How Have Cars Changed in the Last 50 Years?

With 2020 looming over us and 1970 nearly half a century ago, it seems fitting to look back at the last five decades to see just how much the automotive industry has changed. From life-saving braking systems to a partially automated driving experience, it’s safe to say that new technology has changed the way we drive immeasurably over the last 50 years.

In this article, we’ll take a look at some of these key changes in greater detail, highlighting just how important they have been to the development of everyday vehicles.

Anti-Lock Braking Systems (ABS)

Developed for aircraft back in 1929, anti-lock braking systems (ABS) work by helping to stop your wheels from locking, which ultimately leads to uncontrolled skidding.

In normal driving conditions, ABS reduces braking distances considerably by ensuring your tyres maintain traction throughout the process. However, the problem was that, in snowy conditions, locking is, in fact optimal, given that this would allow the wheels to dig into the snow. In light of this, further advancements have calibrated ABS in such a way that the cycles are slowed down, allowing wheels to briefly lock.

Power Steering

By 1970, power steering was available for many vehicles as standard. The introduction of power steering simply meant that little to no effort was needed when turning the wheel, allowing drivers to turn with just one hand. This might not seem like a huge development, but before power steering, drivers had to exert a fair degree of energy to ensure the car changed course, making collisions much more likely.

Engine Computers (ECU)

In modern vehicles, all of the functions of a car’s engine are controlled by a computer known as the ECU. Using sensors to control air intake, the speed of the valves, gear control and numerous other functions, the introduction of the ECU has made transitioning between different styles of driving and overall engine function a great deal smoother.

Before ECUs, ensuring these transitions happened meant that these various ‘settings’ had to be introduced manually, making it incredibly difficult.

Hybrid Engines

Given what we know about the way that petrol and diesel engines are harming the environment, hybrid engines are a huge step forward for the automotive industry. Part electric and part petrol/diesel, hybrid engines conserve fuel while the car is idling by switching to electric.

Automated Driving

Don’t like parking your car? No problem – there’s an app that can do that for you. Tired of motorway driving? Easy – just let your car do it for you. With fully automated driving nearly upon us, we are already reaping the benefits of technology which could ultimately see us not touching the wheel at all. This is certainly the most exciting and divisive advancement that we have seen, and it’s all yet to come!
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