How Soon Will Today's Automobile Technologies Become Yesterday's Old-School Gadgets?

The integration of technology in today's vehicles is moving at an alarming pace for some drivers, and yet it may take years before it's all taken for granted...

It's strange to think of it in this way, but the latest, greatest car technology is, of course, new in a new vehicle. How many years will it take before it's considered "old technology?"

Consider the average U.S. vehicle on the road is about 15 years old. This means a majority of the drivers on the road will have a vehicle that's more than seven to ten years old. So some drivers have the newest stuff while others are "getting by" on technology from the last century.

Remember that time of innocence, about ten years ago, when we drove V-8 powered vehicles with combined fuel economy of about 16 miles per gallon? We had a cassette deck or maybe even a 6-disk CD player. We had two airbags, interval windshield wipers, a moon roof and maybe even heated leather seats. About the coolest gadget you could get, and even in only a few models, was the OnStar telephone service!

That's all changed. It's to the point where Anti-Lock Braking (ABS) systems are standard, where highly efficient smaller engines get better than 30 miles per gallon and even the CD player may be on the way out. Smartphone technology is leading the market. Customers are becoming increasing dependent on these phones and are used to their capabilities. Now they want the same kind of functionality in their vehicles.

Bluetooth connectivity that allows a driver to make and receive phone calls wirelessly is the goal of almost every manufacturer. Additional functionality, such as streaming music or internet access is expanding very quickly into the automobile market. Now it seems to get more performance from your vehicle, just look for a new App on your phone!

In a historic perspective, the first windshield wipers appeared in a few autos in 1903. The first automobile radio from the Motorola was introduced in 1930 (it was a tube-based radio). The first car FM radio receivers were introduced in 1952. The car air conditioner finally told hold as new technology in 1953. Only about half of the autos on the road by 1969 had air conditioning. So you can see there is a period in which new technologies are accepted, slowly integrated and then regarded as "standard equipment."

The early 1970's brought us the 8-track tape player, yielding to the CB radio or the cassette tape player. The first in-car CD players appeared in the mid- to late- 1980s. OnStar only was available on a few GM models in 1996. We had video tape players that progressed into DVD players and now there are streaming movies and TV shows from "the cloud" available for your kids to watch.

Vehicles in the 20th Century were mechanical marvels. It looks like vehicles in the 21st Century have become more computer-oriented. Wrench-turning mechanics are fast turning into techno-geeks. Instead of looking to replace your old car, you may start thinking about "upgrading your mobile car computer."

Look how far we've come in just a few years. Today's new technologies include lane monitoring, adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, rear view cameras, cars that speak to one another and soon, self-driving autos. GM and Ford Motor Company have set their goal to have robotically driven vehicles available to the public by 2020.

Today's vehicles are being built with the best reinforced steels, the best recycled materials and the most efficient engines (and/or electric motors). Today's vehicles are safe, efficient and more fun to drive. And it looks like the goal is to keep improving in all of these areas. So fast-forward 15 or 20 years in the future... the "clunkers" of tomorrow (AKA, today's breakthrough technology vehicles) will be considered "charming old school gadgets."