Automotive technology through time

Modern vehicles are now so technologically advanced that the average person has become used to a range of features which never used to come with the car as standard. Many years ago, car manufacturers simply focused on getting you from A to B, without any extra added frills. So, just when did things change and where did the ideas for all of our modern vehicle technology originate? We’ve teamed up with Grange, retailers of new Aston Martin models to find out…

1. Cruise Control

Did you know that cruise control was actually invented all the way back in the 1940’s– by someone who didn’t actually know how to drive? That’s right; inventor and automotive hall of famer Ralph Teetor was the brains behind a system where the speed of a vehicle is automatically controlled with a flick of a switch or press of a button. However, he had been blind since the age of five after a shop accident. A lack of sight didn’t stop Teetor from noticing that when his lawyer was behind the wheel of a vehicle, he had a tendency to slow down when he was talking and then speed up if he was listening.

This inconsistency frustrated Teetor so much that he began to explore whether he could invent a device to control the cars speed autonomously. While the first patent for this type of technology was filed in 1948, it would take a few additional patents for improving the original gadget and close to a decade after the initial patent before cruise control technology was fitted to the 1958 models of the Chrysler Imperial, New Yorker and Windsor. Of course, from that point on the devices began to be used by so many manufacturers on their vehicles.

2. Sat-nav

Most of us are used to the little voice on our sat nav systems speaking up to tell us where to drive. However, it was only a couple of decades ago that motorists had to memorize directions before they got behind the wheel, or at least had a collection of fold-out maps in their glovebox to analyse whenever they took a break from driving.

In order to understand where sat-nav originated from, we need to take a look at the US military. This was because it was the US Department of Defense which developed the first satellite-based global positioning technology on behalf of the country’s military forces. Deemed TRANSIT, it was up and running as we entered the 1960s and involved the system using the DopplerEffect to calculate the position of the receiver in relation to satellites. As satellites could follow fixed trajectories at calculable speeds, scientists were able to use this data to pinpoint positions based upon short-term variations in frequency.

This satellite technology was refined further in the 1980’s. While GPS devices were also publicly available around this time — systems which use between 24 and 32 medium Earth orbit satellites that follow six trajectories for incredibly accurate results — they weren’t of much use. This is because the military added interference to the signals so that only their own version could be used with any precision. As we ushered in a new millennium though, this would change as President Clinton ended four years of deliberations to sign a bill in 2000 which ordered that the military ceased scrambling satellite signals that were being used by members of the public. The era of consumer-based sat-nav systems had begun.

3. Bluetooth

Bluetooth is widely used by smartphone users to play music and make hands-free phone calls. However, the name Bluetooth was only officially adopted in 1998 and the first handset using the technology was only shipped in 2000 — it would be another year before Bluetooth hands-free car kits started to hit the market too.

The first idea for Bluetooth was back in 1993 that Jaap Haartsen was employed as a wireless communications engineer for the Swedish digital communications company Ericsson. While in this job, Haartsen received the task to create a short-range radio connection that could enable new functionalities for mobile phones. By 1995, fellow wireless communications engineer Sven Mattisson joined Haartsen and the duo were successful at creating multi-communicator links. Haartsen wasn’t finished yet though, with his work becoming more focused on piconet networks — a single piconet being the linking of two Bluetooth-enabled devices in order to establish an ad-hoc, short-range wireless network.

In 1998, Haartsen left Ericsson to help set up the Bluetooth Special Interest Group. Over the next two years, he was the chairman of the SIG’s air protocol certifications group and played a part in standardizing the Bluetooth radio communications protocol.

The origins of the Bluetooth name are just as interesting – MC Link just didn’t seem to have a ring to it. Therefore, Jim Kardach, the head of technological development at Intel, proposed the moniker that we all know the technology by today in reference to the Danish king, King Harald Blatand. Often referred to as Harald Bluetooth — possibly due to his penchant for snacking on blueberries — the monarch was responsible for uniting the warring factions in what is now known as Denmark, Norway and Sweden. The idea is that Bluetooth technology shares a similar trait in that it unites devices from competing manufacturers, such as a mouse made by Microsoft with a computer developed by Apple.

It’s interesting to think about what technological advancements will be developed in the automotive industry over the next few years and whether this technology is already being tested right now!

1 thought on “Automotive technology through time”

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