History of Cars Timeline: Evolution of the Vehicle Industry

This history of cars timeline is a must-read because cars are now part of our everyday lives, and they continue to evolve every year with new advanced features being introduced to the market.

History of Cars Timeline

With the numerous advanced features today, it’s easy to forget that it’s only 110 years ago that the first modern car was developed. To refresh your understanding of the history of the automobile as we know it today, we’ll go through the complete evolution of the industry in this article!

The History of Cars and Evolution of the Automotive Industry

There have been many inventions over the past few years that have transformed our environment, lives, and culture. Before the 19th century, people we restricted to only a few miles from their birthplace. However, the invention of cars changed many things, among which include more autonomy and freedom to travel easily.

The automobile mass production world was opened by Henry Ford’s factory assembly line and Model T. During the Second World War, Detroit’s automakers helped in securing Allied victory, and this was done by producing jeeps, fighter planes, and tanks, as well as converting their manufacturing plants to democracy arsenals.

There are many other events that transpired after World War II, all of which increased individual attraction to racing, adventure, speed, and exploration. However, the downside to this is that the number of vehicles on the road today is estimated to reach two billion in 2035. This means the emission of more carbon dioxide and pollutants into the atmosphere will greatly increase.

Even though cars are designed to be safe, statistics show that about 1.4 million people die on roadways every year. Despite that, there are many new technological revolutions aimed at solving these downsides. Among these advancements include self-driving cars and electric cars to reduce accidents, injuries, and death.

To enhance your understanding, we’ll go through the evolution of the automotive industry below.

  • 1886: Invention of the First Automobile

Carl Benz, a German mechanical engineer, ushered in the era of the transportation revolution after he applied for a patent for cars powered by gas engines. This is what we now call Mercedes-Benz, and this was basically the birth of the automobile.

In July 1886, there were many sightings of the Benz Patent Motorwagen. This was a three-wheeled vehicle with a one-cylinder engine that could deliver 10mpg top speed and less than one horsepower.
  • 1900: Showcase of the First Hybrid Car

Ferdinand Porsche launched Lohner-Porsche, which was a hybrid car that could use two gasoline engines to generate electricity to power the front wheels. This was close to a century before the introduction of the Toyota Prius hybrid car model.

  • 1903: Invention of the Windshield Wiper

In 1903, Mary Anderson earned a patent for the development of the first windshield wiper. This was a manually operated rubber-bladed system designed to remove sleet, snow, or rain from electric car windows. The inspiration for this invention came after she noticed that most drivers had to look through their windows to see clearly when driving in harsh weather conditions.

Invention of Car Windshield Wiper

Despite the importance of this invention, no motor company during those time showed interest in it. However, in 1922, it became a standard feature added to Cadillac cars.

  • 1906: Introduction of the World’s Best Car

In 1906, Rolls-Royce released the prototype for its Silver Ghost, which is historically known as one of the most luxurious, well-engineered, and durable cars. It was also widely known as the polar opposite of Henry Ford’s cars. About 8,000 Silver Ghost copies were manufactured between 1907 to 1926.

  • 1912: Engine Crank Became Obsolete

The first electric starter was introduced by Cadillac during their Touring Edition, and this was created by Charles Kettering, who was a famous engineer and inventor. These electric starters eliminated the need to hand-crank vehicles to start, which was a process that had broken the hands of many, and left others with severe injuries.

  • 1913: The Start of the Henry Ford Assembly Line

Henry Ford, out of the desire to make cars for everyone, implements an automotive assembly line for the Model T. More than 15 million Model T were built between 1908 and 1927, and this brought many changes to the fabric of agricultural and industrial America.

  • 1934: Chrysler Streamlines Auto Designs

The streamlined Airflow models of Chrysler arrived at this time, and they had a similar design to aircrafts. However, this was a flop, and the lineup was canceled after three years. Some of the innovations of these lineups, like the all-steel bodies, were adopted by other automakers.

  • 1938: Launch of the Volkswagen Beetle

The inspiration for this vehicle was drawn from Henry Ford’s Model T. Basically, Adolf Hitler wanted an affordable car that the masses could afford, and this formed the building blocks for the Beetle factory in Germany. After a few years, this lineup became a major hit in different parts of the world, and the car company experienced major advancements. However, its production ended in 1999.

  • 1940: Introduction of the First Jeep

With signs of war everywhere, the US Army urged automakers to design vehicles suitable for military duty. The three automakers to respond were Willys-Overland, Ford, and Bantam, and they all brought different designs.

Introduction of First Jeep

Willys provided a four-wheel drive prototype named Quad and produced more than 700,000 jeeps between 1941 and 1945, after which it started manufacturing cars for civilian use. One of the direct descendants of Willys Jeep is the Jeep Wrangler.

  • 1965: The Book “Unsafe at Any Speed” Is Published

Before this safety publication was published, there were no safety standards for the use of cars. A few months after the publication, President Lyndon Johnson introduced an agency that became the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Safety rules included the adoption of airbags, seat belts, and electronic stability controls by car manufacturers. This was a significant advancement as car crashes moved from 5.3 deaths per 100 million miles in 1965 to 1.1 deaths per 100 million miles in 2019.

  • 1971: Lunar Rover Cruises the Moon

The Apollo 15, 16, and 17 missions had three Lunar Roving Vehicles navigate the dusty surface of the moon, all of which were left on the moon after the mission. These Rovers were built by Boeing, and their key features include being lightweight, foldable, and battery-powered. The Rovers could also reach a maximum speed of 11.2mph.

  • 1981: First Cabon-Fiber Race Car

This is the McLaren MP4/1, and it features an ultra-strong and lightweight carbon chassis. The lineup only took a season before making Formula One outdated. It also brought changes to the world of racing with supercar lineups in 1992. Today, one of the main components of high-end supercars manufacturing is carbon fiber.

  • 1997: Toyota Prius

Even though it was first launched in Japan, its tagline wasn’t enough to make it groundbreaking. However, its fuel-saving ability brought about massive sales, with different rivals seeking to make their gas-electric hybrids.

Toyota Prius Car

This brought about the promotion of the chief engineer of Prius, Takeshi Uchiyamada, to become a member of the board of directors in 2013.

  • 2005: Production of the Fastest Car

Bugatti Veyron from Volkswagen shocked the world by unleashing a lineup with a 16-cylinder engine, four-turbo, and 987 horsepower. Another fascinating thing about the lineup was the ability to reach a top speed of 249mph.

  • 2008: Robotic Prius

This was the work of 510 systems, and it led to the development of the first autonomous drive vehicles. The unveiling was a television stunt that involved the delivery of pizza, and the car was led by a police escort over San Francisco’s Bay Bridge.

  • 2008 to Date: Continued Advancements in Car Technology

Over the past years, there have been many technological advancements that have introduced different technological features in cars. This has also bought about the development of different types of cars, including electric cars like Tesla that completely utilize electricity to run.

Apart from the development of electric vehicles, there are many other features that are now seen in sports cars and regular vehicles.

Timeline of When Car Components Were Introduced

The history of cars timeline is not restricted to when different car types and models were introduced but also covers car technology itself. Car evolution also ushered in different amazing features that we see being widely applied in vehicles today.
We’ll highlight these features and when they were first introduced below.

  • 1911 to 1921: Electric Ignition Starters and Cigarette Lighters

As mentioned earlier, the electric ignition started to eliminate the use of hand cranks to power the engine, which was hazardous. This technology was first used on a Cadillac. Another amazing feature is the cigarette lighters which were introduced in 1921. By 1925, it became a standard feature on most American cars.

  • 1930 to 1959: Introduction of Features for Safety and Driving Comfort

Many car tech features were introduced during this timeline, with car radio being the first. This tech could only access AM frequency, but after two decades, it advanced and could receive FM frequency. Coil spring suspension was introduced in 1934 to increase driving comfort. These springs were placed on each wheel, and they were designed to absorb shock.

Car keys provide a more advanced way to run vehicles, and this was introduced in 1949 to start the ignition and electric start. Power steering was introduced in 1951, a technology that utilizes hydraulic power to increase the pressure on wheels. Another feature to increase drive comfort is air conditioning, which was introduced in 1953 with three main settings, which are low, medium, and high.

In 1958 and 1959, cruise control and seatbelts were introduced. This was to further enhance driving safety and minimize road accidents.

  • 1960s and 1970s: More Innovative Features

Here’s an overview of the features that were introduced between the 1960s and the 1970s:

  • Electric windows were introduced in during the 1960s, and this was mostly found on luxury models.
  • Intermittent windshield wipers were introduced in 1969, which made it possible for drivers to adjust the speed of their wipers.
  • Cassette tape stereos entered the scene in the 1970s.
  • ABS technology was introduced in 1971, and this is a safety feature that helps to prevent skidding.
  • Catalytic converters, used to reduce harmful and toxic emissions from vehicles, were introduced in 1973.
  • Digital dashboard displays were introduced in 1974, and they first appeared on Aston Martin Lagonda.

Innovative Features of Car


  • Timeline for More Advanced Features

From the 1980s, the automobile industry started to witness the introduction of more advanced features like CD players in 1984 and airbags in 1988. In 1992, vehicles started featuring electromagnetic parking sensors designed to make driving easier. GPS systems were introduced in 2000, which is a technology that has become a lot more accurate today.

Between 2000 and 2003, the main advancements in the automotive industry include the development of hybrid cars, Bluetooth, reversing cameras, and automatic parking. All of these features were improved over the years, and during the 2010s, driver assist features were introduced. Examples of these features include headlamp high beam control, cross-traffic alerts, blind spot warnings, and lane departure warnings.

The automobile industry hasn’t stopped growing since then, and some of the features we see today include the Tesla autopilot, which was introduced in 2014, 4G Wi-Fi hotspots, self-driving cars, and advanced heads-up displays. All of these are features that further make driving easier, safer, and more comfortable. It is expected that in the near future, we’ll see technologies like gesture control, biometric access, and more advanced self-driving cars being introduced.

Why Are SEL Vehicles Considered a Milestone in the Evolution of the Vehicle Industry?

Examining SEL vehicles reveals why they are seen as a milestone in the evolution of the vehicle industry. SEL, or “self-driving, electric, and connected” vehicles, represent a major shift in the automotive landscape. They offer the potential for safer, cleaner, and more efficient transportation. From reducing accidents to minimizing carbon emissions, these vehicles are pushing the boundaries of what is possible in the automotive industry. As technology advances, SEL vehicles are poised to revolutionize how we travel and shape the future of the vehicle industry.


In this guide, we have highlighted everything you should know about automobile history and the evolution of the automotive industry.

  • History of cars timelines shows the different types of cars introduced over the past century.
  • From the use of hand cranks to power vehicles to electric vehicles today, there have been so many advancements in car technology over the years.
  • Different features have also been introduced during this timeline, among which include onboard diagnostics, connected cars, hybrid cars, Bluetooth technology, and self-driving cars.

Cars today offer so many amazing features, and these features all stem from different technological advancements over the years, which we have highlighted above.

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