There is an argument sometimes made that the new generation of cars are too focused on technology, which ultimately distracts from the driving experience. It is also said that nowadays if your car develops a fault, it can no longer be fixed in the driveway with a bit of elbow grease, but needs to be resolved by a specialist in the manufacturers own garage using a series of computers.
This is not to miss the point of technology – it’s not there to annoy us or ramp up the cost of motoring. Manufacturers add it to keep us safer on the roads; reduce our impact on the environment, and make the drive smoother and more comfortable. Many people fall back on the hoary old argument that “they don’t make them like they used to”, but as these examples demonstrate, nostalgia can become a big blind spot on cars of the past.
Back in the 60s, features like wind-up windows, heaters, even sun visors, were for many drivers seen as optional extras. Now it’s possible to enjoy individually heated seats, tinted windows for extra privacy, and expanded legroom, making driving a much more pleasurable and certainly comfortable experience.
Look inside a car built fifty or so years ago and what do you see? Probably quite a lot of sharp edges, hard surfaces (including the steering wheel), a distinct lack of seatbelts in the rear seats, and any fabric is likely to be flammable. Fantastic leaps in technology have seen intelligent air-bag deployment, cameras for obstacle detection when reversing, ABS, and lots of focus on reducing the impact from crashes. Driverless cars are even being developed at the moment – if that ever comes to anything the margin for error will be reduced even further.
Remember years ago when you got lost you’d have to spend ages looking at maps to see where you went wrong, or worse stop every few miles to ask for directions? Since the early 21st century when sat-nav systems first started being regularly installed in new cars, they have revolutionised motoring. You do occasionally hear silly stories where people naively put far too much faith in them, but overall it’s a fantastic piece of kit.
The first car-stereo capable of playing tapes was installed in the early 60s. Before then, it was strictly listening to poor quality transmissions of the few available radio stations, or playing I-Spy out the window. Today, we have multi-track cd players as standard, iPod docks, hands-free mobile kit. I’m far from sold on the idea of DVD players in the car but you can’t halt progress I guess!
With over 30 million cars on the road in the UK alone, drastic changes to reduce emissions have become an absolute necessity, unless we want to be driving through smog forever. So catalytic converters, hybrid cars, the auto start-stop function that many manufacturers such as BMW have pioneered, are all examples of vital technological advancements in this regard.