The History of Cars & How It All Started

While cars used to be a luxury, it all became part of our everyday life. We travel longer distances in less time but do we know how it all started? What were some of the milestones in such inventive and advanced industry?

1885 First Automobile

Karl Benz from Germany has build first car powered by petrol. In deed these vehicles were not very high tech and were actually low powered comparing to cars today. However, on the other hand, they were less polluting than today’s cars.

1903 First Windshield Wipers

Invented by Mary Anderson from Alabama. It was hand-operated device inside the vehicle that controlled a rubber blade on the outside of the windshield. After the expiry of her 17 year patent, windshield wipers using Anderson’s basic design became standard equipment.

1912 First Electric Traffic Light

First traffic light was manually operated non-electric gas-lit signal installed in London in 1868. It did not last for long. In less than a month after its operation, it has exploded and injured policeman (the operator).

First automated traffic control system has been patented in 1910. It has used the words STOP and PROCEED, however, these signaling words did not have lights.

Electric traffic light has been developed by a policeman Lester Wire in 1912 and first electric traffic light has been installed in 1914 in Ohio.

1914 First Hydraulic Brakes

Fred Duesenberg has used hydraulic brakes on his racing cars in 1914. Duesenberg was the first one to introduce this technology on passenger cars in 1921.

1930s First Car Radio

In 1930, Motorola branded radio receiver has been marketed for $130, which was very expensive (around 1/4 of the cost of vehicle).

Germany’s Blaupunkt radio (in 1932) cost one third of the small car. As it took nearly 10 litres of space, it was impossible to fit it near the driver so it was operated via a steering wheel remote control. By late 1930s, AM push button radios became a standard feature.

1933 First Car Air Conditioning

New York company first offered installation of air conditioning for cars in 1933 (most of their customers owned limousines and luxury cars).

Packard, in 1939, became first automobile manufacturer to offer air conditioning unit in its cars and these incorporated a heater as well. These new “Weather Conditioners” were discontinued after 1941 as the system has taken half of the boot space, there was no temperature thermostat or shut-off mechanism (other than switching the blower off), cold air would still sometimes enter the car and also, because of its price, which was very expensive and unaffordable for many (cost was US $274 at that time).

Chrysler Imperial was one of the first production cars after earlier ‘experiments’ from 1930s and 1940s. Chrysler Imperial offered air conditioning as and option to its modern cars in 1953.

1970 First Seat Belt Law

Nash (1949) and Ford (1955) have offered seat belts as options. First car company who has introduced seat belts as standard was Swedish Saab in 1958. After this, it became a common practice for seat belts to be installed in vehicles.

The world’s first seat belt law has been put in place in 1970 by state of Victoria in Australia. Wearing of seat belts became compulsory for drivers and front seat passengers after trial in police vehicles, which has lowered the incidence of officers’ injury and death.


Isn’t it interesting how all little pieces were invented, introduced, created, standardised? These great inventions at that time became part of our everyday life.


Thank you to Wikipedia for valued information and facts.

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