NILS BOHLIN: THE FATHER OF CAR SAFETY

 

Many individuals have been revered in the automotive industry due to their contribution to every aspect of the automotive industry. Some of the venerated individuals are Henry Ford, who produced Model T that makes every American owning a car. Similarly, Ferdinand Porche established Volkswagen to make every German own a vehicle similar to their American counterpart, Soichiro Honda, who had met countless rejections to make Honda Motors one of the conglomerates in the automotive industries and many others. This revered automotive individual had made their respected car brand one of most sought automotive in the world until today. They are another individual who also had a life-saving invention that is still used today.  He is non-other than Nils Ivar Bohlin, who had conceived a simple yet successful improvement to invent the 3 point seat belt that saved many lives. 

Nils Ivar Bohlin, born on July 17, 1920, had always been a pioneer in safety. He first started his career with aircraft maker Saab as an aircraft designer. He had developed the aircraft ejection seat with his team in Saab. Like the 3 point safety belt, the aircraft ejection seat also saved many lives in the warplanes. With these creations, Nils Bohlin had created an undisputed reputation among his peers and associate in Sweeden.

This excellent reputation made him joined Volvo in 1958 as a safety engineer. It was the effort of the Volvo President at the time, Gunnar Engellau, who was also an engineer himself. He decided to snap Nils Bohlin from Saap as the president had encountered a significant tragic loss in his life. The president’s relative had passed away in a car accident. The traumatic accident is because of the deficiency in the 2 point seat belt invented at that time, and more tragic is that this flawed 2 point seat belt was not a common feature in the vehicle at that time.

In correlation with the Volvo company motto and principles where safety is the utmost aspect of the vehicle manufacturer, the president had requested Nils Bohlin to come with an invention that is better than 2 point seat belt. The president also wants Volvo to become the first car maker to find these solutions. Nils Bohlin quickly accepted his work and had found a flaw in the 2 point seat belts.

Firstly, the human pelvis is hinged. A single strap doesn’t restrain the torso, leaving passengers vulnerable to severe head, chest, and spinal injuries in a collision. Poorly positioned, the belt can crush your internal organs on impact. They don’t work very well. Secondly, people don’t want to wear them. Until Bohlin’s commission, mid-century seat belts were clumsy and uncomfortable. If you can’t persuade people to wear a restraint, it turns out that they are useless. 

Nils Bohlin needs to make a belt that can protect the occupant and the drivers and make it comfortable. After one year of deficient studies of the 2 point seat belt, Nils Bohlin came up with the 3 point seat belt in 1959 after joining Volvo as the safety engineer. The 3 point seat belt with a cross strap design makes driving with a seat belt safer and more comfortable. These 3 point seat belts used in the modern-day vehicle are the brainchild of the Nils Bohlin. Every car and other vehicle in the modern-day had these 3 point seat belts as a standard safety aspect.

With these inventions, Volvo also invested a significant amount of time and money in displaying its efficacy. Volvo had many experiments and conducting some scientific research to prove the efficacy to the public. With a cultural shift, the 3 point seat belt had become an enormous success in automotive safety. It adds a safety layer to the vehicle in the past and the present.

Volvo had done something exceptional and remarkable. After successfully proving the efficacy of the 3 point seat belt, Volvo had patented the seat belt invention. With these patents, Volvo can charge a license fee for other vehicle manufacturers to use their design and at some time able to use these to promote their vehicle and establishing their car model as the safest car in the world. However, after gaining the patent, Volvo did something extraordinary. They made Bohlin patent right available to all vehicle manufacturers, which made every vehicle able to use it without paying any license fee and save more lives.

Bohlin does not stop with the 3 point seat belt as in his position as the safety engineer; he also had developed the Side Impacts Protection System (SIPS). This invention added another layer of automotive safety in the vehicle amalgamating with the 3 point seat belt. Like the 3 point seat belt, Volvo also became the first car to have the SIPS fixed, followed by other car manufacturers adding the SIPS to their vehicles.

A simple yet efficient belt design has saved many lives until today. Due to these, Nils Bohlin received many accolades. In 1974, he was awarded The Ralph Isbrandt Automotive Safety Engineering Award, and in 1989 he was inducted into the Hall of Fame for Safety and Health. He received a gold medal from the Royal Swedish Academy of Engineering Sciences in 1995 and, in 1999, was inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame. He retired from Volvo as Senior Engineer in 1985 and was posthumously inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.

His invention in Saab with the development of the ejection seats and Volvo with the 3 point safety belt and the SIPS had made the modern-day car safer than the previous generation car. It also shrunk the car accident due to vehicle flaw design . The automobile manufacturers in the contemporary era know the importance of the seat belt. They had come up with some ingenious way to make the occupant wearing the seat belt, like the beep sound turns louder, muting the radio, disabling the brake hold if the occupant never wears the seat belt, etc. The indirect method that they are using the make the occupant wearing the seatbelt is because of the efficacy of the seat belt to make driving the car safer. This credit all goes to Nils Bohlin, who invented these designs in 1959.

 

 

 

 

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