Infographic depicting the history of automobile technology.

Transcript: A Cruise Through the History of Automobile Technology

Did you know cars had radios, cigarette lighters, and air conditioning before they had seat belts and air bags? (Because priorities.) Self-driving cars used to be the stuff of science fiction, but thanks to technology, today’s cars are almost unrecognizable compared to the first motor vehicles that took to the roads in the late 1800s. Rev up your engines and let’s take a cruise through the history of automobile technology.

  • 1886: Karl Benz debuts the first motor vehicle.
  • 1908: Ford brings out the Model T, the first vehicle created on an assembly line.
  • 1911: Electric ignition starters replace hand cranks.
  • 1921: Cigarette lighters become available.
  • 1930: The first car radio brings music and news to drivers.
  • 1934: Coil spring suspensions begin to make bumpy rides smoother.
  • 1949: Car keys are introduced as a way to turn on the electric starter and the ignition at the same time.
  • 1951: Chrysler first offers power steering in passenger cars, making it easier to turn.
  • 1953: Air conditioning starts cooling sweating drivers everywhere.
  • 1958: Cruise control is introduced to make long trips more convenient.
  • 1959: Seatbelts begin saving lives.
  • 1960: Electric windows begin to replace manual cranks.
  • 1964: Robert Kearns invents the intermittent windshield wipers.
  • 1970s: Cassette tape stereos become common in cars.
  • 1971: Anti-lock braking systems begin to help cars keep from skidding.
  • 1973: Catalytic converters are added to reduce toxic emissions and pollutants.
  • 1974: Digital dashboard displays begin to replace analog.
  • 1984: In-dash CD players make their debut.
  • 1988: Airbags become standard.
  • 1992: Electromagnetic parking sensors begin to help drivers detect objects in their path.
  • 1994: On-board diagnostics begin to streamline repairs.
  • 1996: Connected cars allow drivers to call 911 after an accident.
  • 2000: GPS navigation becomes more common.
  • 2000: Hybrid technology introduces an eco-friendly alternative way to fuel cars.
  • 2001: Chrysler introduces the first Bluetooth-compatible system.
  • 2002: Infiniti comes out with the first backup camera.
  • 2003: The intelligent parking assistant debuts to help with parallel parking.
  • 2010s: Cars get driver assist features such as lane departure and blind spot warnings, high beam control, GPS, and smartphone integration.
  • 2014: 4G Wi-Fi hotspots and Tesla autopilot, which amounts to auto-steering, both debut.
  • 2020: Self-driving cars become a reality.

Automobile technology has come a long way in the last 130+ years, and decades from now, the cars we drive today will probably look quaint compared to the advances people come up with. It’s hard to believe that the conveniences we enjoy today were once merely an idea in someone’s head, but the magic of technology is that with a little imagination and hard work, anyone can change the world.

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