Cars have come a long way since they were introduced over a century ago. They’re now a lot faster, yet are more comfortable and safer. Did you know that many of the safety features in modern cars that we take for granted today were invented by women?
In conjunction with International Women’s Day, we take a look at the top car safety features created by visionary female inventors which have saved countless lives.
1. Mechanical Turn & Brake Signals
The turn signals and brake lights are essential safety features on our cars that we take for granted. Without them, we wouldn’t know whether other drivers are turning or stopping, which could lead to major accidents. The first turn and brake signals were invented in 1914 by Florence Lawrence, a silent-film star.
With her success in the film industry, she bought her own automobiles and developed a passion for them. This led her to work on improving the safety of vehicles at the time. After several years of experimenting, Lawrence created the first “auto-signaling arms” which would raise and lower a flag on the car’s rear bumper to indicate which way the car would turn. She also implemented a “stop” sign that would pop up when using the brakes to indicate that the car was stopping.
Lawrence didn’t patent her inventions, so not many people credit her for them. However, she certainly made a major contribution to the safety of modern cars.
2. Brake Pads
Bertha Benz was the wife of Karl Benz, the automobile inventor and founder of Mercedes-Benz. Bertha was an investor in her husband’s company but she was also arguably the one who sparked public interest in Karl’s Patent-Motorwagen. To market the Motorwagen to the public as a means of personal transportation, she quietly took her two oldest sons on the morning of 5 August 1888 on a 100km drive.
On the drive, the vehicle’s wooden brakes failed and Bertha asked a cobbler to install leather brake replacements, effectively creating the first replacement brake pads. Not only that, they successfully reached their destination in Pforzheim and managed to garner a lot of attention from the public on their road trip. Karl and Bertha Benz were both inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame, being the first married couple ever inducted.
3. Windshield Wipers
Mary Anderson, an American, was inspired to invent windshield wipers after a trip to New York City. There, she noticed that tram drivers had to open their windows or stop the tram and get out to clear the frost on the windshield.
She then went on to invent a windshield wiper that consisted of a hand-operated lever inside the vehicle that controlled a rubber blade on the outside of the windshield, much like what we have today. She was granted a patent for her invention in 1903, though this car safety feature was only commercially produced in 1913 when passenger cars were more common.
4. Kevlar Tires
Most of us are familiar with kevlar used in bulletproof vests. However, it was initially developed in the 1960s by Stephanie Kwolek, a DuPont chemist tasked with developing a fuel-efficient alternative to steel reinforcements in car tires. Kevlar is now used in several safety features in modern cars including in kevlar-reinforced tires and brake pads. Thanks to her invention, Kwolek became the fourth woman to be inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 1995.
5. Car Heater
This feature might not be as important in sunny, tropical Malaysia but the car heater is essential in four-season countries where it can be tough to travel in the winter. The car heater was invented in 1893 by Margaret Wilcox, a mechanical engineer. Her system simply directed air over the engine and this heated air is channeled into the cabin, providing warmth to its occupants. With this car safety feature, travelers of all ages from babies to the elderly can travel safely in the winter without falling sick or getting hypothermia.
6. Wireless Transmission Technology
The first wireless technology was discovered by Austrian actress Hedy Lamarr back in the Second World War. Lamarr worked with George Antheil to create radio frequency hopping that couldn’t be jammed by Nazi forces. This system allowed the Allied forces to send secret codes that couldn’t be detected by enemies.
This technology set the foundation for the Bluetooth, GPS (global positioning system), and Wi-Fi technology that we have today. Although patented in 1941, this technology only became widespread in the late 1990s when more devices were developed with wireless technology. Now, modern cars have built-in GPS that not only helps you navigate to your destination but also allows you to track and notify you of the location of your car.
Bonus: Female Crash Test Dummy
You might not know this, but until recently, most adult crash test dummies were modeled after adult males. These dummies measured 175cm tall and weighed 78kg, and while they have no doubt helped carmakers design safer vehicles, they didn’t represent the build of the average woman. This meant that researchers couldn’t gather enough data to accurately predict the injuries that most women might face in a car accident. In fact, a seat-belt-wearing woman in the front seat is 17 percent more likely to be killed in a car crash than a seat-belt-wearing man.
In 2022, Dr. Astrid Linder and her team in Sweden designed a new crash test dummy to more accurately represent the average woman measuring 160cm tall and weighing 62kg. This replaces the old dummy which at 142cm and 48kg, is roughly the size of a 12-year-old girl. With this new crash dummy, carmakers can more accurately design their cars to be safer for more people.
Get Peace of Mind with CARSOME Certified
We all know that safety is vital in a car. That’s why each CARSOME Certified car is put through a strict 175-point inspection process and professionally refurbished. In fact, we ensure the tire tread depth and brake pad thickness of our cars are beyond international safety standards before listing them for sale.
Furthermore, all our cars come with a fixed price, no hidden fees, a five-day money-back guarantee, and a one-year warranty to give you additional peace of mind.