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Cornell Student Articles on Topical Affairs

How technology changed the automotive industry

Cars have been around for well over a century now, with the first stationary gasoline engine running for the first time in 1879, developed by Carl Benz, who applied for a patent for his vehicle powered by a gas engine in 1886, a three-wheeled Benz Patent Motor Car. The first automobile to be mass produced came in 1913, the Ford Model T, created by the Ford Motor Company. Just 14 years later, Ford had manufactured 15 million of them. A chain conveyor, an exceptionally durable but simple invention was an important part of the first assembly line, introduced on December 1, 1913, and still used today to move heavy products from one location to another.

Of course, things have changed a lot since then, while cars still have the basic four wheels and a steering wheel. Most changes over the decades have been more aesthetic, but in recent years technology has started to redefine just what an automobile is.

While we may not have flying cars as predicted in the popular film “Back to the Future” among others, self-driving cars are already being tested in many cities throughout the U.S., including police departments. The race is on to develop self-driving cars that are easily accessible to all, with new technologies like driver override systems that may be programmed to turn engines off in traffic to conserve fuel or at stop lights.

It may soon be nearly impossible to actually break into someone else’s car and drive it away, as biometrical access can prevent anyone other than the owner from operating an automobile by using fingerprints or eye retinal scans to gain entry.

As in most industries today, computers have become more central to mass producing automobiles, with the capacity for user interactivity increasingly tremendously in recent years. Cars produced today all have some type of onboard computer which can control many different functions. They may enable the driver to control GPS, vehicle temperature, cruise control, exhaust emissions and more. There are smart dashboards that allow users to play music and read cell phone messages with one interface too.

These technologies have the potential to dramatically reduce the risk of accidents. Traffic sign recognition may be outstanding for drivers who are easily distracted, while night vision can magnify existing lights to provide a better view after dark. Most new cars today have intelligent headlights that can adjust themselves depending on how dark it is outside too.

 

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