Technology in Automobiles

Horse-driven carriages precede the automobile, yet automobiles today are still defined by the amount of “horsepower” found in their engines. Man first began toying with steam powered automobiles in the 1700s and by 1769 Nicolas-Joseph Cugnot built the first steam-powered tractor. But it was Karl Benz and his partner Gottlieb Daimler who were memorialized as developing the first gas-powered internal combustion engine. Daimler put this petrol engine into a horse carriage in 1886 and the automobile was born.

By the 1890s, commercial production of automobiles began in Europe, but it was Henry Ford who brought the automobile to the masses in America by using an automotive assembly line. Ford started his company in 1903, but it would take a few years for him to perfect the process to increase automobile production. He succeeded and by the 1920s, the love affair with the automobile had begun. In America new highways were being built to accommodate these new horseless carriages and the first freeway system opened in Germany in 1934. Some of the first technologies used in automobiles in the 1920s were four-wheel brakes, windshields or windscreens made of safety glass and air-filled tires.

R.E. Olds Transportation Museum
America On The Move

Antique Automobile Club of America Museum

Who Invented the Automobile

The Early Years of Automotive History

The History of the Automobile

The Henry Ford Museum

Automotive Timeline Chronology

Automobile Technology Development

Evolutionary Change in Automobile Technology

The History of Chevrolet

Radio, Tape Players, CD Players, and More

The first radios appeared in cars in the 1920s, but it wasn’t until the 1930s that most cars contained AM radios. One of the early manufacturers of radios was the Delco Radio Company. The first FM car radio appeared in vehicles in 1952, though FM wasn’t in wide use at the time. Blaupunkt introduced the first FM radio. By 1953, the first combination AM/FM radio appeared.

1965 saw the first eight-track tape players in cars. From 1970 through 1977 cassette tape players found their way into automobiles and by 1984 the first CD player was installed. The first commercially available GPS systems were available for cars in 1980s. By 2002, cars were being installed with DVD entertainment systems for passengers.

Today’s cars can come equipped with a host of technological options including Bluetooth wireless capabilities, integrated systems to accept MP3 device hookups, satellite radio systems and the ability to start a car from selected mobile devices.

Antique Car Radio Museum

How Cruise Control Came to Be

Ralph Teetor invented the first cruise control system for a car in the 1950s after spending a day in a car with his attorney who continually sped up and slowed down while driving and talking. Teetor, annoyed by the continued rocking motion caused by the lawyer’s speeding up and slowing down, decided to do something about it. What makes his invention more remarkable is that Ralph Teetor was blind from the age of five after a shop accident.

Ralph Teetor

Other Car Technologies

The first electric starter, designed by American engineer and inventor Charles F. Kettering, was installed on the Cadillac in 1912. Prior to that, the driver or passenger had to start the car by turning a hand-crank, which was a dangerous innovation. Kettering’s inventions resulted in 186 U.S. patents, which included developing an all-electric lighting, starting and ignition system for automobiles. His invention fueled the growth of the automobile industry by making cars easy to start for most anyone. He also developed a generator and became the founder of the Delco Company in later years.

Early cars used bicycle-type brakes for stopping, activated by steel wires or cables. The first drum brakes invented in 1902 by Louis Renault were outfitted with brake shoes controlled by a series of cables, rods and levers. By the mid-1930s the hydraulic system with a small wheel cylinder and pistons began to be used to control braking in automobiles, though several cars still employed the early mechanical system. Disc brakes were invented in the same year as Renault’s brake drum, though did not gain in popularity until much later.

By the late 1980s, most sedans came equipped with four-wheel discs and the antilock braking system. The ABS system used a wheel sensor to prevent the brakes from locking up when braking.

Charles F. Kettering University – The Man
The Kettering Foundation

Louis Renault Inventor Hall of Fame

The History of Automotive Technology

The Life Cycle of Automotive Technology

The Future of Automotive Technology

Oil-based fuel sources are in limited supply, so automakers are turning to other means to fuel their vehicles. Several schools and research development departments around the world are working to create the new technologies to power vehicles. The University of Michigan, for example has a solar car team and just finished third in the Veolia World Solar Challenge Race.

Computers delivered to two of the Department of Energy’s labs in 2012 will spend time calculating ways to make better and more efficient car batteries to power hybrid and electric vehicles. Other technological research areas include developing smart grids for cars, a fully connected transportation system and self-steering system for cars using GPS systems. By 2012, most car dealers have added Quick Response or QR codes to their vehicles detailing sales information. Automobile rental companies are using QR codes to help improve rentals and automotive manufacturers are discussing ways to use this feature available for reading by smartphones, other QR code readers, and more.

Evolutionary Change in Automobile Technology
How to Build a Solar Car

Automotive Technology Standards

The Technology of Hybrids

Automobile Innovations

Technology to Locate Your Car in a Parking Lot

Anti-Theft Technology

UC Davis Hybrid and Electric Car Research


Content Created and Provided By Charlotte Gray



supported by all major devices and carriers.

email us

Email *
Subject *
Anti-spam question: How Many Days in a week?