For more than 50 years, the dashboard has been an essential part of the driving experience. From AM/FM radios to Bluetooth, from early navigation to CarPlay, from the first analog speedometer to a completely digital interface, the dashboard has evolved to the point that it’s now a top-selling point for many people shopping for a new vehicle. So whether you’re studying for your driving test and looking for your first car, or are a lifelong car enthusiast saving up for your next one, here are a few tech features you should know about —
Most of us listen to music, talk radio, audio books or podcasts while we drive. The earliest car radios date back to the 1930s (considered a luxury at the time), but it wasn’t until the 1950s when FM radio became a standard in cars. The 1960s and 1970s brought the first in-dash tapes and the power for drivers to bring their favorite music on the road. While CDs brought a digital age to music in our cars, it was the MP3 that brought the real revolution.
We no longer rely on anything besides our phones to play music in the car. Even the iPod, which was revolutionary less than two decades ago, is considered a relic by some. Now, dashboards and center consoles are designed to connect directly to smartphones, both wired and wireless, and play everything from our local music to streaming music apps like Spotify and Apple Music.
GPS navigation is a relatively new feature in our cars, but many of us have already forgotten what it’s like to find an address without it. The technology is a standard features in many cars across the world.
The first in-car GPS navigation systems were terrible because the software and the network of satellites had a long way to go. Even at the turn of the 21st century, it would be a few years before navigation was a common feature inside the automobile. But once smartphones started to adopt navigation after the release of the first iPhone in 2007, vehicle manufacturers knew it was an arms race to build a better product than Apple or Google. However, both Apple and Google produce in-dash consoles (CarPlay and Android Auto, respectively) that connect with your smartphone and display features like music, messages, email and, most importantly, GPS navigation.
Speedometer & Controls
The speedometer has been sort of a yo-yo technology leading up to the present day. Early versions were analog with some digital experimentation in the late ’80s and early ’90s. Cars used digital dashboards as a sales gimmick, but they weren’t reliable and extremely expensive to replace if they broke down.
Today’s modern dashboards surrounding the speedometer are mostly analog with some digital flair. Some use an analog speedometer and tachometer (the two most important instruments), while making fuel levels and engine temperature digital. Some dashboards can digitally project information on the bottom of the windshield so the driver never has to take his or her eyes off the road.
The Future and Where to Get Yours
While cars like the Tesla Model S are paving the way for the future of dashboards and consoles, you don’t need to spend six figures to have that sort of tech in your vehicle. The American Three (GM, Ford, Chrysler) are stepping up their game, and newer used models sport some advanced dashboards.
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