From Sat Nav to the Bullet Train: Brits reveal top 30 transport innovations – and the favourite happened 47 years ago


THE opening of the Channel Tunnel, Concorde’s first flight and the invention of sat nav have topped a poll of the greatest transport innovations.

The research of 2,000 adults also ranked the electrification of the London Underground, the first modern hovercraft, and the creation of the Segway highly.


Nissan commissioned the study

While the first zebra crossing and the creation of cruise control also featured in the top 30.

Others in the list included the invention of airbags in 1988, the introduction of the driving test in 1934 and automatic parking.

The 1960s was voted the decade which had the biggest impact on transport innovation – seeing the first ever Sat Nav and the high-speed Bullet Train.

It also emerged third of adults believe the motor industry has undergone the most exciting changes over the past nine decades – compared to aviation, rail, and cycling.

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And electric vehicles were voted as the innovation which holds the most promise for the future of UK sustainability.

More sustainable road travel (38 per cent), scientific advancement (16 per cent), and employment opportunities (11 per cent) were also seen as the biggest opportunities within the EV industry.

A spokesperson for Nissan, which commissioned the research to celebrate 90 years since the car maker was founded, said: “We’ve seen so many innovations that have excited us over the years since 1933, both on and off the road.

“We thought it would be fun for our big birthday, and to round off 2023, to celebrate all of the most thrilling developments that have kept the world moving as cars came off our production lines.”

The study also revealed seven in 10 adults believe such transport innovations have had a positive impact on their own lives, and 54 per cent claim it has made travelling easier for them.

For 71 per cent, it has improved their ability to travel and commute up and down the country, while staying connected with family and friends has become easier for 30 per cent.

Of those polled via OnePoll, 41 per cent have been able to save time on their journeys, and 43 per cent can travel to longer distance locations thanks to the various innovations.

It also revealed 27 per cent are in favour of introducing artificial intelligence into the car industry, and 29 per cent hold the same views for public transport.

With artificial intelligence (AI) becoming increasingly commonplace in day-to-day life, Nissan has utilised AI to imagine iconic scenes of transport from the past, including its first ever electric car in 1947 to compare these with the progress of the present day.

Looking to the future, 69 per cent reckon new technologies will play a big part in reducing the environmental impact of transportation in this country.

And when asked what scientific advancements they would most like see, delivery drones (19 per cent), underground roads (17 per cent), and flying cars (16 per cent) were top of the list.

Top 30 transport innovations of the last 90 years

  1. Concorde makes first passenger-carrying supersonic flight – 1976
  2. First flight of a commercial jet airliner – 1957
  3. The opening of the channel tunnel – 1994
  4. First commercial jet airliner – 1958
  5. Maiden flight of the space shuttle – 1981
  6. Launch of the first Sat Nav - 1960
  7. Creation of power steering – 1951
  8. First airbag - 1988
  9. Introduction of the Driving Test – 1934
  10. Creation of the Hovercraft – 1955
  11. The first three-point seat belt - 1959
  12. First zero-emissions electric flight takes place – 2022
  13. First practical helicopter built – 1939
  14. First zebra crossing – 1949
  15. The Lunar Roving vehicle is used on the moon – 1971
  16. Launch of the Bullet Train – 1964
  17. Creation of automatic transmission – 1939
  18. Automatic Train Operation: London Underground – 1967
  19. Launch of the world’s first mass-produced electric car – 2010
  20. Driverless Cars – 1984
  21. First air conditioning in a car – 1953
  22. First railway line run by hydrogen-powered trains – 2022
  23. ABS technology first used on a car – 1971
  24. First electric bus delivered – 1940
  25. First automatic parking - 2003
  26. First hydrogen-powered flight – 2016
  27. First car with a CD player – 1984
  28. First hands-free Bluetooth kit – 2001
  29. First driverless trams tested – 2018
  30. Creation of cruise control – 1958