So, what's changed?
I’ve been driving for nearly a quarter of a century now and I can’t help but admire the speed at which the car industry has evolved during that time. My first car was a blue 1992 Vauxhall Astra and I was lucky enough that my parents offered to buy it for me, under the binding lifelong agreement that I’d never buy a motorbike.
1992 Vauxhall Astra
Despite dreaming of one day owning a white Opel Manta I loved my pride and joy, it was everything I needed to get me around as a 19 year old and it was mine. Cars were easily ‘improved’ back then too, so it was the done thing to remove the tape deck and replace it with a third-party cd player and I fondly remember my brother and I drilling holes in the boot to fit a Blaupunkt CD multichanger, feeding cabling around the door trims, behind the glovebox and into the radio. To deter thieves, the front of the radio was removable, but this meant you had to carry it around with you in a neat little case (or you’d put in on the roof and forget it). The cd player wasn’t great though, it jumped at every bump in the road. I actually had to put the keys in the door to unlock it too – unthinkable in today’s high tech world.
My poor parents had to find their way around using only their sense of direction, while I had to print out directions obtained from the AA website (other websites are available!) and try to navigate while driving, but today’s young drivers are spoon fed directions, both visually and audibly. My Dad had to fit seatbelts & door mirrors to his first car (a 1956 Ford Prefect 105E), but the safety features these days are lengthy to say the least.
1956 Ford Prefect 105E
My early experiences behind the wheel weren’t even that long ago, relatively speaking, but fast forward to 2018 and the cars of today are unrecognisable. Many of the cars we drive still have the same names (Golf, Fiesta, Astra etc), but they are a different beast entirely. The quality of build and the technological advances that have been made in such a short amount of time are just immense. It used to be debatable whether I’d be able to stop in time for a roundabout, but today I have a car that not only stops quickly and reliably, but it stops for me. Without me touching the brake pedal. This is the stuff of science fiction.
I am no longer blinded by lights in my rear view mirror, I have more airbags than I can shake a stick at and my lights turn themselves on and off automatically. My trusty steed helpfully indicates when my tyres are flat, so no more pulling over unexpectedly in a lay by with a flat and trying to find a phone box. It warns me if I’m going too fast and takes the guesswork out of how much fuel I have left, although petrol roulette was an adrenaline rush I quite enjoyed. A cd player is a thing of the past and there are so many fancy gizmos available that drilling and tinkering is no longer needed. Who could have foreseen playing music from your phone without a cable? A car that recognises when you’re tired and tells you to take a break? A car that closes your windows for you if it thinks you’re about to have a crash? These are all things we take for granted in our modern culture and prove how far we have come in such a short amount of time.
I have two young children and I can’t even imagine what type of futuristic car I might be offering to buy them in 15 or 20 years’ time. Perhaps my agreement to never buy a motorbike will be replaced with an offer to only buy them something that drives itself? Some sort of flying DeLorean? Maybe Back to the Future was spot on with its prediction that cars of the future will fly, powered by a fusion reactor? Who knows, but it’s an exciting prospect and I hope I’m still working in the industry to witness it.
Author: Stuart Magill