Safety Evolution for Vehicles Began with Brakes


Source: Excerpted from a News18 India post on the evolution of automotive safety in India. The entire post can be viewed by clicking HERE.

NEW DELHI – Indian automobile manufacturers were never known for giving importance on vehicle safety, for Indian buyers were always inclined towards pricing and mileage. However, the past couple of years have been tremendous for vehicle safety as makers like Volvo have inspired Indian carmakers.

Tata Motors, for instance, is now making Global NCAP 5-star rated cars and so is Mahindra. This push from automakers have made people rethink about priorities.

But have you ever wondered from where did safety in car begin? From seat belts to Electronic Stability Control, car safety has come a long way since the first automobiles were developed during the 19th century.

In fact, car safety is as old as the automobile itself. The first recorded fatality involving a vehicle happened in 1869 when Mary Ward, an Anglo-Irish scientist, was killed when she fell under the wheels of an experimental steam car built by her cousins. It’s likely that this event spurred authorities to adopt vehicle and road safety measures to protect not only drivers but also pedestrians.

Brake Systems

Since the earliest automobiles in the 19th century, brake systems have been used, and they have continued to evolve ever since, from early drum brakes to modern day discs. The earliest brake system consisted only of wooden blocks and a single lever used by the driver to apply the brake. Mechanical drum brakes were developed at the beginning of the 20th century, and these were followed by expanding internal show brakes, which was the first brake system to be fixed inside the vehicle’s frame. This was followed in 1922 by the four-wheel hydraulic brake system. This system used fluids to transfer force to the brake show when the pedal was pressed.

Anti-Locking Braking Systems

The earliest braking system applied pressure only to the rear wheels. In the case of an emergency, the car’s back wheels would lock up, causing the car to swerve and slide dangerously to a halt.

Today’s anti-locking brakes (ABS) were first developed for aircraft to prevent wheels from locking when landing. ABS were first used in cars in the 1970s, before becoming standard in the late 1980s. ABS detects the rotational speed of the vehicle’s individual wheels and releases hydraulic fluid if the wheel is rotating too slowly. This provides steering control when braking on wet and slippery surfaces.

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