The more automotive technology advances, the more it remains the same. For many pieces of new car technology that come down the pipe, we find that what is being touted as “new” is in fact not new at all, but a marketing ploy. Here are five examples of new car tech that are so old, they’re new.
New car technology that’s old No. 1: Push button shift
Think the 2013 Lincoln MKZ is the vehicle that will introduce the miracle of five-piece, electronic push button shifting to the world? Wrong! As far back as 1913, small automakers used a Vulcan electro-mechanical gear shift in both cars and trucks. By 1956, Chrysler made lever-free shifting popular, giving drivers the ability to shift the automatic transmission via buttons associated with cables. Variations on this system appeared in Chrysler vehicles through 1964, and Ford offered a Teletouch shift system in Edsels from 1957 through 1959. Packard’s Touch Button Ultramatic debuted in 1956. During the push button shift heyday, hundreds of thousands of vehicles with the technology were sold.
New car technology that’s old No. 2: Direct injection
Today’s automakers are selling the idea that placing the fuel injector directly inside the combustion chamber in order to improve fuel efficiency and power output is a new revolution in automotive technology. Direct injection is superior to standard port injection, but it certainly isn’t new. The 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300SL used gasoline direct injection, but even that wasn’t the debut for the technology. Diesel engines have used direct injection since the 1920s, and during the 1940s, Mercedes-Benz and Bosch used direct inject tech in the engines of Nazi Luftwaffe. The technology may have been perfected in the modern era, but it certainly isn’t new.
New car technology that’s old No. 3: Push button start
In a variety of hybrids and other new non-hybrids like the Nissan Altima and Ford Escape, push button ignition has become common, with key fob and dashboard button. Luxury cars in the early 2000s used the starter technology, and since then, it has trickled down to more mid-market vehicles.
Even then, however, the tech wasn’t new. In the early 1900s, automobiles didn’t use keys. Drivers had to crank the engine up to speed, and the crank could become a dangerous weapon if the engine backfired. By 1912, Cadillac introduced an electric push button starter so that fewer skulls would be cracked.
New car technology that’s old No. 4: Hybrid electric drive
Hybrid vehicles have been the fuel-efficient rage in the U.S. since 2000, as the sheer number of Toyota Prius and Honda Insight vehicles on the highways can attest. But the hybrid vehicle actually began over a century ago. In 1901, Lohner-Porsche created engine technology that used electric wheel-hub motors, batteries and electric generators. Lohner-Porsche would produce a hybrid electric vehicle until 1906.
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The technology inspired automotive engineers for decades. During the 1960s, NASA modified it for use in the Apollo program’s Lunar Rover.
New car technology that’s old No. 5: Heads-up display
Modern marvels like the BMW 5 Series use full-color heads-up display from Continental AG on the windshield so that drivers can monitor speed and related gauges without looking away from the road before them.
This is nothing new for military and commercial aircraft, but it’s also nothing new for cars. Simple monochrome HUD technology was used in 1988 for the Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme, with technology by General Motors. The tech even caught on, and spread to other GM models, such as Buick, Pontiac and Cadillac.
BMW 5 Series heads-up display
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