Thank Japan for everything that makes modern cars great
Nowadays, vehicle technology is taken for granted almost as quickly as it is implemented. Whether it’s navigation, Bluetooth, or heated seats, a vehicle without modern conveniences is considered inferior to those with them.
Many of the features consumers now need in a vehicle were pioneered by Japanese automakers. In a YouTube video, Donut Media drops truth bombs about the Japanese origins of car features we take for granted.
Toyota production system
Due to a lack of space, Japanese vehicle factories cannot carry huge amounts of inventory like those in America. So in 1948, Toyota implemented the Toyota Production System, with the goal of reducing excess waste while increasing efficiency.
The system is so typically Japanese, but the inspiration actually came from a visit to an American supermarket. Customers bought the items they wanted and the store restocked the shelves as needed. Now known as Lean Manufacturing, this meant the factory only needed to stock the parts needed, when they were needed.
In the 1990s, American manufacturers began to catch on to the idea, with Ford being one of the first to implement Lean Manufacturing with the Taurus.
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Filtering the oil inside an engine wasn’t invented in Japan, but it wasn’t until Toyota optimized the system that it became fully effective.
US engines would only filter about 10% of the oil, which would translate to a lifespan of only 50,000 miles (~80,000 km). It seems like common sense now, but Toyota has developed a system to filter 100% of the oil in the engine, virtually quadrupling the life of the engine. Cleaner engines can also be built to tighter tolerances, improving efficiency and performance.
Japan has not only revolutionized the way cars are built, it has also radically changed the way we use them in our daily lives.
The idea of on-board navigation may have first appeared in the 007 DB5, but Honda was actually able to build it for its 1981 Honda Accord – even though it was a 2,746 option. $.
In 1982, Honda realized that a helium-filled gyroscope on the dash wasn’t the best solution for a portable board, but the seed had already been planted. GPS navigation as we know it would debut on the 1991 Toyota Soarer (Lexus SC400 in the US), and once again America would take notice and offer “Guide Star” navigation on the Oldsmobile. Eighty-Eight from 1995.
With the requirement for cars to be safer in an accident, their size had to increase in almost all directions. Thicker pillars to keep the roof from collapsing in a rollover meant vehicles became harder to see, but Japan had a solution for that too.
Japan has always been a pioneer in video technology, so it wasn’t too difficult for engineers to figure out how to mount a small rear-facing CCD camera so you can see behind you. For the 1991 Toyota Soarer, there was already a screen on the dash for navigation, so the connection was as easy as plugging in a VCR (remember that?)
As a bonus, the multi-function display also featured touch control, an absolute must in any new vehicle today.
In this case, it was actually Ford that got to chips in vehicles before any other manufacturer, but the chips themselves were made by Toshiba in Japan.
Microchips control almost all operations, including fuel injection, gear shifting, traction control, power windows, door locks and even the accelerator pedal. Without the microchip, modern automotive technology would simply not be possible.
So the next time you hop in your vehicle, take a moment to reflect on how much it’s done technologically – and perhaps the things we have the Japanese auto industry to thank for.