Q: When did cars first start using sensors?

asked by on November 18, 2015

When did cars first start using sensors?

The earliest types of sensors have been around since the 1950s. Low oil pressure warning lights and charging system warning lights on the instrument panel were relatively simple sensor circuits that would turn on a light to alert the driver to a problem. There was obviously no computer to monitor specific conditions in these early years. There were some early 1970’s examples of electronic fuel control using sensors developed by Bosch and used on brands like Mercedes Benz, VW, Porsche, and Datsun.

Electronically controlled systems using sensors began to be more widely installed on vehicles in the late 70’s and early 80’s in response to U.S. EPA emissions standards requiring the use of catalytic convertors. Catalytic convertors require the O2 sensors to be in order to operate most efficiently. The very basic computers were called electronic control modules (ECMs). Once a computer is installed in the system, then sensors can be used to input information to that computer. The list of sensors has grown from that point. This was also the beginning of a Check Engine Light being used to inform drivers that a fault was detected in the system.

Most of the first computer controlled automotive systems used sensors primarily to improve fuel control in order to reduce tailpipe emissions. Now sensors are used to monitor everything from raindrops on the windshield to reminding us when it’s time for an oil change. And at this point, there are no signs of the sensor trend ending anytime soon.

Was this answer helpful?
The statements expressed above are only for informational purposes and should be independently verified. Please see our terms of service for more details

Get an instant quote for your car

Our certified mechanics come to you ・Backed by 12-month, 12,000-mile guarantee・Fair and transparent pricing

Get a quote

What others are asking

Service Engine Soon Light came on yesterday.

While the oxygen sensor may be the cause of the service engine soon light coming on, it's best to have a certified technician correctly diagnose why the service engine light is on. When the service engine soon - or check...

The oil light keeps coming on when we brake or park.

This may be a sign of a faulty or failing oil pressure sending unit switch. This is a unit that monitors the oil pressure inside the engine block and relays this information to the computer. When this is faulty or...

Accelerator not as responsive at times.

Hello. This may be a sign of a failing throttle position sensor. The throttle position sensor (TPS) is a sensor used to monitor the throttle position of the throttle plate inside the throttle body in relation to your foot position...

Related articles

Is It Unsafe to Continue Driving a Vehicle with Broken Wheel Speed Sensors?
Car wheel speed sensors are an important safety feature. It helps the ABS system work when you need to make an emergency stop.
How to Buy a Good Quality Crankshaft Position Sensor
Just Just like the name indicates, the crankshaft position sensor monitors the rotation speed and position of the crankshaft. The crankshaft is what turns the engine’s piston power into a force that can actually move the vehicle. Its position must...
What Sensors Make the ABS Work?
When When we are discussing ABS systems it is good to note the year and make of your vehicle because ABS systems have evolved quite a bit over the years, but you also have to know how the ABS system...