Everyone knows that our mobile phones keep us connected no matter where we are but how did we make calls on the go before they were introduced? We’ve got all the key info and dates for you here!

The Invention of the Car Phone

The car phone was first introduced in America by Motorola in 1946 with limited service in Chicago provided by the Bell System which used radio technology to connect a phone installed in the vehicle to landlines across the country. Due to the technology being used the earliest systems could only handle three calls at any one time so there were long waits. Add to this the additional weight of 80lb, needing a professional to install them and the limited area of coverage the technology was slow to pick up.


The Car Phone Comes to the UK

It wasn’t until 1959 that the car phone crossed the Atlantic and arrived in the UK. In October of that year the General Post Office (which later became British Telecom or BT as it’s better known) introduced the service to parts of Northern England as a trial to see how the system could work.

The first ever call made from a car in the UK was made by the MP and Postmaster General Reginald Bevin who made a call from his car while driving in Lancashire to automotive company owner Lord Rootes in London.

The first system to be introduced in the UK was known as System 1 and it could connect up to 320 drivers to the exchange who would then connect the call to a landline.

With the limits placed on users and the cost and time it took to install transmitters it took time for the car phone to spread across the country and it wasn’t until 1965 that it reached London. The Prime Minister at the time, Harold Wilson, made the first call in the capital and with it saw the rise in popularity of this new mobile communication.

Radio Systems Develop

During the 1970s System 2 and then System 3 were introduced, each bringing with it the ability to handle more calls as the car phone rose in popularity. System 3 also had automatic channel scanning making it much easier to find a free line to make an outgoing call on.

In 1981 BT introduced System 4 which was a pricier option but allowed drivers to call landlines directly, bypassing the need to speak to an operator. It also offered more channels and access into rural areas. Because of the price of System 4 operators kept System 3 in use until 1986.

Rising Popularity

It was during the 1970s and 1980s that the car phone really grew in popularity with many models being made with pre-installed phones for customers to use on the go.

For drivers of older cars, there were companies installing phones retroactively, in fact this was where Carphone Warehouse started life – as a company that supplied and installed car phones.

In 1988 System 4 ceased operating as car phones no longer needed to use radio technology instead they shifted to the more widespread network developed for mobile phone users.


Images Sourced: https://petrolicious.com/articles/car-phones and https://www.drivingline.com/articles/25-old-car-features-we-dearly-miss/

The Revolutionary Mobile Phone

Although the mobile phone was introduced in 1985 it didn’t pick up in popularity until lighter more compact models were available, making them more convenient and easy to use. In the late 1990s and early 2000s the mobile phone began to be more and more popular and soon reached the must-have status of mobiles today.

Mobile phones have changed the world in numerous ways one of which was making the car phone redundant as there’s no point having three phone numbers for your home, car, and when you’re on the go when you could have just one.

The mobile phone was soon being used by drivers as they could take it out of the car with them and they no longer needed the space or weight that the car phone took up. Additionally, the mobile phone was evolving to do more than make calls, it could text, play games, take photos and gradually much more as well.

Mobile Phone Legislation Comes in

Driving regulations on using your mobile phone were first introduced in December 2003 for UK drivers and since then there have been several amendments in order to bring the legislation in line with technology.

In 2007 the penalty for using your mobile while driving was three points on your licence and a £100 fine. Ten years later it doubled to six points and a £200 fine. This remains the penalty at the minute but there have been changes to the law so that any use, not just communication, is covered by legislation.

Current Rules on Using Your Phone in the Car

Just this year the government modified legislation in order to close a legal loophole for drivers who were using their mobile phones but not to communicate with another person. This includes changing music, taking photos, playing games and reading.

The only time that drivers are allowed to touch their mobile phones is when stationary at a drive thru in order to make payment for goods using contactless payment.

Drivers can still use hands free technology in order to remain contactable on the move and provided it is securely placed in a cradle it can be used for navigation purposes.  



Enjoyed this article? Read more of our latest blogs below:

Want to know more about car leasing?

For all our latest news and blogs click HERE.

Looking for the next best car leasing deal? Check out our Top Leasing Deals.

Or do you need to know more about leasing? Check out our Guide Pages.

Leave a Comment

Enter the text you see in the image in the form field above.
If you cannot read the text, refresh the page.
* required fields

Peace of Mind

Check out one of our helpful guides or our explaination of leasing to get all your questions answered.

View our FAQsGuides

Latest News

Get the latest news and blog posts from us.

View all News

Your Guide To Car Leasing

You can unsubscribe at any time

Lease Plan