The History Of Motoring Technology: How Were Our Favourite Features Developed?

It’s likely that no matter what vehicle you choose to drive, you’ve become used to modern technology that does a lot more than simply help you get from A to B. Today’s vehicles are fitted with a range of hi-tech features, however these have only become widespread in recent years. Some of you may remember a time before such technology was commonplace. Here, we investigate the origins of our favourite motoring features with the help of Motorparks, retailers of the Focus ST Estate and other practical models.


1. When was Cruise Control introduced?

The origins of cruise control might just surprise you. The idea was first thought about during the 1940s and it was invented by someone who couldn’t actually drive! You did indeed read that last fact correctly.

The brains behind the invention, Ralph Teetor, designed a system where the speed of the car is controlled at the touch of a button. However, he had been blind since the age of five after a shop accident. The fact that Teetor’s lawyer had a tendency to slow down when chatting and then speed up when taking in speech while driving was something that the inventor noticed even without his sight. 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.

The patent for this technology was first filed all the way back in 1948. However, 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.


2. When was Bluetooth introduced?

Bluetooth is a feature that most people use almost every day. Whether it’s in order to listen to music that’s being played from a smartphone via a car’s speakers or to participate in a hands-free phone call, there are many uses for our phone’s Bluetooth capabilities while we’re behind the wheel today. However, 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.

To find the real origins of Bluetooth, however, we have to look even further back. It was back in 1993 that 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. Haartsen teamed up with fellow wireless communications engineer Sven Mattisson during 1995. The duo were soon successful at creating 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.

In 1998, Haartsen decided to leave Ericsson and establish the Bluetooth Special Interest Group. Over the next two years, he was the chairman of the SIG’s air protocol certifications group and played a part in standardizing the Bluetooth radio communications protocol.

So, that takes you through the origins of Bluetooth. However, you might still be wondering how it received its unique 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. The idea is that Bluetooth technology shares a similar trait in that it unites devices from competing manufacturers, such as a mouse made by Microsoft with a computer developed by Apple.


3. When was Sat-Nav introduced?

Sat-Nav is now one of the most widely used motoring features in the world. Are you one of the many motorists who now choose to listen to the guidance of a polite-sounding android when needing to complete a road trip by driving along roads that you’ve never encountered before? Take note that it was only a couple of decades ago that 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.

Surprisingly, the idea for sat-nav actually came from the US military. This was because 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.

More advanced versions of this satellite technology was released during the 1980’s. These started to be used by the general military and multiple satellites were utilised too. 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.

This practice only went on until around the year 2000, however. President Clinton ended four years of deliberations to sign a bill in 2000 which ordered that the military ceased scrambling satellite signals that were being used by members of the public. The era of consumer-based sat-nav systems had begun.





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