Cars traveling in Northern VirginiaCredit: Leigh GoesslSince the inception of motorized travel in the earth 20th century, the designs of cars have dramatically changed through the decades. For instance, crank engines made way for fuel-powered engines and, over time, features and gadgets have been added or removed as carmakers developed their models to keep up with developing technologies.

In the 21st century, there are several car features that have become obsolete. Others are in the process of being put into retirement. Some of the removals from what was previously considered "standard" are perhaps surprising, while others are likely totally predictable. Either way, if you are not a newly licensed driver, chances are you have used some of these features throughout the course of your time driving.

Some features you won't be seeing much of, or at least far less of, in cars in the future:

Manual Transmissions

Did anyone ever think that manual transmissions would someday become obsolete? A few decades ago, probably not, as this feature was still very much an option when purchasing a new car. Even in recent years it has still been a semi-popular option. Most of the time the customer had to pay extra to purchase a car with an automatic transmission as a perk. However, as technology progressed, most parts of cars have gone to automation. The transmission is no exception.

Today's drivers primarily use automatic transmissions and learning "how to drive a stick shift" is not going to be a phrase future generations will perhaps understand. The number of manual transmission-based cars have reportedly already significantly shrunk in the past decade. In 2012 Fox News reported less than 7 percent car buyers in the United States ordered their new cars with manual transmissions1. There are still a few brands that are holdouts with selling a car with a clutch, however, you've got to probably look a bit harder to find these cars.


Shift stick
Credit: Bobo_is_soft/Public Domain as listed on Wikimedia Commons

Windows with Handles

Those who were driving in earlier decades likely remember car windows with a crank. Drivers and passengers wanting to open the window had to manually roll their windows up and down before power windows became an option. An interesting experience in cold or rainy weather. Over time power windows became the norm, rather than a pricey add-on when buying a car. These days, there are very few cars that still have crank windows handles, if any.

Small Cup Holders

In the age of grande Starbucks or supersized soft drinks, small cup holders are rapidly becoming a thing of the past. Modern vehicles can still hold smaller-sized cups, but have been redesigned to have the capacity to hold larger drinks as well. However, I suspect this one might never go totally extinct and potentially make a comeback before it disappears completely. If trends for drink sizes change again, this is an easy feature to re-include, perhaps even making room for other more critically-deemed compartments, charging units and other things that might take precedence over taking up space for large cup holders.  Yet, as of writing, a large number of cars are equipped with mega-sized cup holders.


They're not quite obsolete, but keys are steadily on the way out, being replaced by fobs. Keys have been the traditional way to lock and unlock car doors, but over time this function too has gone electronic with 'hybrid' versions, a fob and a keyhole. However, many cars today no longer even have a keyhole. Some cars, such as Ford, include a feature that is comprised of a touchpad. Drivers simply lock their keys in the car. According to media reports, sometime in the future it's very possible cars will be able to work in conjunction with smartphones.

Two KeysCredit: Two Keys by Charles Rondeau/Public Domain

Long Antennas

As car radios became standard on cars, so did antennas that enabled the radios to get reception for local radio stations. These antennas were static and were very long. Located either on the hood area or the roof, these antennas once made it tricky to go through a car wash.

However, as technology evolved, modern antennas either retract or are embedded into the design of the car. Other models have the even newer shark fin-shaped set atop the vehicle for a sleek and futuristic and cool space-age look. I think the former traditional-style antenna will be gone for good.

Cassettes/CD players

Cassettes were quite popular in the 1980s and pretty much mainstream as music lovers were not so quick to jump into investing in CDs.  Carmakers quickly found ways to adapt radios to allow drivers to play their favorite tunes on the very portable cassettes. Over the years, that earlier love for cassettes had changed of course, and CD players became pretty standard. It wasn't long before car manufacturers were including them in cars.

While the cassette remained on the market for several more years, today's cars rarely, if ever, include a way to play them. Digital music is where the future lies and chances are CD players could also become extinct in the next few years.

Gas Caps

In September 2014 I was talking to a Ford salesman and he was telling me Ford's new cars do not contain gas caps.  I found it pretty surprising, no gas cap? But sure enough, after opening the door to the gas tank, I saw the new car did not have one. He even demonstrated how it works to me, showing me how you can't push the barrier in with your finger, but a gas pump does (he had a plastic piece that can be used on portable gas cans). And it works! I personally thought this was a cool feature, having fallen victim myself to an engine light issue when a gas cap was not properly placed back on after filling up. Having to go get that little light turned off by a professional was an inconvenience. This is one feature I could easily see taking off over the next few years, putting the gas cap on the extinction list.


2012 Camry fuel filler cap
Credit: Mario Roberto Durán Ortiz/Creative Commons License-Attribution

Other former standards in cars include cigarette lighters and bench seats. But nowadays these features are only in older cars, some classics and others doomed to the junkyard.

As technology progresses, it's amazing how different cars have become. While these features are gone with the 21st century, newer attributes replace them. In the 21st century, consumers will see features only previously dreamed about, as driverless cars and even perhaps flying cars become a reality. Those two are rapidly on their way. We may even see driverless cars more standardized by the end of the decade if Google and other competing companies have anything to say about it.

What car features do you see becoming obsolete?