Living up to its Name

By Vivek Dubey


From their advent over a century ago, cars have driven us. Once it was all about the gadgets they boasted and the status they bestowed; today it’s about a technology that will simplify the driving experience. The journey from 1908 to 2016 has been immensely fascinating with many notable milestones in the evolution of car technology.

The automobile is rapidly evolving to become an autonomous creature

If theT-Model Ford was the technological starting point for the evolution of cars, the story since has been one of continuous refinement of the idea of what cars could be. Chevrolet introduced the first car radio in 1922, understandably a big deal for generations of teenagers, but essentially the precursor of the infotainment system on wheels that cars have become today.


Starting in 1911, electric starters, four wheel brakes, power steering made driving car a lot easier and safer. In 1949, automotive optimism hit the stratosphere with the creation of the world's first flying car, the ‘Aerocar'. It never actually took off but appeared on the market with the price tag of $1 million.

It would be safe to say that cars are going to get smarter by the day and this evolution was something that was bound to happen sooner or later..


Automatic transmissions first appeared in 1950s after World War II. The demand for them rose because they were simpler and more convenient, but three-speed truly automatic transmission came in late 1969 and became a standard feature in many odels. It also helped save some endangered species, as manufacturers stopped using whale oil as transmission fluid.


By late 70s and early 80s, people began to understand the impact that cars had on the environment and that helped drive both fuel efficiency and better emission control. New regulations forced manufacturers to adopt the first catalytic converter, a tailpipe which reduced emissions, and electronic fuel injection technology, which by mixing fuel and air gets the most out of the engine.


Inventions sometimes do not take root in the right way, and this has happened in numerous places and ways. In late 80s, manufacturers began to take care of driver safety as they began to reach higher levels of speed. And after many attempts, by 1984 manufacturers figured out cost-effective and safe way to deploy airbags. They become standard feature for the first time. The rise of the computing capacity and ease of availability of microchips made cars even more sophisticated. It got its on-board computer assisted diagnostics in 1994, the 16-pin connector known so well started to appear more frequently under the hood.


In 2000, reliable GPS navigation for drivers became available, but the first system appeared a half-decade before. Later, the satellite information that sources electronic navigation systems was unveiled. By the mid-2000s, in-car equipment becomes more or less committed to their needs other than ‘sheer driving pleasure.’


Around the same decade, hybrid cars began changing the fuel system that cars use. This could be one of the most intense steps in automotive evolution. Hybrid electric vehicles were first massproduced at the end of the decade.


Now we have cars that pack the computing power of more than 20 PCs, and are ra-pidly evolving into even more powerful manifestations of the Internet. In the coming years, autos may well become just another component of fully connected consumer experience, an integral part of the Internet of Things. Optimising their performance and maintenance is one thing, but for cars to navigate, brake, avoid collisions and hazards on their own and become autonomous is a whole newballgame. This is no longer the subject of science fiction to say they’re now developing ‘minds’ of their own.


It would be safe to say that cars are going to get smarter by the day and this evolution was something that was bound to happen sooner or later. How soon cars, like the one Google is testing, will become truly self-driven and ‘connected’is a matter of conjecture but nobody any longer doubts they are the future.

Creative Commons © 2017 Indian Institute of Journalism and New Media