How cars have changed in fifty years

artproem /

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Driving is not that difficult in the modern world. If you use an automatic transmission it is incredibly easy but even if you use manual transmission it is far easier than it was fifty years ago. In the 1970s driving was completely different from what it is today. Let’s take a look at some of the biggest changes that have taken place in cars in the last fifty years and what it means for drivers today.

Motorized windows

New cars no longer come with roll-up windows but there are still many cars on the road today that has not got electric ones. We can all remember a recent time where we had to roll up windows and while it is not that difficult and doesn’t make driving any more difficult it is a nice luxury that we now only have to push a button and the window goes up. It is particularly nice that the driver is usually able to operate all the buttons from his seat meaning that he can open and close windows when he wants. We can all remember dropping a friend somewhere who sat at the left-back of the car and having to get out to roll up their window. No more! While this has not really changed how people drive it is a suitable analogy to help understand all the other changes that have taken place throughout the car.

Engine computer

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The greatest change that has taken place in driving is one that most people are unaware of. Everything that your engine does today is managed by a computer. It is called the ECU or Engine Control Unit and it monitors how your car takes in air, controls the gears, controls the valves, and much more. Car engines had a lot more difficulties prior to the introduction of ECU because a mechanic would set up an engine to work one particular way that didn’t suit the different types of journeys a car would go on. Now a car is smart enough to alter how efficient it is based on where the car is, how long the journey, and more.


Seatbelts were put in cars in 1968 and this means that for the last 50 years we have seen a large period of increased safety compared to prior years. ABS was invented in 1978 but it was really only in the 90s when it started to appear in standard car models. Prior to this time if you slammed on the brakes it was down to luck or an incredibly skilled driver to determine whether that car went into a tailspin. When someone slammed on the brakes prior to ABS, the wheel froze and it would skid. Today with ABS, the wheel doesn’t freeze because the ABS pumps the brakes hundreds of times allowing the wheel to keep moving while reducing speed quickly. 

Air conditioning

Depending on where you live the greatest change to take place in cars in the last fifty years is the introduction of air-con. You may remember in your childhood some horrible car journeys where you felt incredibly sick from the heat inside. Your car likely didn’t have air-con. Even when air con was first introduced many could not afford to have it in their cars. They were left to either roll down their windows and get some relief or pretend to have air-con, keep the windows up, and die inside. Many families know the torture of trying to pretend to their neighbors that they had purchased aircon.

These are the greatest changes that have taken place in the last fifty years. The only other change that should be mentioned is that of power steering. The introduction saved many drivers from forearm burn out and tennis elbow due to the force that was once needed to turn a car. Today a car can be turned with a finger, as can the windows be turned down, the air adjusted, and even the brakes applied. Today, driving is easy.