The Greek philosopher Heraclitus is credited with the phrase “nothing endures but change”. After 2,500 years, it seems that phrase is still true.
Technology is changing our world, and the automotive industry is not immune to change; nor would it want to be.
Thanks to changing technology, many car features are going the way of Tyrannosaurus Rex, prompting CNN Money to write about 11 Disappearing Car Features.
Here’s a summary of what CNN Money has to say about the top fading features:
- Manual transmissions: Probably the saddest development for car enthusiasts, but the fact is modern automatic transmissions are now smoother, less expensive, and more fuel-efficient than manual transmissions. Although learning is relatively easy, more and more drivers simply can’t use the stick-shift due to its disappearance.
- Car keys: Remote lock controls and trunk openers, push-button start, even smart-phone integration; as technology progresses, the need for a stamped metal key is fading. Cars are even unlocking immediately when it senses the keys approaching, meaning you won’t even have to take them out of your pocket or purse.
- Crank Windows: Although they are still found in a very scarce section of models, the term “roll down the windows” may soon be replaced entirely with “push-button down the window.” Unlike the manual transmission, very few people will truly miss the crank windows, although forgetful people will still need to turn the back car on to push-button them down.
- Antennas: Have you started to notice the shark-fins on new cars? Those are the new antennas, although they also handle GPS and other high-tech functions. Long antennas are long gone except for police scanners and CB radio users. Unfortunately, fans of the decorative car antenna toppers will have to find a new outlet for self-expression.
- Handbrake: This one is largely tied to the disappearance of the manual transmission, because cars no longer need a handbrake, also known as safety brakes or emergency brakes, to hold a car while the driver engages the clutch. New technology like “Hill Hold” takes over while your car is stopped on a hill.
- Bias-ply tires: These tires have the cords set at an angle, in contrast to radial tires which have them set straight. Radial tires reduce friction and produce greater fuel-economy, but although they were patented by Michelin in 1915, the greater cost to produce them kept bias-ply tires around. Gas prices and efficient production are changing all that.
- Bench seats: Bucket seats were almost unheard of until the 1950s, when smaller, sportier cars demanded more room for the floor-shifter and less room for the larger sofas filling in as car-seats. Bucket seats provide better lateral support and superior seat-belt anchoring, but bench seats still held into the 21st century.
- Hardtop convertibles: These were built without a central roof pillar so they could look more like a convertible with the top raised, but the design only resulted in a less rigid structure and needed to be reinforced with heavier material. Safety regulations resulted in the demise of hardtops, but carmakers still mimic the style by blacking-out the center pillar.
- 85 MPH Speedometers: A federal law in 1974 prohibited speed limits higher than 55 as a fuel-saving initiative. Five years later the NHTSA required a special emphasis on 55 mph and a limit on registering 85 mph. The only catch, it never regulated the actual speed. The NHTSA later found it did nothing to change behavior, and revoked the regulation.
- Spare Tires: Reducing cost and weight is a big deal these days, putting the full-size spare tire on the chopping block. Technology like run-flat tires with automatic sealing or reinforced sidewalls are stepping up to help automakers eliminate the standard spare tire. Smaller donuts are also still in heavy use, but even these aren’t safe from elimination.
- Hinged Vent Windows: You remember these- the little triangle shaped window tucked in the corner in front of the larger window. These tilt or hinged windows were favorites among smokers, but they started to disappear when air-conditioning came into heavy use. Now they are all but forgotten, as designers seek a cleaner, sleeker style.
Heraclitus may have been on to something, and we look forward to the evolving designs, technologies, and innovations that automakers bring in the future.
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