Since the very first automobiles hit the unpaved streets of early 20th century America, the story of the automobile industry in this country has been one of continuous innovation and evolution.
In 1903, Henry Ford sold 1,700 vehicles during its first year of business. By 1920, Ford Motor Company was producing nearly 1 million vehicles a year, thanks to strong demand, improved products, and the advent of the assembly line. Competition, advances in technology, and consumer demand have all kept automobile designers hard at work to produce better vehicles. Some of the most important innovations in the industry include:
- The automatic transmission – The auto transmission was introduced in 1940 and made operating a vehicle much easier, allowing a wider range of customers to drive.
- Power steering – Another innovation that made driving easier, hydraulically-assisted steering made it easier to turn steering wheels, as prior to the advent of power steering, operating a motor vehicle required significant physical strength.
- Seat belts – Since their introduction in the 1950s, seat belts have helped to drastically reduce automobile accident injuries and fatalities. Research shows that, when used, seat belts reduce the chance of fatal injury to front seat passengers by 45 percent and the risk of moderate-to-critical injury by 50 percent.
- Air bags – Another important safety feature, airbags first appeared in vehicles in the late 1980s and have since become standard equipment, saving thousands from serious injury and death each year. Automakers continue to improve airbag design, making them more effective and reducing the risk of minor injury airbags may cause.
- Hybrid engines – Electric engines have been around since the advent of the automobile, but it was only in the late 90s and early 2000s that the industry figured out how to make them small and cheap enough to be of practical use. Hybrid gas/electric engines have helped to save gasoline and reduce harmful carbon emissions.
- GPS – Anyone who can remember the days of having to pour through road atlases and written directions that included phrases such as “… turn on the second dirt road to the left” knows the value of mapping and navigation technologies which are now standard in many vehicles.
Innovations of the Future
The innovation parade is nowhere near being over for the automotive industry. Car manufacturers continue to work on new ways to make vehicles safer, more fuel efficient, and more comfortable. Some coming innovations for the auto industry that promise to be game-changers include:
- Driverless cars – These cars will reduce the risk of accidents and may also change how cars fit into our lives, as car-sharing and ride-renting may become more common in a society where the vehicles operate themselves.
- Regenerative braking – Instead of braking by contacting brake pads to a brake motor, regenerative braking stops the vehicle by switching the vehicle into reverse. Automotive designers say that regenerative braking will conserve 70 percent of the energy that’s lost by current braking technology.
- Night vision – The auto industry will enhance safety by offering night vision technology in its vehicles, making it easier to see pedestrians and hazards when it’s dark outside.
Community Ford is a Ford dealership in Indianapolis selling dependable, reliable new and pre-owned vehicles. Eco-conscious consumers can check out Community Ford’s selection of hybrid vehicles and energy efficient traditional gasoline vehicles powered by the EcoBoost engine. Schedule a test drive today to see how Ford vehicles can make a big difference in what you spend at the pump.