How Volvo Inventor Nils Bohlin Made Cars Safer For Everyone

By Kellar Ellsworth
The three-point seat belt in action. Source: Volvo

Safe, not sexy -- that's been the Volvo way. The Swedish car manufacturer can claim a life-saving invention in the three-point seat belt, developed by a Volvo engineer in the '50s and patented. That's right, Volvo actually owns the patent on the seat belt that is standard on every car made today. But the company and the belt's inventor, Nils Bohlin, decided the technology was too important, and gave it away for the rest of the auto industry to use.

Cars have come a long way since their invention in 1886. Back then, they resembled little more than a barber’s chair propped up on four giant bicycle wheels. Today, they are closer to little spaceships than Karl Benz’s original invention. Since then, cars became faster, safer, and a few even learned to drive themselves. However, the most significant leap in automobile safety has changed very little over the past 60 years: the seat belt. The seat belt has saved more lives than yoga, vegetables, and crystals combined. But if not for the altruistic people at Volvo, we all might be living in a much different world.