You might be surprised to learn just how new airbags really are. The airbag has been around since the 1950s, but the technology was unreliable for decades. Mercedes-Benz was the first automaker to equip all models with airbags in the ’80s, and Ford followed soon after in the early ’90s. Airbags weren’t a legal requirement in cars until 1998.
Electronic Stability Control
Electronic stability control (ESC) is a vehicle technology still only available on relatively few car models, and it often comes as an extra instead of a standard feature. BMW developed the technology in the ’80s, and by the early ’90s BMW was using ESC in all its models. ESC is a great feature that takes charge when drivers begin to lose control of their vehicle. ESC is responsible for preventing accidents and rollovers, and it’s a wonder that more cars don’t come equipped with it.
Hybrid cars have a longer history than most people know, but the truly innovative part of the story is when Toyota started mass-producing cars with the hybrid engine. In 1997, Toyota released the first Prius model to the Japanese market. Honda was actually the first company to release a U.S. hybrid model in 1999. The Prius next followed in the U.S. marketplace in 2000. Since then, automakers have been pushing the hybrid envelope as more consumers demand the eco-friendly cars.
Dual-clutch transmission is an automatic transmission with two gearboxes: one for odd gears and one for even gears. The purpose of this is to keep power flowing through the engine, even when shifting gears. On a single-clutch transmission, the momentary gear shift cuts off power. Though dual-clutch transmissions have been available on race cars for decades, it didn’t go commercial until much more recently. Volkswagen and Ford introduced dual-clutch transmissions on their vehicles a little over a decade ago. Today you can get numerous vehicles equipped with dual-clutch transmission.
Infiniti was the first automaker to introduce the rear-view camera, and 2002 was the first time anyone could get a car equipped with this novel concept. Backup cameras give drivers a more complete view of what’s directly behind their vehicle. It’s especially useful in keeping drivers out of fender-benders in tight spots like parking lots and in saving pedestrian lives. So, the next time you marvel at a feature on a new car, remember these fantastic inventions. Many of them were in development years before they became standard on U.S. vehicles. The car industry is constantly going further in the pursuit of speed, safety, and innovation.