RAC Cars News


The Car Gadgets That Changed The Way We Drive

By raccars Published

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At one time the car was, literally, a vehicle to take us from A to B. It was seating upon wheels for the specific purpose of transport. Since then, in a little more than just over a hundred years, concerns of performance and luxury have come to the forefront and cars are now absolutely rammed with gadgets. Which of those have actually changed the way we drive?

The seatbelt

An obvious choice but no less important for it. Invented by Volvo in its current three point form, which fitted them as standard from 1959.

Sat Nav

Does anyone know how to read a map anymore? We've used GPS in cars to find our way around since the late Nineties, but more basic forms of satellite navigation were attempted, less successfully, in 1981 by Honda with Alpine and in 1995, by Oldsmobile.

12v socket

Your children may laugh at you if you explain that these sockets originally housed a cigarette lighter, as today they are used as a charging point for sat nav devices, mobile phones, cool boxes or even the pumps used to blow up airbeds.

Remote control central locking

First installed on the Renault Fuego in 1983 - not at first glance a particularly eye catching car, but one way ahead of its time in terms of technological advances. The remote control keyfob was apparently brainchild of an engineer named Paul Lipschultz.

Stereo system

Cars have been fitted with audio systems by the Galvin Manufacturing Corporation since 1930, whence we have the name Motorola. FM receivers were added to the devices from 1952 and at times vehicles have been fitted with variations upon the theme, including 8-track, cassettes and even record players. The first in-car CD player was installed in a Lincoln Town Car in 1987, which is still a popular form of listening to music in the car. Since then, however, we now have MP3 connectivity and even in-car streaming.


Almost as effective a safety device as the seatbelt, airbags have been saving lives in cars since the 1940s but only found their current form in the Seventies.

Rear view mirrors

Surprisingly an afterthought in auto evolution, mirrors were only fitted to production cars after a debut in the first ever Indy 500 in 1911, used by winning driver, Ray Harroun. Prior to this, apparently, there wasn't enough traffic on roads for drivers to need a rear view.

Consider also how it felt to drive before the advent of cruise control, steering wheel mounted audio controls and electric windows!

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