• Seatbelts were made compulsory as late as 1968 in the UK
  • The crumple zone is one of the most important innovations in car safety
  • In 2013, Volvo developed pedestrian and cycle detection technology

Car safety has been a pressing issue for manufacturers since the early 20th century and over the years they have invested heavily in the latest technologies. We take a look at some of the landmark moments in this history of car safety, which has helped save millions of lives.


Ford introduces, as standard, shatter-proof safety glass on all its vehicles, one of the early landmark moments in car safety history. Early windshields had, prior to this, been made out of ordinary window glass.


The American inventor Samuel W. Alderson creates Sierra Sam, the first ever crash test dummy, enabling others to pioneer all sorts of live-saving road safety technology.


The German engineer Walter Linderer files a patent on October 6th, 1951, for what will eventually be the world's first airbag. Today, multiple airbags are standard in cars and the technology continues to evolve.

For example, in 2014, Ford announced that it was offering licences to other car manufacturers to adopt its inflatable seatbelt technology in their respective models.


The Hungarian-Austrian engineer Béla Barényi, described as the father of passive safety technology in cars, develops the concept of the crumple zone at Mercedes-Benz.

Crumple zones are basically designed to absorb the kinetic energy that is released in a crash, to direct it away from passengers in the cabin.


The Road Research Laboratory, based in the UK, tests an anti-lock braking system (ABS) on a Royal Enfield Super Meteor motorcycle.

ABS technology, interestingly, was developed earlier, for use in aircraft (as early as 1929). Gabriel Voisin, a French aviation pioneer, was influential in this regard.


The first car to be fitted with a 3-point seatbelt is Volvo's 112. However, it is another six years before it becomes compulsory for all cars in the UK to be fitted with seatbelts.

The 19th century English engineer George Cayley is considered to be the founding father of seatbelts. However, the patent for the technology was filed by the American Edward J. Claghorn.


Laws are introduced making head restraints mandatory in cars, many years after the concept was developed. Their purpose is to reduce the instance and severity of whiplash or injury to the neck and back through a collision.


Mercedes-Benz and BMW pilot the first traction control systems. Considered a secondary function to ABS, its purpose is to keep cars stable if a loss of control is detected.


Six years after Mercedes-Benz conducts research that finds 90 per cent of drivers fail to apply enough force to brakes in emergency situations, it launches the first ever brake assist system to make up for the human shortfall.


Lane departure warning systems make their car debut, after proving successful in commercial trucks and lorries. The technology alerts a driver, through the use of small cameras, that they are beginning to drift out of their lane.


Volvo develops highly-sophisticated pedestrian – and cycle – detection technology. This groundbreaking safety feature will, for example, sound warning lights if it detects a possible collision. It will also automatically deploy brakes.

What will the future hold for car safety? We might not yet have the hover cars predicted in 60’s sci-fi movies, but what we do have are vehicles that are safer than ever before.