The automobiles of 1980 are recognizably related to those on sale today. In its overall concept, the layout of the average family sedan has barely changed at all, despite the development of practical new body styles, such as the multi-passenger vehicle or the super-compact suburban runabout.
However, the systems within today’s cars have benefited from three decades of sustained refinement by engineers and designers. Cars are almost unbelievably more efficient than in previous decades, as well as boasting vastly increased active and passive safety to protect drivers and passengers. They also emit a tiny fraction of the harmful chemicals that were once an accepted by-product of mass car ownership.
Popular cars are as standardized as they ever were, with similar models created by manufacturers right around the globe. But that has been no bar to imaginative thinking, as this chapter amply proved. Meanwhile, the search for alternatives to oil is propelling automobile design ever further into the future, with advances in electric, hydrogen, and even solar power.