History of the Automobile: 5 Car Innovators You Should Know About

When you hop into your car, what’s the first thing you do?

A) Start your car

B) Roll the windows down

C) Turn the driving lights on

D) Start the air conditioner

If you do any of these things, you need to take a moment of silence for the genius that took the time to invent something for your vehicle to make your life easier! 

But seriously, the car you drive is loaded with all kinds of innovations that you probably take for granted.

From cruise control to turn signals, the car has evolved over time. Here are the top 5 car innovators and inventions that you probably take for granted.

5. Automatic Transmission

The automatic transmission allows your car to shift gears automatically instead of using a clutch pedal and stick pattern for driving.

The automatic transmission was invented in 1921 by Alfred Horner Munro from Saskatchewan, Canada. This early invention by Munro didn’t find popularity in the automobile industry at the time.

It wasn’t until 1932, Brazilian natives Jose Braz Araripe, and Fernando Lely Lemos created a transmission that used hydraulic pressure to handle shifting.

After years of development, General Motors introduced it in their 1940 Oldsmobile Series 60 model, and the rest is history.

Next time you cruise down the road without having to use a stick shift,  take some time to thank a Canadian and a couple of Brazilian geniuses for making your drive less of a hassle.

4. Turn Signals

All cars on the road these days come standard with this important safety feature, but cars back in the ’20s and early ’30s didn’t have them.

Can you imagine that nightmare?

The first flashing turn signal was first seen on the 1938 Buick, which was invented by Edgar Walz Jr. and Joseph Bell. Even with the focus on safety, the electrical turn signals didn’t catch on until the mid-1950s.

3. Power Windows

Before the power-window days, the only way to let your window down was by the hand-crank system.

Thankfully an automobile company from Detroit, Michigan called Packard, introduced the first power-window system in the fall of 1940. 

This system was only available in high priced luxury vehicles during the ’40s and into the ’70s. Luckily with technology advancing through the decades, power-windows come standard in most cars on the market today.

2. Air Conditioner

Packard has generally been credited as the first automobile manufacturer to introduce air conditioning systems in their vehicles back in 1939.

Although air conditioning doesn’t help you out with fuel economy, it sure is nice to have on a five-hour road trip on a hot summer day.

1. Electric Starter

Just starting your car is something we all take for granted. Back in the early years, you had to turn a crank which moved the pistons—wait until enough momentum was generated to the motor and Voila—your engine was running!

The electric starter was invented in 1903 by Clyde J. Coleman. After several years, the automobile industry caught on to the idea, and automobile manufacturers started to equip them in their vehicles by 1912.

Notable Car Innovators You Should Also Thank

  • Car radio – Paul Galvin in 1939
  • Cruise control – Ralph Teetor in 1948
  • Auto Key fob – Renault Fuego in 1982
  • Power Steering -Francis W. Davis in 1926

Related – The Logitech G27 Steering wheel. Check it out!

Well, there you have it! We hope this article gave you a little bit of knowledge of the small nuances that your car does to make your life easier.

Next time you hop in your ride, take a moment of silence and give a little thanks for these car innovators and their inventions. Did this article pique your curiosity? Check out our other blogs to provide yourself with some useful knowledge.


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