10 Automotive Inventions That Changed The World

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Automotive Innovation

We’re used to all the creature comforts in our cars. They help us have a more pleasant experience on the road.

Automotive technology has come on leaps and bounds over the past few decades. Today, we no longer have to worry about cars with a lumpy idle. Nor do we have to wait for our vehicles to thaw out in cold weather before we can use them!

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There’s no denying that plenty of automotive inventions have changed the world. They’ve improved our driving experiences and pave the way for future improvements. Here is a list of ten automotive inventions that you could not live without today:

Air Conditioning

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You might not think it, but vehicle air conditioning is not a recent invention! The first car to offer such a feature was the Packard One-Eighty back in 1939. Today, almost all cars on the road come with air conditioning as standard.

Many of today’s premium models come with climate control. In a nutshell, those systems allow users to select the desired temperature. Some cars even feature dual or quad zone climate control systems. Those systems allow passengers to set desired temperatures independent of the driver.

Radial Tires

We don’t think much about those black bands of rubber that fit around our wheels. But, they are crucial safety elements that all vehicles have as standard today. According to Event Tyres, the first radial tires got patented by Michelin in 1946. Ever since those days, all cars, trucks and other vehicles got fitted with them as standard.

Before radial tires, car makers fitted cross-ply tyres. They are seldom installed on any cars today as they don’t offer enough traction at high speed. You would only find such tires mounted on antique cars from the early 20th century.

Seat Belts

Whenever we get into a car, the first thing we do is buckle up. Seat belts are a simple to use safety feature of any car. Plus, they are a legal requirement in almost all countries around the world. Safety belts became commonplace in vehicles since 1958 when the Saab GT 750 got launched.

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The history of seat belt technology dates back to the mid-1800s, believe it or not. Today’s modern three-point seat belts first got designed by a Volvo engineer in 1959. Since then, the Swedish firm allowed other car makers to use its design for free.

Disc Brakes

The trouble with old-school drum brakes is they weren’t effective at slowing you down. At least, not in a hurry! Once upon a time, it was common to see cars and other vehicles fitted with drum brakes all round.

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Disc brakes first made famous by Citroen in 1955, offered an efficient braking solution. The setup comprises a pair of metal discs, calipers and brake pads used on a pair of wheels. Although they first got used on sports cars, disc brakes soon became commonplace on all cars.

Vehicle Audio

Step inside any car today, and you’ll find an audio system of some description as standard. It might feature modern technology such as Bluetooth connectivity. Or it could have a cassette player (remember those?). Many of today’s audio systems even incorporate a touchscreen display.

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The history of vehicle audio can get traced back to 1930. Buyers of the Ford Model A vehicles of the time could buy a Motorola radio receiver as an optional extra.

Starter Motors

When the first cars got built over a century ago, you could only hand-crank an engine to start it. It was a process that involved using a removable crank handle at the front of the car. As you can imagine, it was both a cumbersome and time-consuming way of starting a car.

The world’s first electric starter motor got invented back in 1896 by a British engineer. Starter motors became a standard feature fitted to cars from 1911 onwards. In 1949, Chrysler developed the key-operated combination ignition starter switch.

Electric (Power) Windows

If you were born before the 1980s, the chances are high that you owned a car with “manual” winding windows. Today’s vehicles all come with electric or “power” windows. To operate them, all you do is operate a switch button on the door.

Some electric window buttons offer a one-touch operation. That way, you don’t need to press and hold the button for a fully open or close operation. A US car manufacturer Packard introduced the first mass-produced car with electric windows. In 1940, they were available in their Packard 180 series models.

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Cruise Control

One of the complaints many drivers of old motor vehicles had was when they had to go on long journeys. They had to keep their foot on the accelerator to maintain a steady speed on long stretches of open road.

To solve that problem, an American named Ralph Teetor invented cruise control in 1948. The first carmaker to feature the system was Imperial (Chrysler) ten years later. Cruise control became an attractive feature in the 1970s during the U.S. oil crisis of 1973. The system can get fitted to both manual and automatic cars.

Power Steering

All modern cars feature power steering. Some systems get driven by hydraulic means while others are electric. But, early cars didn’t have such a system. As a result, turning the steering wheel at low speeds needed a lot of effort by the driver.

Early power steering systems got developed by various people at the beginning of the 20th century. Francis W. Davis, a truck engineer, invented the first practical system in 1926. At the time, he approached General Motors with his idea, but they deemed it too expensive!

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Automatic Transmission

There was once a time where most cars on the road featured four, five or six-speed manual gearboxes. Today, motorists are opting for cars with automatic or dual-clutch transmissions.

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The first automatic gearbox got invented by a Canadian named Alfred Horner Munro in 1921. General Motors created an improved version that used hydraulic fluid in 1940. ZF, a German company, also developed an automatic transmission during WWI.