Remember the cassette tape player, the device that played songs when a palm-sized plastic box with a rolling magnetic tape was inserted into it! Well, if you can’t recall these ancient pieces of technology, don’t beat yourself up! I’m guessing you must be 20 years of age or younger. Cars used to have them, but not anymore. And not since the early 2000s! Things have moved on. Music can now be retrieved (as data) either from a pen drive via a USB port or streamed via Bluetooth. Now, if you’d want to see a cassette player in a vehicle, you’d either have to visit a car museum or purchase a Classic Car and pay the extra registration fee.
Similarly, there have been several car technologies and features that are now a part of history, some that are on their way out and some that may appear as cutting-edge tech’ today but are also destined for the dustbin. Here are a few examples...
The antenna that — quite literally — stood out like a sore thumb has now been chopped down and transformed into small bump on the roof, often referred to a ‘shark fin’ no more than two inches tall. Or you can see it as part of a wire that is embedded into the rear window. This improves both radio reception and aerodynamics.
Manually operated windows
Ever thought how the term ‘roll up your windows’ originated? It comes from the tedious task of turning the tiny arm to up/down the door window, which was not fun by any means, especially when a shamal i.e. hot dusty wind came blowing by. Thankfully, most cars — even the budget ones — are equipped with power windows in the front row, at least.
The in-car ashtrays have disappeared over time and consequently, the remnant smoke that exuded from them. With the decline of smokers globally, it is not required to have them in our personal cars. Now, some car manufacturers offer them along with cigarette lighters as an optional extra.
What is stranger still is that people were allowed to smoke in planes… in moving planes, planes that were flying 10,000 ft in the sky at about the speed of sound.
Halogen lamps & pop-up headlights
On the verge of disappearance are halogen bulbs. Halogens are not just being used for headlamps and rear lamps only, they are also used as cabin lamps, puddle lamps and for illuminating the boot. They are now being replaced by LED lamps and in some cases, sci-fi like lasers, like Audi does in their high-end models.
Speaking of which, do you recall these fancy pop-up headlamps that we have seen on every Ferrari, Corvette and even Porsche sports cars that were so desired in the 80s? Those too have gone. But this we all know is old news. Instead, we have fixed lamps mostly inset into the bodywork for safety reasons and reliability, some say. But gosh, don’t we miss that contraption!
Full-size spare tyre
Also making an exit is the full-size spare. Although it is still nice to have one from a usability and aesthetic point of view, it is being replaced by space-saving spare. The other option available in more high-end vehicles is to not have a spare tyre at all, thanks to run flat tyre technology which BMW is a big advocate of. Nowadays companies like Michelin are also experimenting with airless tires that look bizarre but work, apparently.
The manual transmission! Yes, we constantly read ‘purists’ crib in the comments sections; and see endless memes about the lack of manual car options in the market, yet only a handful of people go out and buy them. That is one reason for their demise. Also, transmission technology has moved on from the manual. We now have torque converter automatics, CVTs and dual-clutch transmissions. Stick shifts are still being offered in the cheapest option in budget vehicles and as a cost option in high-performance sports cars. The irony!
Hydraulic steering has been around for a long time, it is what made cars modern in some sense. But this is being replaced by the EPS or Electric power steering. Again, we have people complaining about how it doesn’t provide sufficient feedback and, therefore, kills the driving experience, but in the end, it seems that fuel efficiency and ease of use trumps all.
The sedan silhouette
While sales for the 3-box sedan are still strong, its market share has dwindled over the past decades. Many companies like Ford have sworn not to produce sedans anymore. And we might not see this body type in the near future, thanks to the growing popularity of the sporty 4-door coupe, the hatchback, SUVs and most importantly, crossovers.
Physical centre console controls
In just a decade we have gone from physical knobs and buttons to on-screen buttons and sensors with haptic feedback on the centre console. While there is a late hour effort to keep the tactility of physical volume and tuner knobs, they too will disappear with the improved sensitivity of touch controls.
ICE or Internal Combustion Engines
The disappearance of the ICE is imminent. With the rise of our collective consciousness and with the help of the loud voices of activists like Greta Thunberg we will see it relegated into the pages of history, sooner than later. Parallelly, we have seamlessly adopted the hybrid motor over the last two decades and its success has paved the way for the EV (electric car).
You may have observed the absence of side-view mirrors in some concept cars and wondered how the drivers of these vehicles would make the decision to change lanes without checking the space beside them. Well, these vehicles employ tiny cameras that display the blind spot on a screen somewhere on the dashboard and thereby resolving the issue. While, this hasn’t hit the mainstream market yet, don’t be surprised if you see them in a 2023 YM.
Even keys are going away! Car keys that have been part and parcel of car ownership for decades may not have to be placed in your pocket or purse. The newly introduced Genesis GV60 is equipped with Face Connect technology that recognises the human physiognomy and locks/unlocks the door accordingly. And, once the driver is inside, the fingerprint technology embedded into the start button gives the OK to crank the motor.
Many of you may have also noticed that the manual handbrake has disappeared in most vehicles. It has been replaced by the electric parking brake. Sure, you can’t pull a handbrake U-turn, but on the flip side, it does clear up some space in the centre console.
Steering controls and pedals
The steering wheel and pedals might go away altogether or play second fiddle to the autonomous driving technology. Audi very recently showcased the urbansphere luxury MPV (of sorts) and they stated: “Automated driving technology transforms the interior, in which a steering wheel, pedals, or displays are notably absent, into a mobile interactive space that provides a gateway to a wider digital ecosystem”.
And finally, as far-fetched as it may seem, we the motorists may disappear from the roads. While the human population gets engrained into the social media and digital world, personal transportation may become redundant. How so? Once you sign up for the metaverse and the likes and experience the life-like and even exaggerated sensory levels we may not be required to travel at all. Instead, our minds will navigate town and country via a designated drone or bots with our signature. If you find this hard to believe, check out the Hollywood movie Surrogates starring Bruce Willis and then perhaps, you may be able to relate.
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