The Surprising Debuts Of Modern Driving Technology

The history of the modern car is a gradual introduction of innovative technologies that collectively served to make cars easier, safer and more enjoyable to drive over a century of development.

However, what can be surprising to many people is just how early some pieces of driving technology were discovered, patented and invented.

Here are some of the most surprisingly early debuts of driving technology that is seen as a relatively modern standard.

Power Steering

One of the most important technological advances in motoring, power steering stopped driving from being limited to those who had the physical strength to muscle the steering wheel precisely.

This became especially important as driving became more essential to everyday life, but actually pre-dates the Benz Motorwagen, the first car as we understand the concept.

According to Popular Mechanics, the first power steering system was fitted in 1876, but so little is known about the system or Mr Fitts who fitted it that it is difficult to prove its veracity.

The first known power steering patent was filed in 1900 by Robert E Twyford, as part of a patent for a four-wheel-drive system, and a 5-tonne truck was fitted with an electric power steering system in 1903, which used a separate electric motor.

This considerably pre-dates Francis W. Davis’ practical system demonstrated in 1926, but the Second World War, both in the theatres of combat and on the Home Front, accelerated the need for power steering.

The first commercial car with power steering was finally released in 1951 with the Chrysler Imperial’s Hydraguide system.

Anti-Lock Brakes

Whilst ABS is seen as a relatively recent standard feature on cars, the first example of ABS actually was invented for the railway in 1908 by J.E. Francis.

Early experiments on cars began in the 1920s with Gabriel Voisin’s flywheel valve system, which did improve braking by 30 per cent in tests on aircraft.

Finally, after several evolutions of the system which did not lead to full production, including by Karl Wessel, Robert Bosch and Dunlop with their Maxaret system on both aircraft and a test with a Royal Enfield Super Meteor motorbike, there was a breakthrough in the 1960s.

The Jensen FF, first sold in 1966, was the first commercially available car sold with ABS, although it would take the 1978 Mercedes-Benz W116 S-Class to really showcase its potential.

Semi-Automatic Gearbox

A standard part of motorsport gears, the semi-automatic gearbox allows for incredibly fast gear changes without the need for a clutch. It was initially used in motorsport by the Ferrari 640 Formula One car in 1989, but the concept predates this by almost a century.

The inventor of the earliest example of a semi-automatic gearbox was Amédéé Bollée, son of a famous inventor and bellfounder in Paris, who in 1901 devised a way of switching gears using an aluminium ring to switch between up to four gears.

It made it onto a production car, the Bollée Type F Torpédo in 1912.

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