There are so many examples of advanced technology seen within our cars these days, to the point that we might take some features for granted. Join Grange, who stocks an incredible selection of new Aston Martin cars, as they trace the origins of three motoring tech features which are standard in most cars on the market today though and imagine trying to complete a road trip without them…
Can you remember a time when Sat-nav wasn’t available?
For many younger motorists, the thought of driving without a polite-sounding android giving you advice about the roads you should be travelling along sounds absurd. 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 early days of sat-nav is related to the US 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. As satellites could follow fixed trajectories at calculable speeds, scientists were able to use this data to pinpoint positions based upon short-term variations in frequency.
As the early 1980s rolled around, the general military began to use more precise and refined editions of this satellite-based global positioning technology. Multiple satellites were utilised too. 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.
This all changed as we rang in a new millennium, however. 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. The era of consumer-based sat-nav systems had begun.
Can you remember a time when cruise control wasn’t available?
There are two rather surprising aspects related to the origins of cruise control. One is the fact the idea was first thought about during the 1940s, while the other is that it was invented by someone who couldn’t actually drive!
You didn’t misread that last point. 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.
Even without his sight, Teetor was still able to pick up on the fact that his lawyer tended to slow down when talking and speed up when listening while driving. 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 was in 1948 that a filing was made for the first patent of this technology. However, 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.
Can you remember a time when Bluetooth wasn’t available?
When you play songs on your smartphone in a manner that they come through your car’s speakers, or make hands-free phone calls, chances are you’ll make use of your device’s Bluetooth capabilities. 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.
The origins of Bluetooth have a bit longer of a history though. 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.
Haartsen was joined by fellow wireless communications engineer Sven Mattisson in 1995. The duo weresoon successful at creating multi-communicator links. 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.
Haartsen made the decision to leave Ericsson in 1998, instead choosing to assist in establishing 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.
Intrigued about why Bluetooth is given such a unique name? Well, MC Link just didn’t seem to have a ring to it. Therefore, Jim Kardach, the head of technological development at Intel, proposed the moniker that we all know the technology by today in reference to the Danish king, King Harald Blatand. Often referred to as Harald Bluetooth — possibly due to his penchant for snacking on blueberries — the monarch was responsible for uniting the warring factions in what is now known as Denmark, Norway and Sweden. The idea is that Bluetooth technology shares a similar trait in that it unites devices from competing manufacturers, such as a mouse made by Microsoft with a computer developed by Apple.