Technology transformers and innovations
A Timeline of Motoring Technology: How Did Our Favourite Features Originate?

Today’s motorists are used to using modern technology in their vehicles every day. Whether it’s listening to the radio, feeling the benefits of heated seats or using sat-nav to get you to almost anywhere in the world, we have a wealth of gadgets at our disposal to make the driving experience as easy and as comfortable as possible. In the not-too-distant past, however, our vehicles were much simpler. We’ve teamed up with Grange, retailers of used Aston Martin, to take a look at how some of our favourite automotive technologies originated…

1. The invention of Bluetooth

Bluetooth is an invention used by people all over the world – and not just in our vehicles. Whether it’s to play music on our smartphones or make a hands-free call, Bluetooth has made life easier for million. But how was Bluetooth introduced to our vehicles? The name Bluetooth was only officially adopted in 1998 and the first handset using the technology was only shipped in 2000 — it would be another year before Bluetooth hands-free car kits started to hit the market too.

The concept of Bluetooth came about in 1993. Jaap Haartsen was employed as a wireless communications engineer for the Swedish digital communications company Ericsson. While in this job, Haartsen received the task to create a short-range radio connection that could enable new functionalities for mobile phones.

It wasn’t until 1995, when Sven Mattisson (a wireless communications expert) teamed up with Haartsen, that the two created multi-communicator links. Haartsen wasn’t finished yet though, with his work becoming more focused on piconet networks — a single piconet being the linking of two Bluetooth-enabled devices in order to establish an ad-hoc, short-range wireless network.

The two worked together for a number of years, forming the Bluetooth Special Interest Group in 1998. Over the next two years, this played a part in standardizing the Bluetooth radio communications protocol.

Have you ever wondered where Bluetooth got its name? Well, MC Link just didn’t seem to have a ring to it. Therefore, Jim Kardach, the head of technological development at Intel, proposed the moniker that we all know the technology by today in reference to the Danish king, King Harald Blatand. Often referred to as Harald Bluetooth — possibly due to his penchant for snacking on blueberries — the monarch was responsible for uniting the warring factions in what is now known as Denmark, Norway and Sweden.

2. The invention of Cruise Control

Surprisingly, cruise control originated in the 1940’s and was invented by someone who couldn’t drive! That’s right; inventor and automotive hall of famer Ralph Teetor was the brains behind a system where the speed of a vehicle is automatically controlled with a flick of a switch or press of a button. However, he had been blind since the age of five after a shop accident.

Despite his condition, Teetor noticed that when he was in the car with his lawyer, the vehicle would speed up when he was listening and slow down when he was talking. Teetor found this inconsistency annoying, to the point that he started to look into whether a device could be developed which could control the speed of a car automatically.

Although the idea originated in the 1940’s, the concept took a lot longer to finalise. While the first patent for this type of technology was filed in 1948, it would take a few additional patents for improving the original gadget and close to a decade after the initial patent before cruise control technology was fitted to the 1958 models of the Chrysler Imperial, New Yorker and Windsor. Of course, from that point on the devices began to be used by so many manufacturers on their vehicles.

3. The invention of Sat-nav

Can you imagine navigating an unknown road without the help of sat-nav? Modern vehicles even come with integrated sat-nav, for example, the Volvo navigation system features in-built map technologies and even live traffic data. Today’s motorists won’t remember a time in which motorists had to memorize directions before they got behind the wheel, or at least had a collection of fold-out maps in their glovebox to analyse whenever they took a break from driving.

Sat-nav actually has origins in the military. It was the US Department of Defense which developed the first satellite-based global positioning technology on behalf of the country’s military forces. Deemed TRANSIT, it was up and running as we entered the 1960s and involved the system using the DopplerEffect to calculate the position of the receiver in relation to satellites. As satellites could follow fixed trajectories at calculable speeds, scientists were able to use this data to pinpoint positions based upon short-term variations in frequency.

In time, the technology was refined and perfected, as satellite-based global positioning technology was used by the military throughout the early 1980’s. While GPS devices were also publicly available around this time — systems which use between 24 and 32 medium Earth orbit satellites that follow six trajectories for incredibly accurate results — they weren’t of much use. This is because the military added interference to the signals so that only their own version could be used with any precision.

The beginning of the 2000’s saw this change, however, as President Clinton signed a bill that ordered the military to stop scrambling public satellite signals. The era of consumer-based sat-nav systems had begun.

It is fascinating to think about what new motoring technology is currently being developed and tested and to imagine how the driving experience could look ten or twenty years from now!

Technology transformers and innovations
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