We bet there's something here you never knew before.
We love car facts. Those pieces of knowledge that give extra insight into the story of the car and the industries that surround it, or the sociology of the car and its roll in society. Just a few facts about Henry Ford, the inventor of mass production, gives us an insight into just how flawed he was as a human being but the fact he brought production of the Model T down initially from 12 hours to just two hours and 30 minutes in such a short time shows his drive and intelligence. The fact that 75% of Rolls-Royce cars ever built are still on the road reinforces that we already know the brand’s cars are both valuable and well engineered. Or that they aren't actually driven very much by their owners.
The bottom line is facts may not tell a whole story, but they are fun and can offer little nuggets of insight.
What he did was effectively file the birth certificate of the car in the form of a patent. The car was an amalgamation of many inventions that finally combined with the first self-propelled vehicle being built by Nicolas-Joseph Cugnot in 1769, which was powered by steam, and the world’s first internal combustion engine which was most likely built by Nicephore Niepce in 1807. Benz’s patent for the "vehicle powered by a gas engine” was filed in January of 1886. It was more of an inevitability than an invention though.
Much as we love and rely on cars, and surprisingly given the amount of traffic there is on the road, we don’t actually drive our cars that much. The whole notion of modern ride-sharing and mobility, therefore, wouldn’t actually cut down traffic, just the amount of parked cars. Mathematically, we wouldn’t actually end up with less cars driving if sharing became the norm as predicted. Cars would simply have a harder life and their lifespans would be decreased as they made all the journeys, and the journeys between the journeys, to pick people up.
In big cities such as LA and New York, that average number goes up to 60 hours. It’s not that there are too many cars on the road, after all, we just learned that 95% of a cars lifetime is spent parked. It’s more that there are too many cars concentrated in small areas. For big cities, the problem isn’t people buying cars. It’s the lack of effective mass transportation that leaves them no better alternative.
Ralph Teetor was a prolific inventor despite being blind from the age of 5. His first job after graduating with a degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Pennsylvania was on steam turbine rotors used in Navy torpedo-boat destroyers. Later, he became president of a large automotive parts manufacturer and his inspiration for cruise control came later when traveling with his lawyer. The speeding up and slowing down as they talked annoyed him into inventing a speed control device.
That’s actually very well known, but what gets forgotten is that the company didn’t patent the invention. Instead they left the door open so other manufacturers could use it. It’s estimated that 3-point seat belts save one life every 6 seconds, so that was one hell of a thing for a corporation to do and a demonstration of what capitalism is capable of when it’s embraced properly and a company isn’t solely built to feed the bottom line. However, Volvo isn't done trying to save us from ourselves and may be over-reaching now.
We have a rough date, and the location has been narrowed down to in Mesopotamia, but nobody really knows the story how the wheel was invented. They weren’t used for transportation, but instead for creating pottery. It took another 300 years before a candle lit itself in someone's head to use them to make chariots. Amazingly, candles, flutes, and alcoholic drinks were all invented before the wheel.
The Goodyear tire company was actually named in his honor as he was the man who developed vulcanization, which is the process used to strengthen rubber. If you already knew that, what you may not know is that Goodyear chased a solution to the lack of durability in rubber for much of his life, but didn’t find it until he mixed sulfur and gum and accidentally dropped it directly onto a hot stove.
There are claims on the internet he did this while in prison, and although Goodyear found himself in debtors prison frequently, people don’t appear to question why he would have access to gum, sulfur, and a hot stove while encaged.
When people talk about how environmentally unsound cars are, it’s worth bearing in mind that around 12 million cars are recycled in the United States. That ends up saving around 85 million barrels of oil from getting used in making new or replacement car parts. Batteries from electric vehicles are a tougher issue to deal with though.
According to an AAA study, and based on 15,000 miles driven per year, the yearly cost of ownership for a pickup truck purchased new is $10,054 and a small sedan is $6,354. While electric vehicles are being lauded for their lack of moving parts increasing reliability, AAA evaluated them to cost $8,439 per year. The evaluation takes into account sales price, depreciation, maintenance, repair, and fuel costs.
That isn’t necessarily surprising. What is surprising is when you think about that and just how reliable cars actually are now. When you factor in the major parts which are the engine and transmission, lubrication system, braking system, suspension system, chassis and frame, wiring and sensor system, and the wheels and tires it's quite the wonder. It wasn’t even that long ago that 70,000 miles on an odometer was considered high mileage. In 1995 the life expectancy of an average car was 8.4 years. Now it’s more than 11 years.
Our cars now truly depend on electric systems and computer coding. Some luxury cars use as much as 1,500 copper wires and that totals about a mile in length; even the most basic cars now contains around half a mile of wiring. For some perspective, in the late 1940s, a car would only have around 50 separate wires totaling around 150 feet. Electric cars can have as much as 150 lbs of copper due to the rotors in the motors.
Although America now has higher limits in place, the 55 mph limit you still see on many roads is down to the 1974 Emergency Highway Energy Conservation Act that was itself a response to the supply disruptions and price spikes in 1973. After it was repealed, automobile fatalities actually decreased. That was put down to automobile safety improvements. Now, we have maximum speeds that vary state to state and max out between 65 mph and, in Texas, 85 mph.
While some people hold the German federal highway up as an example of speed limits being unnecessary, there are speed limits on the autobahn. The stretches without limits are decreasing year by year, despite advocating for speed limits being about as popular as advocating for drowning kittens to German car enthusiasts.
You really don’t have to be going fast to have an accident. John William Lambert built the first single-cylinder gasoline powered vehicle and then crashed it. It was capable of a top speed of just 5 mph, and his buggy hit a tree root that sent the vehicle into a hitching post.
The chances of dying in a plane crash are incredibly small, however, the time the average person spends on a plane is small and they are guided by professional pilots. However, the majority of people jump in a car every day and move around in close proximity to other people driving cars, almost none of whom you would consider professional.
There are evergreen reasons people want to regulate or ban things whether it’s to do with cars or not. In this case, when the car radio was first invented some states wanted to ban them on the basis it could distract drivers and cause accidents. Now, nearly 100 years later, the problem isn’t the radio built into the car. It’s the telephones people carry around with them.
According to the insurance industry, which worked out the average person will have four car accidents in their lifetime. Once every 18 years is complete nonsense though because the world simply doesn't work like that. What isn't nonsense is that the chances of being in an accident increase if you drive regularly at night, in rush hour, or multitask when driving. So, if you know someone that lives somewhere where it gets dark at rush hour and checks Facebook on the way home, then they're why everyone else's insurance premiums are so high.