The noughties were an exciting decade for many reasons. It was the dawn of the 21st Century, and suddenly the future seemed a whole lot closer. Technology was advancing faster than ever and Apple was on a mission to transform the world, first with the iPod, and then by introducing the world to the iPhone. Meanwhile, the car industry was desperately trying to keep up, ensuring we could make use of all these new devices on the go.
Massaging seats (2000)
Before the rise of the smartphone the likes of Mercedes and Cadillac were busy adding to the catalogue of features offered on their premium executive saloons. One of the more exotic of those additions was massaging seats. Who doesn’t like the idea of having all their stress and tension whisked away by a seat that doubles up as a masseuse?
The earliest massaging seats were limited in their function, but did at least offer some respite for your back on long journeys. The best part about this innovation is that it has progressed massively over the years, to the point where you can not only ask your car for a massage, but choose the style of massage, pin point an area of your body that needs attending to, and dictate how vigorous said attention ought to be. We’re a demanding bunch, aren’t we?
GPS navigation (2000)
Image having to find your way around without sat nav these days. This is another one of those ‘how the hell did we cope’ situations where it just seems crazy to think we used to manage without a digital map telling us where to go.
The Global Positioning System, or GPS, was a project started by the US in the 1970s, but for the first three decades it was only intended and available for military use. That changed on 1st May 2000 when GPS access was extended to civilians. This paved the way for car manufacturers to install GPS receivers in their cars, and introduce what is quite possibly the most useful automotive innovation of all time.
The early years of the 21st Century also saw the rise of Bluetooth, a wireless connection that would allow all manner of electrical devices to connect to each other and transfer data. The first Bluetooth-equipped phone was released to the public in 2000, and car manufacturers were not far behind.
In fact, it was Chrysler that was first to introduce the technology in a car with its Uconnect system, which was developed in 1999 and initially made available as an aftermarket addition for its cars, before becoming a standard feature in 2003. This innovation built the coffin for CD players before nailing it shut by the end of the decade.
Rear-view camera (2002)
How many of us have accidentally reversed into a hazard we hadn’t seen? This writer, up to now, has not – not while reversing anyway – but it’s a very easy mistake to make, at least it was before rear-view cameras started showing up.
Toyota had given the idea a try in the 1990s, but it was only available in Japan and lasted just six years before it was discontinued. Then, in the year 2000 Nissan, together with its subsidiary Infiniti, introduced its RearView Monitor system. It incorporated a camera mounted on the rear license plate, which beamed an image onto a dashboard-mounted LCD display. This was the first internationally available rear-view camera when it was made available on the Nissan Primera in 2002. This has since evolved into the even more useful 360-degree cameras, which basically mean none of us should ever have an annoying car park prang ever again. Right?
The dual-clutch transmission (DCT) was an instrumental part of bringing the automatic gearbox into the 21st Century. Before its introduction on road cars, automatics had a reputation for being slow and clunky and not at all well suited to drivers who wanted to enjoy their time behind the wheel, the DCT, though, has since become a symbol for silky, almost seamless gear changes which are far quicker than anything you can manage with a manual stick.
In basic terms, the DCT includes two clutches, one to drive the odd gears, and another for the even gears. This way, as one disengages, the other can almost instantaneously engage, and thus the shift from gear to gear is far smoother than a single clutch system. The first road car to make use of this system, which had spent three decades being used in race cars including the Porsche 962, was the still-glorious Volkswagen Golf R32 in 2003.