The Top 15 Car Innovations of All Time

What Historical Car Innovations Are The Most Significant?

Updated October 1, 2018

The first motor-propelled vehicle was made in France in 1769 and the first car was sold in the United States in 1898.

Since then the car has been a work in progress slowly evolving into what we have today. Through the years there has been improvements that helped the car perform and ride better, made it easier to maneuver, and more comfortable and safer to ride in. Moreover, many of the most innovative enhancements have come in just the last 10 years.

There are so many great innovations it wouldn’t be fair to list only 10. However, it’s no fun drawing up a list that includes them all. It’s best to be selective and then wait for the arguments from readers on why one or another was not included.

So, this list is going to include what I consider to be the Top 15 Car Innovations of All Time. No doubt, there will be a lot of you who won’t agree. So, let us know it.


1) The Steam Engine. It was steam engines that powered the earliest cars. In fact, it was the engine of choice because they were widely in use when the first cars were being driven out of the factories. Mechanics of the day knew how they worked and how to fix them.

Car Innovations - Steam Engine


2) Gasoline Engine. By 1920, the internal combustion engine had made steam engines obsolete and remained the standard for the next 96 years.

Car Innovations - Gasoline Engine


3) Automatic Transmission. Introduced in 1940, the Hydra-Matic was the first mass-produced automatic transmission. There was no longer a need to shift gears as the speed of the car increased and now just about anyone could drive a car.

Car Innovations - Automatic Transmission


4) Power Steering. Although there was power steering available when the first cars were made, it was too expensive for people to afford. In 1951 Chrysler introduced the Imperial that included “Hydraguide” power steering. It was affordable and made it much easier to turn the wheel.

Car Innovations - Power Steering


5) Electronic Stability Systems. The computerized system makes it easier to control the car.

Car Innovations - Electronic Stability System


6) Airbags. Prior to the advent of airbags thousands of people died due to auto accidents. After airbags were introduced in the late 1980s cars were much safer to ride in and thousands of lives were saved each year.

Car Innovations - Air Bags


7) Electric Engines. When a car’s MPG became an issue after the first oil embargo in the 1970s drivers became concerned and later the electric engine was introduced as an alternative to the gasoline engine.

Car Innovations - Electric Engine


8) Start/Stop Technology. Even the simple action of stopping the car by pushing down the brake and then starting it up again when pushing down the accelerator can save a pretty decent amount of gasoline if you’re driving in rush hour in a big city.

Car Innovations - Stop-Start Tech


9) GPS Navigation Systems. It sure is better to follow directions on a display in the center console of the car than reading a map or asking someone for directions.

Car Innovations - GPS Navigation System


10) Auto Security Systems with Push-Button Remotes. The remotes serve as key fobs. Not only can they turn a car alarm system on and off, they can also unlock the car door, start the engine, honk the car’s horn and flash the lights so you can find the car in a crowded parking lot, and pop open the car’s trunk.

Car Innovations - Key Fob


11) DVD Players/CD Changers. They keep the kids entertained during long trips. There’s no need now to play silly games like 20-questions or hear the kids complain, “Are we there yet?” Grown-ups can also hear their favorite songs continuously playing on the car audio system.

Car Innovations - DVD Entertainment Systems


12) Fuel Cells. Although they are still being developed and in use only sparingly, hydrogen fuel cells could be the technology that finally puts an end to carbon dioxide emissions from our cars.

Car Innovations - Fuel Cells


13) Satellite/Internet Radio/Infotainment Systems. No need to rely on nearby radio stations to entertain you. Just tune into your favorite Sirius/XM radio station or find a station anywhere in the world on the Internet.

Car Innovations - Satellite Radio


14) Driverless Cars. Google is now testing autonomous or driverless cars. Some day you can sit in the back seat and let your car do the driving as you watch a DVD, read the newspaper, listen to your favorite tunes, or answer your email.

Car Innovations - Driverless Car


15) Bluetooth. No need to lay your smartphone on the empty passenger seat and fumble for it when a call comes in. Just plug it into your car’s Bluetooth and you can receive and make calls and listen to your favorite tunes on your smartphone playlist.

Car Innovations - Bluetooth




Chris Riley
About Chris Riley

I have been wrecking cars for as long as I've been driving them but I keep coming back for more. Two wheels or four, I'm all in. gives me a chance to give something back to the automobile community.

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