With billions of dollars and almost unlimited R&D opportunities, it seems pretty obvious that some of the military's technical advances would eventually find their way into your car. From civilian academic projects to innovations developed to keep troops safe on the battlefield, these eight examples ensure you and your loved ones stay protected on a daily basis.
1. Anti-lock Braking Systems
Developed: Late 1940s and early 1950s
The concept of anti-lock brakes comes from the aeronautical industry, as pilots had difficulty applying brakes without locking them up during landing at higher speeds. ABS really took off (no pun intended) with the dawn of the jet age after WWII—Dunlop developed an ABS system called Maxaret that was used on most of the Royal AIr Force, and by the mid-1960s, it was even fitted on the famed Jensen FF.
2. Carbon fiber
Developed: Early 1960s
Believe it or not, the very first strands of carbon fiber were invented by Thomas Edison for use as filament in his first light bulb. It wasn’t until the British Ministry of Defense figured out how to produce it in sheets, however, that it really became useful.
Developed: Post WWI
If you’ve ever seen a submarine movie, you know exactly how SOund Navigation And Ranging is used. In a car, that’s your parking sensors. Just...don’t pull any crazy Ivans.
4. Head-Up Display
Developed: Late 1950s
Head-Up Displays, or HUDs, were originally meant for pilots to be able to accurately aim weapons without moving their eyes down to the cockpit and having to refocus. While it took a long time for that tech to reach the mainstream automotive world, it still serves a similar purpose.
Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation has more uses than reading CDs, zapping enemies from space, or illegally blinding pilots from your backyard. Laser headlights are already a thing...at least in Europe. And laser detection will be integral to most autonomous driving systems in the coming years.
6. Night Vision
Developed: WWII and refined for the Vietnam War
Think back to all those night vision images from the first Gulf War, and then realize that at that point in time, Cadillac was already deeply involved in integrating that system into one of its road cars.
The very first RAdio Detection And Ranging devices were actually civilian, and were designed to help ships navigate through less-than-favorable conditions. World War II, however, brought about heavy research that transformed radar into what we know it as today. It does everything on your car from telling the cruise control when to speed up or slow down, to helping you avoid collisions with rapidly-approaching objects.
What?! Hear me out for a second. Four-wheel drive isn't military by nature but the 4x4 is. The original Willys Jeep was designed specifically for the U.S. government during WWII, and was a significant source of inspiration for the earliest Land Rovers, which were in turn almost directly copied in the form of the Land Cruiser.