Automotive engineering, also known as automobile engineering, has a century-long history. Karl Benz developed the first practical automobile, powered by an internal combustion engine, in 1885. Engineers concentrated on enhancing performance and safety in the early twentieth century, producing innovations such as hydraulic brakes, independent suspension systems, and electric starters. The mid-twentieth century witnessed the integration of safety elements as well as technology breakthroughs such as fuel injection and electronic systems.
Automotive engineering has responded to environmental concerns in recent decades by creating alternative powertrain technologies such as hybrid and electric vehicles. In addition, the industry has seen the integration of modern driver-assist systems and autonomous driving technologies. Today, automotive engineers are focused on developing longer-range electric vehicles, increasing battery technology, and providing a sustainable charging infrastructure. They also experiment with novel materials and manufacturing processes in order to make vehicles lighter, more energy-efficient, and ecologically friendly.
Investigate the history of car technology and how it has changed the way we drive. We’ve created a timeline that shows the progression of car technology, from the first car ever invented through a slew of post-war technology like safety features and electric systems.
We’ve charted important advances all the way up to the digital revolution, which is currently altering the way we drive. In addition, we sum up some of the most interesting impending breakthroughs in-car technology.
- 1886 – The first car is invented
In the nineteenth century, Austrian Karl Benz invented the first genuine vehicle. It had three wheels and was powered by an internal combustion engine. Previous attempts to invent cars employed steam power – and failed miserably.
- Model T was introduced in 1908
Ford’s Model T was the world’s first assembly-line car. This significant advancement in technology reduced the cost of the car, making it more widely available. Its 20 horsepower petrol engine could achieve speeds of 45 miles per hour, which was still slower than the galloping horses of the day.
- Electric ignition starters were introduced in 1911
Electric ignition starters were invented to replace manual hand cranks and allow the engine to be started by pressing a button instead. Hand cranks were deemed risky since the engine could jump when the car started, hurting the driver on occasion. In 1912, the first electric starter was installed on a Cadillac, and they were quickly accepted.
- 1921 – Cigarette lighter
Electricity warmed a detachable component in wireless cigarette lighters. They were commonplace in most American cars by 1925. Despite the fact that cigarette lighters are no longer popular, we still have the plugs to plug in electric devices such as GPS navigation systems.
- 1930 – Car radio
In 1930, the first monophonic AM frequency car stereo was developed. Driving could be set to music for the first time, albeit it would be another 22 years until the first radio capable of receiving FM frequency was connected to a car, in 1952.
- 1934 – Coil spring suspension
Many car manufacturers began exploring ways to make driving more comfortable and eventually settled on coil spring suspension. Each wheel (at first only the front two) has its own metal coil spring, which compresses to absorb the shock of driving over bumps in the road. This resulted in a much smoother, more comfortable ride.
- 1949 – Car keys
Chrysler invented a technology to start both the electric starter and the ignition in search of a better approach to start the car. It encased this power in a key, and soon everyone had one.
- Power steering was introduced in 1951
Power steering technology employs hydraulic power to increase the pressure on the wheels as you spin the steering wheel, saving you a lot of time and effort. Power steering debuted on a Chrysler Imperial, followed by a Cadillac a year later.
- Air conditioning is introduced in 1953
The Chrysler Imperial was the first mass-produced car to offer air conditioning as an option. It has three different settings: low, medium, and high. The following year, the Nash “Integrated” system added front-end heating, ventilation, and air conditioning, making summer driving considerably more enjoyable.
- Cruise control was introduced in 1958
The purpose of cruise control is to enable the driver to maintain a consistent speed without applying the accelerator. On motorways, in particular, the technique made steady driving simpler. It was first utilized in a Chrysler Imperial, and by 1960, it was standard on all Cadillacs.
- 1959 – Seatbelts
Nils Bohlin, Volvo’s first safety engineer, invented the contemporary three-pin seatbelt. Volvo opted to give the patent out for free to other carmakers, knowing that it would save lives. In the United Kingdom, seatbelt use was compulsory for car manufacturers beginning in 1965, but only in the front seats beginning in 1983. Seatbelt use became compulsory for all children in 1989 and for backseat passengers in 1991.
- Electric windows were introduced in the 1960s
Until recently, the smooth buzz of rolling down an electric window was only available on luxury models, and it was usually an optional feature on most cars. However, winding down your car windows soon become obsolete.
- Intermittent windshield wipers were introduced in 1969
Until now, windscreen wipers had only one speed, regardless of the weather. Ford altered this to change the speed.
- Cassette tape stereos were popular in the 1970s
The latest cassette tape technology was being added to car stereos in the 1970s. Drivers could now play their favorite Led Zeppelin albums in their cars!
- ABS technology is introduced in 1971
ABS, or Anti-Lock Braking System, is a sophisticated technology that prevents the wheels from locking up during hard braking, thereby preventing skidding. It was first used on trains and Concorde planes before being converted to a Chrysler Imperial.
- The catalytic converter, 1973
This technology was meant to clean up harmful exhaust fumes by lowering poisonous emissions produced by the engine. From 1993, catalytic converters on petrol cars became compulsory.
- In 1974, digital dashboard displays were introduced
Say goodbye to analog dials! Aston Martin Lagonda has the first digital dashboard display. Trip computers, speed and temperature measurements, and fuel economy measures were all incorporated. However, digital dashboards were not popular among drivers at the time, and most cars today still have an analog speedometer in addition to digital displays.
- In 1984, CD player was introduced
The CDX-1 technology became the first car CD player, eventually supplanting cassette tapes, which had become obsolete.
- 1988 – The invention of airbags
Airbags were first fitted in US government cars in the 1970s, but Chrysler delivered the first production airbag in 1988. Originally only for drivers, airbag technology may now be installed all around the car to protect all passengers.
- Electromagnetic parking sensors were invented in 1992
You are warned of potential hazards when parking via Electromagnetic Parking Sensors. They were “re-invented” from previous technology that had failed to catch on in the 1970s.
- 1994 – On-board diagnostics
In the 1980s, Ford developed computer diagnostics for their assembly line. However, the built-in 16-pin connector became crucial for all carmakers over time because it also provided garage mechanics with access to critical information about the vehicle for repairs. In the United States in 1996, and in Europe in 2001, on-board diagnostics links became compulsory.
- 1996 – Connected cars
General Motors introduced connected cars with its OnStar system, which used your phone to call 911 in the event of an accident. Today’s technology connects with the phone’s GPS location to direct emergency personnel directly to the car.
- 2000 – GPS sat nav
GPS sat nav systems have been built in since the early 1990s, however, the US military interfered with the signals since they jealously guarded the technology. In 2000, US President Bill Clinton directed the military to stop scrambling GPS signals and to make the technology available to the public. Sat navs were swiftly produced, but it took several years for them to become more accurate.
- Hybrid cars were introduced in 2000
Adding a hybrid motor to a petrol engine was first proposed in the nineteenth century, but it was thought impracticable.Toyota picked it up again at the turn of the century and invented the Prius, which swept the world. Hybrid cars are currently being developed by every car manufacturer.
- 2001 – Bluetooth
In 2001, the first hands-free Bluetooth kit was released. Later that year, an even better Bluetooth technology with speech recognition was released. Bluetooth is now integrated into cars’ infotainment systems.
- Reversing camera, 2002
Many reversing mishaps have been avoided because to this technology. As you reverse, small cameras feed live footage of the area behind the car. Outside of America, the technology was initially employed in a Nissan Primera.
- Automatic parking was introduced in 2003.
Toyota was the first to introduce this technology, with its Intelligent Parking Assist, which assisted drivers in parallel parking. Lexus added a self-parking feature to the LS model in 2006. On many new cars, automatic parking is now an option.
- Driver assistance features in the 2010s
To aid the driver, dozens of automatic technology features have been designed. Lane departure warnings, blind spot warnings, cross-traffic alerts, and headlamp high beam control are common examples.
Carmakers have also begun to integrate smartphone integration, with several developing apps that allow you to find your car via GPS, remotely lock it, and check its fuel levels.
- Tesla Autopilot was introduced in 2014
Elon Musk pioneered the use of autopilot technology in the Model S. It is the first commercially accessible driver-aid system that can steer the car and even switch lanes on the motorway.
- 4G Wi-Fi Hotspots in 2014
This innovative technology can transform your car into a mobile 4G router, allowing passengers to connect smart devices to the Internet.
- Self-driving cars by 2020
Google’s self-driving car, Waymo, is expected to be released in 2020. It completed its first driverless trip on public roads in 2015, with a blind man at the wheel, in Austin, Texas.
- Advanced Heads-up Display by 2021
Heads-up display was originally considered a premium feature, but by 2021, it has become more widely available. All that’s needed now is a smartphone and a compatible vehicle.
The history of automobiles and Automobile engineering illustrates a never-ending quest for innovation. From the early pioneers to today’s engineers, technological advances have revolutionized the car industry and shaped the way we travel. Automotive engineering is evolving with an emphasis on sustainability and safety, pointing us toward a future of greener and smarter transportation.