Automotive Innovations That Changed Cars as We Know Them

Photo: Ford.com

There have been many incredible innovations within the automotive industry over the past few years, many of which have changed cars as we know them. It wasn’t too long ago that electric cars were something you only found in science fiction movies, but now, almost every other vehicle on the road is electric or hybrid. Other technological advancements in the motor industry are also helping transform into something completely different.


Hybrid cars were first introduced into the market in 1997 with thanks to the Toyota Prius. Even further back in time, around 1913, you’ll see that Thomas Edison and Henry Ford developed an electric vehicle, but not much came of it them. It took nearly 100 years later, and the vision and persistence of Elon Musk, to make that dream a commercial reality. Another innovation of the automotive industry that sat stagnant for a while was the idea of the four-wheel drive system. It was first tried out on a Dutch sports car called the Spyker in 1903, but for many years was largely restricted to tractors and military vehicles.

However, in 1980 Audi decided to change that and launched the Quattro, which was the first car to be introduced to the average consumer with the luxury of having 4WD included. Quattro was also was the car to go on to dominate the world of rally driving. Another innovation that may not seem like such a big deal now, but was monumental then, is the automatic gearbox. For many, this is a feature that we simply could not live without. Having first been introduced back in the early 1900’s it was so unreliable that it never really took off until General Motors got its teeth into it 35 years later with the Hydra-Matic.



The original Mini was a bold innovation that took off like a rocket. People loved the small, cheap family run around the motor. Then there’s Volkswagen with the introduction of their efficient engines that have the ability to shut down cylinders as you’re cruising in order to save on fuel. While one of Land Rover’s new features is that you can link the car to a smartphone app and adjust individual seats before even getting in the car. How cool is that? In the name of safety innovation, we have Swedish firm Volvo to thank for the three-point seatbelt. Rather than patent the innovation to keep themselves, they decided to open up the patent for all to use. And it was Karl Benz’s wife that invented the use of brake lining when she had a shoemaker nail leather onto the brake blocks of the car en route.



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