Where would we be without our favourite motoring tech inventions? It may be hard to imagine a world without sat-nav to get us from A to B, wireless communications or cruise control, but just a few decades ago our vehicles were a lot simpler. To take you through how our favourite automotive tech features came about, we’ve enlisted the help of Grange, who offer a range of prestigious vehicles including the Jaguar F Pace.
1940’s: Cruise control
Cruise control was surpsinsingly invented by a man who couldn’t drive – and in addition, he was blind. 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. A lack of sight didn’t stop Teetor from noticing that when his lawyer was behind the wheel of a vehicle, he had a tendency to slow down when he was talking and then speed up if he was listening. 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.
It would be a number of years however, before cruise control became widely used. 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.
It’s hard to imagine a world without sat-nav to help us get to our destination. However, 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.
The idea behind this invention actually came from the American 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.
Using data gathered from following trajectories, scientists were able to pinpoint exact locations based on differences in frequency. More refined and precise versions of this satellite-based global positioning technology was used by the general military as we progressed into the early 1980s, whereby multiple satellites were utilised. 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.
As we ushered in a new millennium though, this would change as 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.
1990s – 2000: Bluetooth
Millions of people all over the world use Bluetooth on a daily basis. 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 delve into the origins of Bluetooth, 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.
By 1995, Sven Mattison, another wireless communications engineer, joined Haarsten. 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. By 1998, however, Haartsen branched off on his own, forming 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.