Saturday, November 27, 2021

These Are Some Of The Top Improvements In Cars Over The Last 50 Years

In the last 50 or so years, cars have changed a lot, they are now much more fuel-efficient, less polluting, more comfortable, and much safer than the old vehicles. And with the world switching over to electric cars and introducing more and more autonomous driving features, these improvements are set to continue. Electric cars are where future improvement will be found, as almost all carmakers (except for BMW) have now abandoned all future investments in the internal combustion engine.

That’s not to say we don’t love and cherish many of these old classics, but it’s clear that for general-purpose driving the vehicles have improved immensely. While it’s fun taking your classic Studebaker out for a Sunday afternoon spin and while it’s rewarding to be truly driving the vehicle, those classic cars just can’t compete with modern cars. Here are some of the top improvements of cars in the last 50 years.

Car Sensors

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Many cars now are fitted with a whole range of sensors that can sense all sorts of hazards from pedestrians walking out in front of the car, to the driver falling asleep. This is an area of development that is progressing at a fast pace.

Via Flickr

These have made driving much safer, and they also enable computers to augment human driving and often make up for human error. Once, these features were just for luxury or high-end vehicles, now they are increasingly coming standard.

Head Rests

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When we look at the car seats of classic vehicles, they are often without headrests. Headrests are much more than just comfort, they are a very important part of the car’s safety features. Before 1969, they were optional in the USA. In fact, they are a very basic feature of a car’s safety systems.

Via Commons Wikimedia

Since 1969, they have become compulsory. Headrests have been shown to reduced injury by as much as 17%. They are very important in preventing whiplash.


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Seatbelts are another integral part of a car’s safety systems. Since the 1960s, seatbelts have become a compulsory part of car design throughout much of the world and using them is strictly enforced all around the world.

Via Picryl

In the US, for example, it is estimated that seatbelts save over 12,000 lives annually. The estimates for how effective seatbelts are varied widely, but all estimates show massive improvements. Fatality reduction estimates for front-seat passengers vary from 25% to 60%.

Related: Here’s How Volvo Invented The Modern Seat belt

Improved Mileage

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According to the EIA, in 1961 the average mile per gallon of vehicles was 14.4 for light-duty vehicles with a short wheelbase. In 2010 that has risen to 23.5 miles per gallon — a significant improvement. This is not only better for the air quality of the city, but also for the pockets of the drivers.

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Since 2010 according to another source, the gas mileage has continued to improve and reached an all-time high of 25.7 miles per gallon in 2020.

Related: 10 Things People Believe About Fuel Consumption That Aren’t True (And 10 That Are)

Crumple Zones

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The body of the cars is now much safer. The cars are built with crumple zones designed to absorb the kinetic energy to make the collision survivable.

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Not only are cars designed to absorb kinetic energy, but the steering wheel is also designed to not be pushed back. In older models, a frontal crash could easily result in the steering wheel being pushed straight into the body of the driver, in modern models that won’t happen.

Comfort And Air Con

Via Lucid Air

Modern cars are much more comfortable to drive than older vehicles. They are much quieter, the seats are more comfortable (often with heated seats too), the shocks and suspension are better and the vehicles have air conditioning.

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All this and more makes driving more comfortable. Contrast modern SUVs with the earlier 4WDs that were just made to be practical workhorses with very few comforts. In fact, the trend in the United States is that pickup trucks are becoming luxury vehicles.

Power Steering

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Who can remember driving a vehicle without power steering? While it is still kinda ok when driving at speed, when driving slowly it is a lot of work! Remember not only the resistance in turning the wheel, but also how much you had to turn it round and round?

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Power steering has made driving so much more convenient and just relaxing. One doesn’t need to put one’s shoulders into turning that steering wheel while moving into a parallel parking spot!

Cruise Control

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Cruise control is more than just being lazy or relaxed behind the wheel. In some places, it’s just about the only way to keep your license from losing it from accidentally speeding.

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Anyone who’s driven on long and straight roads can relate. In certain places, the speed limit is strictly enforced, and the roads are super long, straight, and boring. So easy to let your speed creep up.

Related: This Is How Adaptive Cruise Control Works

Automatically Turning Lights Off

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Remember getting up early in the morning while it was still dark, arriving when it was light and coming back to your car at the end of the day only to find your lights left on and your battery dead?

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The headlights of modern cars are also infinitely superior to old vehicles. Jump in an old car at night, and it can be a struggle to see anything ahead. Get a new car with full LED lights, and it just lights up the road.


Via Tesla

Electric cars hold many benefits. Among these are fewer moving parts so fewer breakdowns and maintenance, cheaper running costs, and increased safety. Safety is increased in electric cars for at least a few reasons.

Via Commons Wikimedia

The battery is mounted low on the floor, lowering the vehicle’s center of gravity. Meaning less likelihood to roll over, and the driver is less likely to lose control in the first place. Additionally, the lack of an engine allows for a greater crumple zone.

In summary, cars have improved a lot. They have improved in fuel economy, comfort, and safety.

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