What did we do before Wi-Fi? 7 ways technology has changed our driving lives


The average family car is one of the biggest barometers of technological change in society. Both beneath the bonnet and inside the cabin have seen remarkable changes as the automotive industry has tried to keep up with, and occasionally influence, changes in drivers’ behaviour.

Here are some of the tech innovations that have had the biggest impact on our relationships with vehicles over the last decade or so – whether that be the family car or the long-haulage freight truck.

1 Self-driving aids

Reversing into a tricky parking slot used to a constant cause for sweaty palms. With so many cars now fitted with automatic reversing, you can sit back and let your vehicle do the work – without the swearing. It’s slightly unnerving seeing your steering wheel rotate this way and that, but it works.

Google’s entirely self-driving car isn’t too far away, along with versions from BMW, Mercedes and Hyundai. (And we haven’t even mentioned Apple’s long-rumoured iCar. TechRadar.com has, though.)

For drivers of commercial vehicles – trucks, trailers, lorries, coaches and so on – vehicle safety systems have improved significantly thanks to the increase in sensor accuracy, adaptive cruise control and lane monitoring.

2 Electric and hybrid vehicles

They’ve been slow to take off, but with Toyota leading the charge with its pioneering Prius, hybrid cars are now a common sight on the road. Government grants to encourage take-up, road tax discounts for eco-friendly vehicles and a perception shift from oddball vehicles to sleek, green humming machines means partially and wholly electric vehicles are becoming as fashionable as they are clean.

Next to look out for: hydrogen powered cars, as reported by Independent.co.uk.



The humble A to Z is no more; the frustrated passenger craning their neck to spot reference points is just a memory. Sat-nav systems made possible by the global positioning satellites floating high above us now direct us efficiently and (mostly) stress-free to our destinations.


4 Smartphone entertainment

It used to be that you connected your CD Walkman to your car hi-fi via a specially adapted cassette inserted into the tape deck. Now Bluetooth connectivity means you can slip your smartphone into a little stand and transmit your favourite music to your in-car entertainment system. No more scrabbling around for CDs, but there’s still a question over whether arguments over song choices have been reduced.

You can also turn your smartphone into your car’s central computer, with apps specially designed to help your driving style, detect speed cameras or spot the cheapest local fuel deals.


5 Touch controls


As well as more cars incorporating touchscreens into their control consoles, several manufacturers have also introduced fingerprint detecting locks and ignition switches. After all, one rarely loses their thumb down the back of the sofa.


6 Head-up displays

We’re not quite there yet, but real-time traffic information and travel updates could soon be beamed onto parts of the windscreen. The concern is of overloading drivers with too much data at once, but in theory it could mean you never have to take your eyes off the road.


7 Internet

More specifically, how we buy cars. Now you can configure your possible next car on a manufacturer’s website with all the kit, add-ons and extra features you fancy and take a virtual tour to see how you like it. Then, you book a test drive online and in some cases the car is delivered to your home for you to try out. It means car salesperson chat could soon fade out.