Vehicles Have Come a Long Ways and Really It’s Rather Surprising
I am suffocated and lost when I have not the bright feelings of progression. –Margaret Fuller
If there has been a noticeable progression in anything man made, it would be in the vehicles we use every day. Compared to their predecessors of yesteryear, the automobiles of today seem light years ahead. This is very fortunate for today’s drivers as safety, performance, and efficiency have all improved dramatically.
Remember, 1886 is regarded as the birth year of the automobile, and the Benz Patent-Motorwagen was the first child born. To highlight how far automobiles have come, consider that that Motorwagen was three wheeled, had a single-cylinder four-stroke engine which produced 2 HP, reached upwards of 10 MPH, was equipped with a single rear-wheel leather shoe brake, and sent fuel to the cylinder by means of gas evaporated from a basin of fuel soaked fibers.
When compared to vehicles of today, not only will there be a stark difference in stats, but every other gadget and factor will be drastically different as well. Progression is slow and over the years the automotive industry has had their fair share of growing pains in some areas with brilliant moments in others. But it has taken time. What follows here are 5 of the greatest improvements for vehicle parts, gadgets, and accessories. It hasn’t always been about what car can drive the fastest or the furthest. Sometimes it’s the novelty and comfort items that really portray how far automobiles have truly come.
Around the mid 90’s, few people would know what a Global Positioning System (GPS) was. If they needed to navigate somewhere while driving they had to find directions and follow them intently or use one of man’s oldest and most trusted inventions, a map. Compare that to vehicles of today, not only are there external GPS units for sale but vehicles themselves can come with a GPS fully equipped in the center dash. So when we break it down, we’re comparing ink and paper to satellites and computers.
The introduction of GPS navigation to the public, its widespread acceptance and eventual use has all occurred in less than 20 years. Quite literally, people become lost when their GPS fails and fewer people are even able to read a physical map nowadays. So not only has this handy gadget made our lives tremendously easier, it’s also made it tremendously more difficult when the GPS fails as we can no longer find our own way.
Before cell phones, if you wanted to talk to someone while driving you had to use a CV radio, which are also still in use today by many big-rig truckers. CV radios are often used to warn other drivers of upcoming traffic, road hazards. and other dangers drivers need to be aware of. Though, CV radios may soon be a relic of the past. The federal government is trying to push through a bill requiring all new vehicles to have car-to-car communication devices installed.
Car-to-car communication is a system that uses radio signals to transmit information about vehicle to every other vehicle on the road within a certain range. The transmission is continual and functions with every other vehicle with this system installed. The information is transmitted 10 times per second, and informs other vehicles of your vehicles exact GPS position, the direction it is heading, the speed it is traveling, and numerous other important pieces of information. This allows onboard computers to warn the driver of an impending collision, upcoming weather/road conditions, assist in braking, and may help to deploy safety precautions sooner, such as airbags.
Car-to-car communication literally helps to prevent car crashes from occurring; this is in contrast to engineers making vehicles safer after a collision occurs. The system attempts to stop a problem before it starts, which before a decade or so ago, wasn’t even fathomable.
Most of us know, if you want to go somewhere you have to take yourself. If you have the extra money, you can hire chauffeurs to complete the unbecoming task of driving, but for most of us, we don’t have the expendable income to be so lazy. Though, in the not-so-distant future that may no longer be the case. Autonomous vehicles (self-driving and driverless computer systems) have been in the pipeline for years. Google initially was leading the way and have a few prototypes with hundreds of thousands of miles logged without incident. But automotive competitors are in close pursuit and currently numerous systems are being tested and produced.
It is expected that in less than 15 years, autonomous vehicle systems will be affordable enough that the average consumer would be able to purchase it. It won’t be long before the general public has access to this technology. Finally, you’ll be able to eat breakfast and read the newspaper on your commute to work, take a nap on your way home, or watch a movie on a long road trip. No longer will the rich be the only ones privileged to being chauffeured around. We’ll no longer complain of having to drive Miss Daisy because we’ll all be Miss Daisy in our own way.
Would you be shocked to know automobiles didn’t always have seat belts installed? Airbags weren’t made mandatory until 1998, anti-lock braking systems weren’t introduced until the 70’s, and manufactures didn’t even start testing safety cells and crumple zones until the 1950’s. In fact, earlier forms safety was fully making passenger cabins padded, having detachable sections to a car (like a train) in case of an accident, and even tires that had suction cups to increase traction.
Nowadays, we not only have airbags installed in the dashboard, steering wheel, and side curtains, but also ones that are being installed underneath the car as well. These airbags will deploy when an accident is inevitable and the bags have a friction coating which will help the car to slow down at nearly twice the expected rate. The bags also lift the vehicle off the ground 8 centimeters which counters the cars dipping motion during hard braking, improves bumper-to-bumper contact, and helps prevent passengers from sliding under seatbelts when an accident occurs. It doesn’t take much imagination to realize that the safety of our vehicles today are nothing like that of their predecessors.
Night driving has always been a hassle for many people, especially for drivers with bad vision. Prior to the headlights we are accustomed to today, drivers of the past actually used lanterns with mirrors behind them to reflect the light. Eventually when batteries were added to vehicles you had electric headlights, but this is really no different than having a big flashlight attached to the front of your car. Nowadays, we have headlights that will actually look in the direction you are heading. If you’re taking a turn, the headlights will shift toward that direction to give greater visibility. This isn’t available in all vehicles, but is a nice option to consider.
But what if we didn’t need lights to illuminate our way? What if we could simply see in the dark? That idea has actually already been worked on. Night Vision can be displayed on an Augmented Reality Dashboard, which means that you can drive with all of your lights off and see your way just fine. In fact, night vision itself has become so advanced that you can see more clearly than you can with the best set of headlights and fog lights combined. These Augmented Reality Dashboards will also display numerous other bits of information that your own vision and sight might have missed. It could alert of people or animals on the side of the road, upcoming hazards such as construction, steep road grades, road conditions, and accidents. In essence, an Augmented Reality Dashboard will visually display many of the things your vision simply couldn’t pick up.
In the end, it should be more than apparent that vehicles have come a long ways since their inception in safety, performance, and efficiency. But when we look at it, improvements to our vehicles are only becoming better and are occurring more rapidly as time goes by. In 15 years we’ll have self-driving cars? What in the world comes after that? Henry Ford himself couldn’t have predicted where we would be at today, and today’s engineers can barely keep up with where we’ll be at the end of the year.
Technology advances faster as technology improves and speculation over future tech really isn’t even speculation any more. We are currently able to imagine nearly anything we want, and have the capabilities, resources, and know how to make it happen. We may not be in the age of the Jetsons and flying cars just yet, but really how much further off could it be?
At AAMCO Colorado, we want you to enjoy driving as much as possible. More importantly though we want you to be safe on the road. If you live in Colorado and need a Transmission Service, Radiator Repair, Brake Repair, or any other Auto Repair, please contact your local AAMCO Colorado Location to schedule an appointment. Also be sure to see how we can help winterize your vehicle!