Car Innovations That Changed Automobiles For Good


Without any doubts, this is the invention that has saved most lives in the history of the automobile. And even though its origins come from aircraft in the early years of the last century, the three-point seatbelt, as we know it today, only appeared in a car in 1958.


Technically, airbags are air pockets that inflate within a matter of milliseconds in the event of an accident to prevent occupants from hitting directly into the steering wheel or dashboard.

The first car to use an airbag for the driver was the Oldsmobile Toronado in 1973. In fact, it was a very basic airbag system, which did not work properly.

The first “modern” airbag arrived in 1981 on the then-new Mercedes-Benz S-Class. Since then, it has not stopped evolving. In 1994, the Volvo 850 introduced the side and curtain airbags, and two years later came the knee airbag. In 2009, Ford introduced the first airbag inflatable seatbelts in the Fusion.

Electronic stability control (ESP)

This is the invention that saved the most lives after the seat belt. And it was developed by accident. In 1989, a Mercedes-Benz engineer, Frank Werner Mohn, lost control of his E-Class in Sweden, while going to the manufacturer’s test track. As he waited for help, he wondered if it would be possible to use the ABS brake sensors to monitor the speed of each wheel and to make the brakes selectively activate to avoid accidents like the one he had just survived.

Fortunately, the manufacturer looked positively at the idea and Mohn began to develop an algorithm that would allow calculating how much each wheel would have to brake to stabilize the vehicle.

In 1992, Mercedes-Benz began developing an electronic stability control in cooperation with Bosch for its production models. The system debuted in the Mercedes CL 600. A technology that since November 2011 is mandatory in all cars sold in the European Union.

Diesel engine

Although the German engineer Rudolf Diesel invented this engine in 1883, it was only used for the first time in a production car in 1936, when it was offered in the Mercedes-Benz 260 D. This vehicle was equipped with a naturally aspirated compression ignition motor with four cylinders, which generated 45 horsepower (33 kilowatts) at 3,200 rpm. It had a relatively low fuel consumption and was able to travel more than 250 miles (400 km) without refueling.

Four-wheel Steering System

Mercedes-Benz introduced a four-wheel steering system for the first time in a military vehicle, the VL 170, in the 30s of the last century. This allowed the steering system to rotate both the front and rear axles in the opposite direction, reducing the turning diameter.

Electronic Control Unit

Despite its unexciting name, the Electronic Control Unit is a car innovation that plays a significant role in a very large number of vehicles on the road. With the addition of computers in cars, computers can now control things like spark plugs, fuel injectors, and idle speed to produce the best performance possible.

Computers can even monitor vehicle health and alert the driver that it needs service. A mechanic can read the diagnostic report from the computer, determine the problem, and then fix it. Computers play a role in modern car braking systems as well, especially if one has anti-lock brakes.

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