Each year, engineers make new advances in automotive technology that not only increases the efficiency of cars, but also makes driving a safer practice for everyone on the road. Through the last several decades, they've reached incredible automotive milestones that have brought us several steps closer to self-driving car technology, which has the potential to reduce car accidents by 90 percent.


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This self-driving technology is in trial stages now, with some advanced automation hitting the market this year. Although fully automated vehicles are still a few years away, engineers are making more advancements than ever in automotive technology, which is steadily changing the transportation landscape for the better.

Automotive Tech Milestones

In order to get to where we're going, we've had to make some big steps in automotive technology. Although some of these may seem like small and basic technologies now, they paved the path for the more advanced self-driving technologies.

**Radar-based Cruise Control:**Modern cruise control was invented in the 1950s by Society of Automotive Engineers President Ralph Teetor as a way to make driving safer at a time when highway speeds were becoming faster and more dangerous than ever. This technology was quickly adopted throughout the automotive industry and is now barely even considered as an aspect of automated driving.

In the early 2000s, new and more advanced vehicles came installed with radar cruise control, which not only maintains a car's speed, but uses sensors to adjust the speed to remain a safe distance away from the car in front without intervention from the driver. Cars without this technology require the driver to be completely attentive at all times while using cruise control in case the car in front of reduces its speed and they drive into it.

**Stability Control:**In the 1970s, anti-lock brakes were introduced to keep cars from sliding -- a technology that eventually led the way to electronic stability control (ESC). This technology was developed in 1995 as sensors and computers became better and more accessible, thereby helping to correct skids when cars were in situations that caused sliding.

Automakers used the stabilizing technology to reduce the slip of the wheel and increase traction by applying the brakes to an individual wheel. This created traction control, which was followed by a sensor that would indicate when the car was sliding. When the ESC detected the car was sliding, the technology would apply the brakes to help control the skid and stabilize the car. The more advanced ESC systems also control the throttle to adjust the power to the wheels.

On-Board Diagnostics (OBD): On-board diagnostics advanced significantly over the two-decade period between 1980 and 2000. In 1996, OBD increased in diagnostic capability as specific codes were introduced that could tell drivers exactly what was wrong with their cars. The new OBD also made it possible to manage air and fuel more accurately in the engine, which helped to greatly improve fuel economy and vehicle emissions. Consequently, this increased car performance significantly as it provided drivers with the information they'd need to understand what areas of their cars required attention.

Emerging Automotive Engineering

Today, the technology being created by automotive engineers is more advanced and detailed than ever, helping to fix problems that many people don't even know exist. These emerging plans will help elevate the driving experience in the future, and are continuing the fight towards more efficient cars and driving. From automotive tech to advanced autoparts, engineers are making transportation a better experience for everyone.

Battery Systems: One of the emerging technologies today involves battery management systems, which are designed to help batteries meet their life and warranty goals, as well as their performance expectations. Expanding battery ranges requires researchers to design and test different battery chemistries and subsystems in order to find ways to improve their function while reducing costs.

By finding more advanced chemistries, researchers can increase the temperatures batteries can operate through and make them last longer, thereby making them more efficient overall. Creating more efficient batteries also involves reducing the cost of cooling systems, which can bring up the price of batteries. To track and predict the parameters engineers are working with, they must understand limits by developing algorithms that will help them to fully comprehend these systems.

Downsizing and Turbocharging: Downsizing internal combustion engines involves making them lighter, which reduces the overall mass of the vehicle and helps improve its fuel consumption. By reducing the number of cylinders in the engine, friction in the piston units is also reduced, which also increases the engine's efficiency.

When car manufacturers turbocharge an engine, they are able to recover the energy of the exhaust gasses, which can significantly increase fuel efficiency. It can also improve performance by increasing the power-to-displacement ratio of the vehicle. This technology helps to optimize vehicles to improve their drivability.

**Artificial Intelligence (AI):**The deployment of artificial intelligence is perhaps the most anticipated technological advancement that is being collaborated on with people from all sectors, including car manufacturers and engineers. AI is steadily transforming transportation through autonomous technology, but is also being used to collect data that can be optimized for commercial use in order to adjust shipping routes and simplify distribution networks for businesses.

However, as autonomous vehicle technology becomes more common, car manufacturers need to take precautions to prevent data loss and hacking of their newly cyber-connected vehicles. The Internet of Things (IoT) integration of technology is new enough that there are not yet clear guidelines for cybersecurity regulations, but when this security involves a person behind the wheel of heavy machinery, serious measures must be taken.


Engineers are constantly innovating, not simply toward self-driving car technology, but also to make vehicles and transportation more advanced and efficient for drivers. These innovations are shaping transportation and leading the way to more advanced technologies that will take us into a new age of driving and transportation.

— Magnolia Potter is a muggle from the Pacific Northwest who writes from time to time and covers a variety of topics.