Time eventually comes for all tech.
The movie "Toy Story" best explains technology going out of date. One minute a shiny, new piece of tech (or toy) hits the market and makes a splash and in a few years it's suddenly obsolete. Cars have yet to go down the road of uselessness, quite the opposite in fact. But the same can’t be said for the technology that inhabits cars. Like our very homes, the spaces inside our cars have gone through plenty of changes, some reflective of a changing society while others have just become outdated. Here are a few of the most notable examples.
1) Cigarette lighters and ashtrays in cars are now relics (or optional add-ons) and the absence of them shows just how drastically the country's attitude towards smoking has changed. In 1980 a third of Americans smoked, giving automakers plenty of reason to add in coil lighters and places to dump ashes. Now that number has dropped to 16%, which means that cigarette lighter sockets have turned into phone charging ports and the space in a car once reserved for an ashtray is now home to an iPhone or keys. 2) Front bench seats used to be the signature of the big American car. Arm rests and plenty of room to slouch and drive gave way to a third seat up front when needed.
Blame it on safety regulations or on the persisting sense of individuality that permeates the millennial culture, but these large seats that once took up the front of the Cadillac DTS, Buick LaCrosse, and Lincoln Town Car have given way to bolstered bucket seats that are heated and ventilated and keep the driver in an optimal forward facing position. 3) Antennas used to be such a huge pain. They either stuck out 10 feet above a car or had raising and lowering mechanisms that constantly broke, leaving drivers without music and with a fear of car washes. Nowadays engineers just hide them under more aesthetically pleasing and aerodynamic shark fin covers or even in windows.
If satellite radio works without a large metal rod sticking out of the car and ruining the lines, then why can’t FM radio? Automakers agreed and severed these unsightly things off of modern cars to the benefit of us all. 4) Cassette and CD players are obvious picks simply because no one actually uses these anymore. The funny thing is that even built-in MP3 players are starting to see the end of the road in cars simply because when on the go, a smartphone has access to a wider array of music. The added benefit of having every imaginable technological capability streamlined and consolidated into a single device means that even in-car GPS systems may soon go the route of the 8-track.
Whenever automakers decide to wise up, or when the of the cellphone savvy kids of today becomes the majority of the car buying population, they’ll use infotainment systems as an extension of smartphones rather than a separate system entirely. 5) Not a single person will mourn the loss of the automatic seat belt. This was another one of those ideas that sounds a lot better in theory but turns into a fiasco in practice. It may have been cool to be the first person with one of these systems when they first came out, but they quickly became another thing to laugh at. It seems likely now that we’ll have cars that drive themselves before another automatic seat belt hits the market. Honorable Mention: The clutch pedal.