably, electric cars were actually introduced over a century ago, but are currently seeing a growth in popularity. 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.

Over the years the humble car has seen a number of additional technological developments that could have been mentioned, such as the introduction of cigarette lighters in 1921, intermittent windscreen wipers 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!


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