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  • Writer's pictureNisha Sashidharan, Head of Marketing

The Evolution of Automotive Technology

The evolution of technology has played a vital role in the development of many sectors across the globe, and the automotive industry is no exception. With the invention of power trains and now self-propelled vehicles, the industry has witnessed a drastic shift due to technological advancements. At present, cars have become integral products highlighting a variety of components and multiple technologies linked to each other. The scope of advancement has moved from mechanics to telematics, electronics, and software systems.

The Evolution of Automotive Technology

However, this evolution in the automobile industry took decades. To understand the changing dynamics of an ever-progressing sector, let us first dive deep into the history of the automobile industry.

A Dive into the History

It is known that vehicles run with the support of an engine; albeit only a few are aware the first engine [also known as the internal combustion engine (ICE)] was developed more than a century ago, in the 1860s, which was soon followed by the first-ever engine powered vehicle. Gas-powered automobile invention marked the beginning of a new era, which irked the interests of many automakers and inspired them to produce their products. The vehicles produced then did not have doors, windshields, a round steering wheel, or indicators. In 1908, when Henry Ford produced the Model T, the assembly line's development took place and became an affordable mass product. 

During the early 20th century, new features were introduced in vehicles, which included seatbelts, windshields, speedometers, and rear-view mirrors. In 1939, the first turn signals were launched after coil springs, air conditioning, suspensions, and transmission systems. Shortly after, the industry took a fancy turn as power steering was brought out in 1951. It was during this time that most features, such as cruise control (1957), three-point seatbelts (1959), and heated seats (1966), were rolled out and are the ones that masses today are aware of.

With improvement in features came the security aimed at preventing people from mishaps. The first passenger airbag was installed by Oldsmobile in 1973, and it was not until 1998 that airbags were mandated for all passenger vehicles. Almost 40 years back, we were introduced to electric doors and windows, keyless entry systems, CD, and sunroof, which are now the standard features across all vehicles. 

Challenges and Opportunities

While technology has always been at the forefront of vehicle production and innovation, it sure has borne its challenges in the nascent stage of vehicle development. The technology was initially a luxury for consumers with high price and status model vehicles. From the late 1950s, a shift in consumer preference was seen with more people inclining toward feature-loaded vehicles. The industry witnessed increased competition with low-price models and rich features to tap into this opportunity.

Since then, demand for automobiles has remained cyclical, where manufacturers have adopted technological advancements (bringing in new features, smoother experience) to suppress consumer fatigue. The last decade has undoubtedly been quite interesting where several changes have entirely changed the face of the industry, further creating opportunities and risks for incumbents.

Technology Milestones within the Sector

The evolution of automotive technology has presented the most remarkable innovations and has revolutionized vehicles' performance, safety, and efficiency. In the last 25 years, the automotive landscape has changed, one milestone at a time.

One of the essential milestones the sector achieved was the electronically controlled torque vectoring differential manufactured in 1996 by Mitsubishi. This differential sent torque across axles for better performance of the car. Similarly, high-tech headlamps were brought in 1992, followed by the smart key in 1998—this enhanced the driving experience for consumers. The introduction of dual-clutch transmission (2003) allowed drivers to shift gears for quicker speeds seamlessly. Mainstreaming advanced turbocharging, monitoring tire pressure, and adding a rear-view backup camera, among others, became critical milestones of the early 2000s. While adding features and technological improvement has been plausible, one of the most ground-breaking milestones will be the mass production of electric vehicles, which gained traction in 1996. Nonetheless, hybrid drivetrains, Bluetooth integration, and stability control have also been monumental in the last couple of years.

Significant Breakthroughs

While each milestone achieved by the automotive sector is built on many breakthroughs, the significant changes, from a current perspective, can be narrowed down to developments of electric drivetrains and the amalgamation of computing power within the vehicle. Both the fields have presented an unprecedented challenge for carmakers to strive for better. The inclusion of computing powers impeded many firsts, including navigation systems, autonomous driving, and emergency braking systems. 

Today, cars have a cruise control system with the help of around 30 control sensors that provide information about the vehicle's surroundings. The advancement has reached a level where these systems can detect any vehicle ahead of you and automatically adjust the traveling speed. These systems also employ two radar sensors that ensure a control system to maneuver the cars. This will also allow drivers to amend the acceleration rates. 

The advancement in automotive technology has evolved rapidly from engines using fossil fuels to power transportation to the use of vehicles that can drive themselves. The transformation has been enormous enough to make modern cars unrecognizable from the products that only had wheels and steering. Indeed, the integration of technological advances has made vehicles more user-friendly, with features improving their value. The change now offers much more than driving; it is an experience. 

At Extentia, a Merkle Company, we strive to inculcate modern technologies and support major industries worldwide. After the evolution of automotive technology, we will dive into the details of major technological advancements, stay tuned!


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