Can you imagine a world where you had to walk, run, or ride a horse everywhere? That was the relatively non-automotive reality of the world before the turn of the 20th century.
Of course, you already know that having a car do the heavy labor in getting you from one place to another is awesome. We’re assuming that no one reading this was born in the 1800s, right?
Automobiles are a relatively new innovation when it comes to world history as a whole. In this article, you’ll discover just how far automotive technology has come in recent years, especially from the 1990s until the early 2000s.
Milestones In the History Of Automobiles
For the sake of structure, we’re going to go through these automotive technological milestones in chronological order. We don’t really have the authority to rank these in terms of importance, but they’re all quite significant.
1992 - High-Tech Headlamps
Up until the last decade of the 20th century, headlamps were so universal and so cheaply produced that you could easily find replacement parts for any type of vehicle at your local auto parts store. That all changed in 1992, when High Intensity Discharge headlamps were installed in several European-produced sedans.
These babies were far brighter than their halogen-based counterparts, and as a result, they were far more exclusive. Of course, it wasn’t long until LED headlamps were introduced only a decade later, and they have since become a staple of car manufacturing.
LEDs are just as bright, twice as small, and very energy-efficient. They’re also quite malleable in terms of shape, enabling car designers and engineers (car-tographers?) to express creativity in a way like never before.
It was the High-Intensity Discharge headlamps that paved the way for such innovation, though. For that, they’ve earned a spot on this list.
1998 - Airbags
Don’t let the subheading fool you. airbags have been around since the 50s, but back then, they simply weren’t practical enough to be included in every car on the road.
They also weren’t the most reliable, and they were all but relegated to the most luxurious of luxury cars. However, Mercedes-Benz began to use modern airbags in some of their vehicles a few decades later in the 1980s.
By 1990, Ford had made airbags standard in all its vehicles. This move could not have come at a better time, because the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991 demanded that all cars have on-board safety tech by the year 1998.
So it was that airbags became the universally common lifesaver they are today. The new laws also forced car manufacturers to use lower-powered airbags, which led to a significant decrease in airbag-related injuries overall.
2000 - GPS Navigation
Remember that awful pun we made a few paragraphs back? Car-tography? Well, it seems to apply a lot better to this subsection, because up until the year 2000, people were still using fold-up maps for cross-country navigation.
Automakers began to offer navigational systems in the 90s. These systems only partially relied on GPS technology, and they were shaky at best.
That’s because the US government deliberately degraded the signals given to Guidestar, the first company in the country to offer GPS technology to car manufacturers. Of course, that didn’t last long, and by the year 2000, the glory of GPS became available to the general citizenry.
Ever since, the market has blown wide open, beginning with dash-top variants and evolving from there. GPS is so convenient and reliable now that those old fold-up maps might as well cease to exist.
Of course, there’s a lot more to automotive technology history, far more than we can cover in a few brief paragraphs. But these are some of the biggest strides the automotive industry took over the last 3 or so decades. While these improvements may not have made cars faster, they have made cars safer, and that should always be the main priority.
We hope that this article has provided some interesting insight into things that we so often take for granted. Drive safely!