A Brief History
On December 14, 1909, the last paving brick was laid at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indiana, giving the venue its iconic nickname, The Brickyard. Previously, the racing surface was a miserable concoction of limestone, gravel, tar and oil, a surface that ate the tires of cars and motorcycles for lunch! Road surfaces and the motor vehicles that drive on them have improved immeasurably in the years since 1909, and today we take a look at some of the automotive gadgets and features we believe best illustrates those advances. As always, feel free to nominate those automotive inventions you think should be on such a list. (See our other automobile related articles.)
These have saved more marriages than counselors ever could! For those people who claim they “cannot read a map,” the GPS is salvation indeed. Wonderful features such as finding restaurants, or the nearest hospital are great bonuses.
- Cruise Control:
Saved more ticket fines than any other device. Keeps other drivers from shooting at you while you are engrossed in your phone conversation. Helps to save gasoline, too.
- Hands Free Cell Phone/Bluetooth:
Saves lives! Makes you look like you’re talking to yourself causing other drivers to leave you alone.
- Power Windows:
You do not have to struggle to reach across the car to roll down the window to yell at other drivers. Or ask pretty girls if they need a ride… (OK, in the interest of fairness, pretty boys, too!) Honorable mention: Power locks.
- Disc Brakes:
Anyone who remembers when cars did not have these will agree! Much better resistance to fade when going down steep inclines or when wet, easier to change when replacement time comes, and the semi- metallic and Kevlar pad materials are better for the environment and better for stopping the vehicle. Throw in anti-lock brakes and you have a real technological advancement.
- Satellite Radio:
Not only commercial free, but when driving through Podunk you will still get to listen to what YOU like. You also mostly avoid dead zones that you get with AM/FM sets.
- Remote Start:
This is for those in cold climes. Wonderful to not have to scurry outside in your jammies to warm up the car. Also makes you less likely to drive with icy windows and keeps car thieves from driving off with your warmed up car! Of course, this feature is also great for hot climes! Why get into a suffocating oven if you can cool off your car before even getting in? This driver will never get another car or truck without remote start.
- The Self Starter:
This ranks low only because it has been with us so long. God bless Mr. Kettering for making crank starts obsolete! Perhaps you take this feature for granted, but it certainly is a big one in the grand scheme of automotive advances. Throw in automatic chokes and electronic ignitions, and you have cars that start reliably instead of being an ordeal just to get moving. For that matter, electrical systems in cars was another monumental advance in technology.
- Air Conditioning:
You do not realize how important this is until it does not work! Not only does A/C make motoring in hot climates bearable, but it also allows you to drive with the windows up, saving lots of wear and tear on your hearing and general well-being. A notable plus is the improved performance of your defroster/defogger, using dry air instead of moist, humid air to clear your windshield. Honorable mention: Rear window defroster/defogger.
- Hands Free Parking:
A special one for the not so skilled or confident drivers, guaranteed to reduce frustration. While this author has no personal experience with this feature, it sure looks good on television commercials! We suspect this feature will also save a lot of minor parking related dents, scrapes and dings. Honorable mention: Rear parking sensors and rear-view camera.
Question for students (and subscribers): What is your favorite car related invention? Please let us know in the comments section below this article.
Your readership is much appreciated!
For more information, please see…
Alef, Daniel. Charles F. Kettering: Inventor and Self Starter. Titans of Fortune Publishing, 2009.
Parissien, Steven. The Life of the Automobile: The Complete History of the Motor Car. Thomas Dunne Books, 2014.
The featured image in this article, a photograph by Naval History & Heritage Command from Washington, DC, USA of an original brick from the Indianapolis Speedway dated 1909, is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.