Skip the auto shop - Our mechanics make house calls

Q: When did cars first start using sensors?

asked by on

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?

Need advice from certified mechanic? Get help now!

Over 1000 mechanics are ready to answer your question.
The statements expressed above are only for informational purposes and should be independently verified. Please see our terms of service for more details

Ask a Mechanic
(100% Free)

Have a car question? Get free advice from our top-rated mechanics.

Ask A Mechanic
Over 10,000 questions answered!
  1. Home
  2. Questions
  3. When did cars first start using sensors?

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

Q: check engine light

Anything is possible, however, it is not likely that the oxygen sensor shorted your computer. If your computer was damaged, your vehicle would not be drivable in most cases. You did not specify the code you read, so it makes...

Q: Where is temperature sensor

The engine coolant temperature sensor should be located on the radiator hose fitting on the front of the engine. The connector is locked in place by a clip lock on the connector housing that needs to be depressed at the...

Q: I have replaced the rear wheel bearings and subsequent to that the speedometer stops working. what might be the problem?

Hello - you don't mention your year/make/model, which would be helpful. Most vehicles now use electronic sensors for the speedometer function. Some of these sensors are in the transmission, some use the speed sensors in the wheel hub for speedometer,...

Related articles

How Do Power Car Windows Increase Passenger Safety?
Power windows are responsible for approximately 2,000 emergency room visits every year. When a power window closes, it exerts enough force to bruise or break bones, crush fingers, or restrict an airway. Though...
P0052 OBD-II Trouble Code: HO2S Heater Control Circuit High (Bank 2 Sensor 1)
P0052 code definition HO2S Heater Control Circuit High (Bank 2 Sensor 1) What the...
P2103 OBD-II Trouble Code: Throttle Actuator Control Motor Circuit High
P2103 means there is a fault with the throttle actuator control motor circuit, likely due to a defective electrical component or part.