A Brief History of Advances in Driving Technology

Can you imagine a car without seatbelts? How about a car without a radio — or an ignition? It seems absurd, right?

Well, you may be surprised to learn that there was a time when cars actually didn’t have any of these features — as well as many others that are considered standard today. Let’s take a look back at exactly when some of the most common driving technology features were first introduced.

Introduction of the Electric Ignition (1911)

Believe it or not, when cars were first invented, even starting them up could be dangerous! Prior to the invention of the electric ignition in 1911, there were several ways to “fire up” your car’s engine. This ranged from turning a crank handle to using gunpowder cylinders.

The First In-Car Radio (1930)

It's hard to imagine driving today without listening to your favorite tunes, but radios weren’t standard in early vehicles. That changed when the Galvin brothers introduced the first in-car radio in 1930, but it wasn’t cheap. At $130, it was roughly a quarter of the price of some new cars!

Power Steering and Backup Cameras (1950s)

While car safety has developed through the years, the 1950s saw some major breakthroughs. Two of the most important were the introduction of power steering and the very first backup cameras. Today, it’s rare to find a passenger vehicle without power steering. Backup cameras became a required safety feature in all American-made cars as of May 1, 2018. Today, they are far more advanced, providing features like audible warnings and automatic braking when vehicles or objects cross your path.  

Airbags (1984)

While it’s no substitute for consciously avoiding the dangers of distracted driving, having airbags in your car can help protect you in the event of an accident. Although manufacturers experimented with them well before this time, Ford first introduced airbags as an option in 1984, and Chrysler made them standard by 1988. Front airbags have been required in all new passenger vehicles since the 1999 model year.

GPS Navigation (2000)

Today, paper maps are pretty much a thing of the past, thanks to the invention of GPS navigation systems. They were around before the 2000s. However, they only became useful in vehicles after President Clinton signed a bill in 2000 ordering the military to stop scrambling satellite signals.

Blind Spot Monitoring (2005)

Failure to see another vehicle in your blind spot is a common cause of accidents. Volvo was the first manufacturer to introduce blind-spot monitoring in 2005. Today, it’s a common feature in many modern vehicles. Modern systems use sonar or cameras to detect objects or vehicles in your blind spot and provide a visual and/or auditory warning. 

Self-Driving Cars (2009)

The idea of self-driving cars has been around for much longer than you might think. In fact, radio-operated versions of self-driving cars were invented almost 100 years ago. Vehicle technology has come a long way since then, with Google being credited for leading the development of self-driving vehicles in 2009.

Sharpen Your Driving Skills

With so many advanced driving technology features available today, it’s not surprising that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says that “newer cars are safer cars.” While this can certainly give you some extra peace of mind, it’s important to remember that the driver is truly responsible for vehicle safety.

Whether you’re just learning how to drive or you want to brush up on your skills, a driver’s education course can help you become a better driver, so you can stay safe with or without the help of advanced technology. At Driver's Ed, we provide fun and convenient online courses for drivers of all ages. Check it out today!

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Updated 4/5/22