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Home » Blog » Top 5: The biggest advances in car tech since 1985

Today is a landmark day in modern film - we have officially arrived in the future! October 21, 2015 was the infamous day where the future was depicted by Robert Zemeckis in Back to the Future 2. Thirty years ago we saw Marty McFly arriving in 1985's version of the future, October 21st, 2015. It may have seemed a far flung future but that day is now here.

Marty was blown away by everything that the 2015 America has to offer and the film actually got a few things right; video conferencing is now commonplace, as are tablet computers, fingerprint recognition and the virtual reality headsets seen throughout the film. However, not all predictions have made it to the reality of 2015. Unfortunately those that didn't make it include flying cars, self-drying jackets, remote-control dog walkers and the infamous hoverboard - although the modern 2 wheel segways are certainly a futuristic addition to our streets.

Whilst some contemporary technology might not live up to the fictional aspirations, one area where it has surpassed them is with the technology in today's cars. To celebrate the 30-year anniversary, we look at some of the commonplace in-car gadgetry which would have blown even Doc Brown's mind back in 1985 (Time travelling and flying capability aside, of course):

Parking sensors

The parking sensors in our cars are now something which every car owner takes for granted, ensuring that craning your neck to stop yourself reversing into that lamppost a thing of the past.

The original concept behind parking sensors was actually patented back in 1983. It's hard to imagine it now, but at first manufacturers didn't see any point in the system! It wasn't until the next decade that parking sensors began to be used in premium and luxury cars. 

Of course now they are used in conjunction with reversing cameras which help guide us in to the space - and many new cars even incorporate a self-parking system. The new BMW 7-Series parks itself with a simple press of the key fob.


Back in 1986, Aston Martin launched one of the most advanced cars of the era, the Series 3 Aston Martin Lagonda. The car featured an array of displays for the speedometer and dashboard but these were actually CRT monitors, similar to those found in older televisions! They were way ahead of their time but now things are even more advanced.

The LCD screens we see in cars today are really a world apart, as compact touchscreens which can display graphics in high definition and even mimic the display of our smartphones. Displays are now moving further towards the windscreen with the rising popularity of the Heads-Up Display (HUD). Just check out this image which shows all the essential information a HUD can display:


The internet wasn't even a consideration at the time of filming Back to the Future 2 in 1989, which speaks volumes about how far things have come. The internet endured a positively meteoric rise during the mid-nineties, and now even our cars are becoming connected to it as well.

For example, the Mercedes-Benz Me service allows you to change your car's settings (such as the climate control temperature) or find your parked car from your smartphone.

In the future, cars will feature on-board WiFi connectivity which all not only let them connect to the internet directly to download software updates and other features, but also act as a wireless hotspot!

Night Vision

A car with night vision is something you might imagine is from the set of the latest James Bond film, but infrared cameras have been in use on cars for well over ten years. It's incredibly cool, but is also designed as an innovative safety feature, which allows the car to 'see' at night.

A good example is the Night View Assist feature found on flagship and luxury models. An infrared camera can detect pedestrians and animals in the distance up to 160m away, warning the driver instantly before they have even been spotted. It's one feature that definitely wasn't on the DeLorean!

Self-Driving Cars

Cruise control is a hugely popular feature which has been available since the early 1970's. First only available in larger cars, now even superminis feature a cruise control and speed limiter function. But now, things are going one step further.

True self-driving cars have been around since the mid-1980's, but soon will become a reality in parts of America. Google have retrofitted a number of cars with their own driverless system, and to date have completed over one million accident-free miles driving around California. Google aims to make these cars available to the public by 2020.

Cars may not be able to fly on the San Francisco Skyways just yet, but self-driving cars are bringing us one step closer!

What in-car technology couldn't you live without? Let us know on Facebook and Twitter using the hashtag #BTTF2015, or find your own hi-tech vehicle on our used car listings.