5 New Car Features That Aren't Really New - Chevy Spark Forum : Chevrolet Spark Forums
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post #1 of 2 Old 08-24-2012, 01:05 PM Thread Starter
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5 New Car Features That Aren't Really New

"New" sells (well, unless you're talking about New Coke). But while marketers trumpet every car feature like it's never been seen before, many "new" features of today first appeared decades ago.

Pushbutton Shifting

The 2013 MKZ, Lincoln's new midsize sedan arriving in dealerships this fall, won't have a lever in the center console that lets you shift between neutral, reverse, and drive. Instead, five electric pushbuttons electromechanically "shift" a conventional automatic transmission.

These buttons on the dash trigger an electric motor that physically moves cables connected to the automatic's mechanical shift mechanism. In an ordinary car, the shift lever would be connected to a console- or column-mounted shift lever.

Pushbutton Shifting

Lincoln may be making a big deal out of the MKZ's feature, but pushbutton shifting is a century old. The idea surfaced early in the development of the automobile. Several small automakers fitted the Vulcan electromechanical gearshift systems to cars and trucks as early as 1913.

Chrysler popularized leverless shifting with the system it introduced in 1956. The pushbutton mechanism mechanically operated the automatic transmission via cables, eliminating traditional column- and console-mounted shifters. Chrysler offered pushbutton shifters on many of its cars and light trucks through 1964. Hundreds of thousands of vehicles sold in the 1950s and '60s had this feature.

Ford briefly toyed with pushbutton shifting with the Teletouch system offered on Edsel products (1957 to 59). Packard used the technology in its Touch Button Ultramatic of 1956. The more complex Ford and Packard solutions were unreliable and quickly went out of production. As a result, the technology never really caught on with the general public, so Chrysler dropped its push-button shifter too.

Direct Injection

As a way to save fuel by building smaller engines without sacrificing performance, more manufacturers are turning to gasoline direct fuel injection. Putting the fuel injector inside the combustion chamber (compared with placing the injector upsteam of the chamber in the intake manifold) simultaneously improves efficiency and power. Direct injection is superior to traditional port fuel injection, throttle-body injection, and traditional carburetors, so it's not uncommon to hear automakers boasting about this tech.

Direct Injection

Mercedes-Benz introduced gasoline direct injection to the automotive world in 1955 on the now-iconic 300SL. The gullwing sports car used a system developed by Bosch, still one of the biggest companies building injection systems.

By the time the 300SL hit the road, Mercedes-Benz and Bosch had more than a decade of experience with gasoline direct fuel injection. In the 1940s the companies worked together to build engines for the Nazi Luftwaffe that could operate in negative-g flying maneuvers, and a reliable gasoline direct injection system satisfied this demand. And in diesel engines, direct injection goes back even further—to the 1920s.

But fuel injection controls of the 1950s weren't sufficiently well developed for direct injection technology to take off. Furthermore, it was a lot cheaper and simpler to use a carburetor.
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post #2 of 2 Old 08-24-2012, 01:06 PM Thread Starter
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Pushbutton Starting

In new cars and trucks such as the Nissan Altima and Ford Escape, the traditional ignition key is disappearing in favor of a key fob and a dash-mounted start button.

The trend started on luxury cars early in the 2000s. Dash-mounted button starters have now migrated down-market to some of the most affordable vehicles coming to market.

If you think pushbutton starting is a new idea, though, you need to look back a century into automotive history.

Pushbutton Starting

In the early 1900s, cars didn't start with keys. You stood outside the vehicle and brought the engine to life by hand cranking it up to starting speed. This literal exercise left a person huffing and puffing and included genuine risk to life and limb. A backfiring engine could whip the hand crank from the operator's hand with force enough to break an arm or split a skull.

Henry Leland, founder of both Cadillac and Lincoln, commissioned Charles Kettering to develop a practical, affordable electric starter to improve the safety of early cars. Cadillac introduced the pushbutton electric starter in 1912. The electric starter saved lives, reduced injuries, and helped democratize automobiles—finally, people without the physical strength to crank an engine could drive.

The interface for electric-start systems varied through the decades. The old-fashioned dash- and floor-mounted start buttons eventually gave way to key-start ignitions that dominated the industry for almost 90 years.
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