Technology has made cars an integral part of our society. Although cars were practical in their early days, they were unreliable and slow, making them extremely dangerous and expensive.

The Assembly Line

Henry Ford dreamed of making a car for everyone while working as an engineer at the Edison Illuminating Company in Detroit. The hand-building process made making them too difficult, so they were too costly for the average person. Ford revolutionized the way cars are built and changed the world.

Ford created a simple and inexpensive car that could be mass-produced using an assembly line. He was the first car maker to do this. The Model T’s price was $825, or roughly $23,000 today. It was built using cheap, mass-produced parts with a team of workers. The rest of the automotive industry quickly adopted Ford’s business model, and nearly all cars on the planet are made today from an assembly line modelled after Ford. The assembly lines have produced more consistent cars, have higher quality control standards and are made with greater precision than any handcrafted project.

Independent Suspension

You may have attempted to ride a bicycle on the road without suspension. You likely remember two things about the experience: how difficult and uncomfortable it was. Rough surfaces can also impact cars in the same way. Driving over rough surfaces takes more effort, and the bumping could make it unpleasant.

New technology was developed almost as quickly as cars started to appear. Leyland Motors developed a torsion bar suspension system in the 1920s. Lancia Lambda improved it a few years later and created an independent suspension system for all 4 wheels. Nearly every vehicle today has independent front suspension. Most also have independent rear suspension. This allows for smoother and more comfortable riding on almost any surface.

Crumple Zones

People started to smash the cars into each other almost as soon as they had developed the first car. There is a well-known but not proven story of two cars from Ohio colliding with each other in 1895. These crashes got more dangerous as cars became faster and heavier. More people were killed in accidents while driving cars without any safety technology.

Bela Berenyi, an engineer, knew this and created early technology to create a frame that had intentionally weaker areas. These areas were designed to absorb and collapse in an accident. Mercedes-Benz was the first company to implement this idea in part in the 1950s. The car’s front and rear would be soft and crushed upon impact, while the passenger compartment would remain strong and rigid. Crumple zones have been credited with saving many lives and are now considered the best safety innovation in automotive history.

Seatbelts

Although it may sound crazy to many younger people, the seatbelt isn’t a new invention. C. Hunter Shelden, a doctor who saw many head injuries in his hospital emergency room, suggested the invention of a retractable safety seat belt to the automobile industry in the 1950s. Continued research revealed that safety belts¬†helped¬†people live in accidents and did not cause death, contrary to popular belief.

Retractable safety belts were offered by many car manufacturers starting in the 1950s. In 1958, Saab, a Swedish brand, became the first to offer them as an option. Hugh DeHaven and Roger W. Griswold patented the first three-point modern safety belt that year. The 1966 National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act made major changes in the automobile industry. It required all car manufacturers to install seatbelts. Every automobile sold in America must have safety belts approved. All passengers in all 50 states are required to wear them.

Disc brakes

Cars are meant to move us forward, but we must also stop them. Your brakes are responsible for this. Although brakes have been present in cars for a long time, the disc brake system is the most common type of brake today. This brake uses hydraulic-actuated brake callipers to press ceramic pads onto a metal disc to create friction that slows a vehicle safely and quickly. Disc brakes are highly preferred due to their exceptional stopping power, and ability quickly shed heat and general dependability in almost any weather condition.

Although disc brakes were invented in the 1890s, copper was the only metal available. Copper overheated and became too fragile to be useful as a brake system. Different engineers from Great Britain and Germany developed and patented different types of disc brakes for vehicles made in their respective countries. Drum brakes are still used on the rear axles of small passenger cars today because they don’t require the same stopping power as larger vehicles and are much cheaper.

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