In appreciation of the great strides we've made, we take a closer look at some of the prominent automobile safety features. From windshield wipers to the predecessor of today’s GPS, did you know that many safety features you can find in an automobile were invented by women?

Here are 6 innovations by female trailblazers which revolutionised the auto industry (and saved many lives on the road)!

During a trip to New York City, Mary Anderson saw that tram drivers had to open their windows to clear the frost, which exposed them to the elements. This observation inspired her to design a device that removed snow or rain from the windshield with a hand-operated lever from inside the vehicle. It could also be removed after winter. 

When it was patented in 1903, cars were still rare, so it was not commercially produced until 1913. Today this standard car feature is handy in stormy weathers!

Silent-film star Florence Lawrence was in almost 300 films throughout her career. She made so much from it that she could buy her own automobile, which was rare for women back in the early 20th century! Having developed a passion for the world of automobile, she decided to explore safety measures for vehicles.  

After years of experimentation, Lawrence invented the first mechanical turn signal and mechanical brake signal in 1914. By pushing a button, the “auto-signalling arms” would raise and lower a flag on the rear bumper to let people know which way the car would turn. Hitting the brakes would also cause a small sign labelled “stop” to pop up and warn people that the car would come to a stop.

Sadly, she did not patent her inventions. Although these devices have become essential to everyday road safety, not many associate her with them. Some bigger companies even tried to take credit for her contribution.

In 1893, mechanical engineer Margaret Wilcox invented the car heater. Hot air would be released from an opening to the engine, providing warmth to 19th century aristocratic motorists. 

Across the century, it was modified and enhanced to become a crucial part of vehicles today. Here in sunny Malaysia, most of us fail to connect with the utility of something that adds even more heat to our often sweltering journeys, let alone accept it as a safety feature. However, car heaters have protected many against the threat of hypothermia during long drives in cold, wintry weather.

In the 1960s, Stephanie Kwolek, a chemist at DuPont, was asked to develop a fuel-efficient alternative for steel reinforcements in car tyres. This research brought to existence Kevlar, a lightweight polymer fibre that is stronger than steel. The material is used to make automobile tyres, reinforced brake pads and even protective armour like bulletproof vests!

In 1995, Kwolek became the fourth women to enter the National Inventors Hall of Fame.

Anyone who has ever been lost on the road would understand how much of a lifesaver the GPS is. You may be surprised to know that the predecessor of the modern GPS was invented by Austrian actress and international beauty icon, Hedy Lemarr.

During World War II, she worked alongside George Antheil to create a wireless transmission technology that helped combat Nazis. By manipulating radio frequencies, the system ensured that secret codes would not be detected by enemies.

If you thought that was impressive, multiply that by a thousand. This technology was way ahead of its time. Although it was patented in 1941, it received little attention until the digital technology boom. Lemarr’s invention set the technological foundation for cellular phones, WiFi and GPS you see in this day and age.

Brake linings was the brainchild of Bertha Benz, the wife and business partner of Karl Benz, who is the inventor of the automobile and a founder of the automobile company we know today as Mercedes Benz.

In a time when cars still sparked fear amongst the public, she took her sons on the first cross-country automobile drive to prove that the invention is useful and has a place in the future. You can even say that she was the world’s first test driver!

Through her trip, she made important suggestions that transformed automobile design, including additional gears for hilly surfaces and brake linings to improve brake pads.

No doubt the invention of these automobile features have made driving much safer today, but the unexpected can still happen. It is still better to get a coverage plan that can protect you from additional loss on the road. Allianz Malaysia has a comprehensive car insurance which offers nationwide motor accident assistance as well as Enhanced Road Warrior, which offers 24/7 reliable and quick roadside assistance in case of a breakdown.
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