Cars can mean a lot of different things to different people. Over time, they’ve been thought of as everything from horseless carriages to hot rods, and now we’re starting to think of them as smart, connected, and even someday, autonomous ways to get around.
Yet another way to consider the automobile is to think of it as a platform for technology. Each step of the car’s evolution has represented the potential for remarkable moments among engineers and innovators.
Taking a step back, it’s easy appreciate just how many times and ways this has happened within the auto industry. The following milestones in the timeline help tell this story – these are automotive inventions that truly moved the world forward.
An invention on the drawing boards of carmakers for decades, power steering finally became a common feature in the post-War autos of the ’50s. By the decade’s end, one in four drivers are making turns with the help of hydraulics.
We’ve been listening to music in our cars for over 80 years; from the early days of simple AM radio to today’s high-end digital audio setups. And, our sources have gotten pretty sophisticated as well. We used to get our radio signals from giant antennae on the ground. Now we have satellites beaming radio signals to us from space, and streaming radio in the form of WiFi. Cars have been around since the late 1800s, even earlier if you count steam-powered automobiles. And radios have been broadcasting since before the beginning of the 20thcentury.
As Car & Driver points out, the dashboard decks that start to appear at early 1970s open the door to a two-word phenomenon that’s fuels many a late-night drive: mix tapes.
In-Dash Disc Players
CDs did eventually replaced cassettes. Luxury-car makers figured this out early on. The first CD players in cars began popping up in 1985.
The Global Positioning System constellation of satellites has been helping lost travelers find their way for a while now, but they only really started showing up in cars in the mid- to late- 1990s, and in big numbers even later than that.
In 1910, an engineer from Stockholm Sweden named Lars Magnus Ericsson installed a telephone in his car. As he drove around the country, Ericsson would connect his phone with a pair of long electrical wires into the telephone poles installed along the road. While this was the first car phone, the concept did not take off in popularity.
Advancements in Technology in the 1940s and 1950s led the development of cell towers that could receive signals in three hexagonal directions. This led to the first car phones being installed in Limousines and other commercial vehicles. This new technology stunned the American public when it appeared in the 1954 Humphrey Bogart movie Sabrina.
Car air conditioning
For many motorists, air conditioning is a necessity, something they simply must have in their car.
But many of us have vivid memories of cars with no such thing. We can vividly remember summers (1976, for example) when vinyl seats felt so hot on our bare legs that we thought they would stick to our skin permanently.
A car with a lavatory. Rolls-Royce Silver Wraith Special Saloon
Beneath the rear seat of this Rolls-Royce Silver Wraith, ordered in 1954 by an eccentric American businessman, Joseph Maschuch, there is a real WC with a gold-painted seat. The car is also equipped with air-conditioning, a bar, a telephone and a television set – one of the first mobile sets in the world. The engine, dynamo, starter motor and carburettor have all been painted green, at the owner’s request. The whitewall tyres are typically American. The radiator mascot is a kneeling version of the ‘Spirit of Ecstasy’, intended to give the driver a better view of the road than the upright model.
The futuristic coachwork is by the Italian designer Alfredo Vignale, known for his extravagant style. This is his only design on a Rolls-Royce chassis. It has four headlamps; the centre ones being oversized. The rear window slants backwards, a design feature also seen on the 1959 Lincoln Continental.
Apparently the toilet was never used as such, but rather as a champagne cooler.