Until recently, most drivers – not counting racer car drivers are the very, very rich – had to be content with gauging their driving speed by using an old fashioned speedometer. Sure, you could tell when you were going 20, or 55, or 80, but trying to gauge whether you were going 37 or 38 could be a little trickier to gauge. Even though, no matter what, if you were going either speed in a 25 mile per hour residential zone, chances are you'd better hope no police squad cars happened to drive by while you were performing your little speedometer test. On the other hand, you could be sure that they would tell you just how fast you were driving as they wrote out that little yellow speeding ticket.
No, until recently, most drivers made do with accepting the fact that gauging their driving speed was an inexact science. This all changed in the 1980's when digital speedometers suddenly became a popular feature on many luxury cars. Digital speedometers, also known as digital dashes if all the dash instruments are digital, making them much more accurate and easy to read then their older, analog counterparts.
Digital speedometers were unknown until car makers began including them as a luxury option during the 1980's and 1990's. They even came standard on some more luxurious vehicles, including models produced by Cadillac and Lincoln.
While digital speedometers can vary in looks and functionality from model to model, most include a few basic elements. This basic elements of digital speedometers include a digital readout, outdoor temperature, travel direction, fuel economy and the distance that the gas gauge has to go until it reaches empty. The digital readout tells you what speed at which you are traveling, while the outdoor temperature readout does just what it sounds like it does. Travel direction is often depicted by the letters N, NW, NE, etc. representing all the directions and if handy if you think you got turned around at that tricky roundabout. The fuel economy readout has become especially important recently, with gas prices rising and environmental initiatives and the threat of global warming encouraging people to buy more fuel efficient cars. The fuel economy readout associated with the digital speedometer lets you know just exactly how many miles per gallon of gas your car is currently getting. Many people have said that keeping a close eye on this gauge has helped them to change their driving habits for the better (and more fuel efficient.) An electronic gas gauge, of course, is handy in letting you know just exactly how much of that fuel you are trying to conserve is left in the tank.
Though digital speedometers, like all things new, digital and shiny, often seem like improvements over old fashioned analog speedometers, sometimes that is not the case. For example, theoretically, an analog speedometer can display an infinite number of speeds (i.e. 75.4 miles per hour), while a digital speedometer can only display speeds measured in whole numbers. Other people have complained that digital speedometers take away the sense of change in speed that is conveyed by the movement of an analog speedometer. For that reason, many modern "digital dashes" use an old analog speedometer while using a computer readout to give drivers the other useful information that digital dashes can provide.
Another problem with digital speedometers has historically been that they are more difficult to repair than analog speedometers. Again, this is one of the many reasons that cars these days generally have an analog rather than a digital speedometer. No matter if you choose to go digital or stick to analog, though, chances are your newer model vehicle will come equipped with at least a trip monitor, and likely many more digital features.