Automobiles are inventions that changed the course of human history. They mobilized the planet, inspired new economic growth, and made living more efficient. Each evolution in production made automobiles more accessible and safe for consumers. Here are ten of the most important automobile innovations.
1. Internal Combustion Engines
The first automobiles were powered by things like steam. However, when manufacturers discovered that petroleum fuels could be ignited and harnessed within a metal housing, a new mobile era started. Internal combustion made cars faster, bigger, and more reliable.
2. Automatic Transmissions
Shifting standard gears requires a great deal of body coordination from the driver. Automatic fluid transmissions went through a tremendous number of changes since their invention in the 1920s. By 1960, 70% of the automotive market was automatic. These transmissions made driving simpler and safer. They also reduced engine wear.
3. Modern Pneumatic Rubber Tires
Early vehicles had wooden, metal band, and solid rubber wheels. If something happened to them, the vehicle could be unusable for a very long time. Vulcanized rubber without sulfur made tires impervious to bad weather conditions. The addition of carbons made rubber flexible and wear-resistant. Combined with air inner tubes and rimmed wheels, modern pneumatic tires made changing a flat very simple.
4. Electric Windshield Wipers
The original design for vehicle windshield wipers required manual operation. This compounded the problem of safety in rough driving conditions. In 1917, the first electric motor wipers were installed in vehicles. Though they improved driving in bad weather, they were more important in changing how manufacturers approached vehicle designs. The possibility of more car features operated by secondary systems emerged.
5. On-Board Computer Controls and Diagnostics
Electronic control units (ECUs), were first used to regulate systems like fuel injection and emissions. Now, virtually all new automobiles have microchip ECUs that monitor every major system. These “car computers” can display diagnostic codes that help service technicians quickly pinpoint problems.
As vehicles become more powerful and prolific, the need for safety assurance increases. Electronically controlled airbags in a car’s interior greatly reduce the intensity of injuries when accidents happen. Features like airbags help keep safety as a top priority for manufacturers.
7. Power Steering
Before power steering, the act of driving was quite exhausting. Compressed fluids in a steering system eliminate a driver having to “fight” against the weight and power of the vehicle. Slight turns of a steering wheel result in quick direction changes because of power steering.
8. Remote Security Systems
Modern vehicles have many interior and exterior components that are monetarily valuable. Automobiles have always been considered prized possessions. Before car security systems, it was a gamble to park anywhere. Also, key-only locks can be easily damaged. Automatic remote security helps people feel more at ease about owning vehicles that have expensive features.
9. GPS Navigation
Stopping every few miles to ask for directions is a hassle for a driver. Stopping on the roadway to look at a map is frustrating. Looking at a map while driving is extremely risky. GPS mapping displays provide accurate and detailed directions. This very modern innovation helps people feel confident about going anywhere that is unfamiliar.
10. Hybrid, Electric, and Fuel Cell Engines
Steam engines reflected society around the time of the Industrial Revolution. Internal combustion satisfied a society that was expanding exponentially for more than a century. Presently, vehicle manufacturers are being persuaded to innovate types of engines that address new societal concerns. Environmental and economic factors are the primary reasons for the rise in popularity of electric and hybrid cars. Inevitably, ultra-modern innovations will arise because of this trend.
No automobile innovation stands alone. They each inspire a cascade of others. Modifications and improvements that withstand the tests of time and marketing make driving more of a pleasure. Vehicle designs have always represented current technological and social trends. In this virtual age, automobile innovations have the potential to be truly unique.