Have you ever wondered how long it would take you to drive to the moon in your car? Wonder no longer. The answer is approximately six months, driving at 95kph. However, it would take you over 150 years to drive to the sun!
Did you know that a Rolls Royce also takes six months to build? By contrast, a Toyota only takes thirteen hours.
Humans have been obsessed with developing easier modes of transport since the advent of the wheel. But the history of the car began in the mid-eighteenth century with the development of steam-powered vehicles that could transport people. Today, there are over 1 billion cars in use worldwide and we owe a European inventor unending gratitude for our car obsessed culture. Thanks go to Karl Benz for building the first practical petrol engine car in 1885 in Mannheim, Germany.
Although the burgeoning car industry was dominated by male inventors, a few ladies have made some magnificent additions that we take for granted in our modern vehicle. One of these ladies is Mary Anderson, who patented the windshield wiper in 1905. Before her invention, drivers or passengers had to lean out of the vehicle to wipe away rain, snow, mud, or debris.
Driving can be time consuming. The average human being will spend six months of their life waiting for traffic lights to change. That’s not even considering traffic jams! We’ve all been stuck in traffic before, crawling along at a snail’s pace; at times like these, the wait always seems interminable. Next time you’re stuck behind the wheel, however, spare a thought for those drivers who were stuck in a 62-mile traffic jam on the Beijing-Tibet Expressway in 2010. It took most drivers over 12 days to clear their way through the congestion.
Closer to home, the combined mileage of Australian passenger vehicles was 167,456 million kilometres in 2012. To put this in perspective, you would need to drive from the most eastern point of Australia (Cape Byron in New South Wales) to the most western point (Steep Point in Western Australia) 41 million times!
From the first Model T Ford (sold for $950 dollars) to today, collectively we spend an enormous amount of money on cars. However, not as much as a collector in the UK who recently purchased a 1954 Mercedes race car for over $30 million USD in 2013.
Our cars don’t just cost us money in the purchase price. Although the exact location of the first official speeding ticket is disputed, speeding tickets have been around almost as long as cars. One of the first recorded speeding tickets was issued in 1902, when cars had a max speed of 45mph.
You should always stick to the speed limit, but especially so in Switzerland. A Swedish driver was fined over $1,000,000USD for clocking 300mph on a Swiss highway. In Switzerland, fines are calculated based on your income – yikes!
Europeans sure love their cars. In fact, Western Europeans own more cars per capita than anywhere else in the world – yes, even more than the USA! Europe is also home to some of the most iconic car brands in the world, including Volkswagen. Although largely famous for their cute, quirky Beetle, did you know that the Volkswagen group also own Bentley, Bugatti, Lamborghini, Audi, Ducati and Porsche?
Modern cars have come a long way since the days of steering levers and steam engines. Today’s cars are designed with safety in mind. John Hetrick invented the airbag in 1952 after a near fatal accident with his wife and daughter. Although airbags can save your life, however, they’re also dangerous in their own right. Airbags are designed to explode at an impact speed of 19 mph and the bag inflates within 40 milliseconds of a crash with a force equivalent to 900kgs. This is why you should never put babies or children in the front seat of your car, as an airbag impact could prove fatal.
Some safety features made available over the years may raise a few eyebrows. For instance, in the 1990s, flame-throwers were a legitimate extra offered to South African car buyers to prevent carjackings. Meanwhile, the Volvo S80 offered a heartbeat sensor that alerted the driver to the fact that you or your fellow passengers were alive. Apparently, the feature was designed to warn you if there was an unintended person hiding in your vehicle.
For as long as there have been cars, there have also unfortunately been road fatalities. The first known road traffic death was in 1869, when Irish scientist Mary Ward fell out of a family member’s car and was consequently run over. The car was alleged to be travelling at 4kph.
For over 110 years, people have been driving (and crashing) their cars. Gilbert Loomis bought the first known car insurance policy in 1897 when he purchased $1,000 of liability insurance from the Travelers Insurance Company to protect him if his car killed someone or damaged property. Even way back then, when a car’s top speed was around 35kph, people knew that it paid to be protected. Check out just how far car insurance has come since 1897!
One last fun fact: in 2010, an incredible 19 people stuffed themselves into a SMART car. Talk about cram-packed!