Exactly 60 years ago, the world was made whole lot safer when a Volvo engineer Made it's "3 point Belt Invention" patent-free for all the competitors to use, in order to save lives. And eventually this 3-point seatbelt landed in every vehicle.
Six decades ago, On 10 July 1962, a Swedish engineer Nils Bohlin was issued a patent number:3043625, by United States Patent Office for the development of three-point safety belt. The belt was designed for the safety of car drivers. The design of the belt was kept simple and plain. It consisted of two straps which met at the hip and secured both the lower and upper body.
Nils Bohlin was born in Harnosand, Sweden, in 1920. He started his career at Svenska Aeroplan Aktiebolaget as an aircraft engineer in 1942. In 1955, Nils was given the responsibility of developing the catapult seats and other safety equipment for the pilots. According to the sources, Neil was also interested in another phenomenon of keeping the body as safe as possible during the extreme retardation. He soon got an opportunity to turn his ideas into reality. In 1958, Nils was recruited as a safety engineer at Volvo by then-president of the company, Gunnar Engellau.
Three Point Safety Belt
During the late 1950s, Volvo invented a number of solutions which intended to prevent the impact of severe car accidents on the occupants with the car’s interior components. After this in 1957, Volvo started equipping its cars with the standard-fit anchorages for the two-point front safety belts. But the so called, Diagonal belts did not have the required capacity, which the Volvo aimed at. The belts’ buckle was faulty and positioned at the similar height as of the occupant’s ribcage. This did more damage to the occupants rather than saving them.
But Volvo was lucky to have Nils in their company at that time. Nils Bohlin soon realized that both lower and upper body has to be secured properly in place to provide ultimate safety. He studied that, they require one belt across the chest and another across the hips to achieve this target. He wanted his solution to be effective and simple to use, so much so that the occupant should be able to put it across using just one hand. Soon after in 1959, the patented three-point safety belt was introduced in the PV 544 on the Nordic markets and Volvo Amazon, making Volvo the first car manufacturer worldwide to equip its cars with safety belts as standard.
During those times seatbelts were not mandatory. Initially, the customers resisted the 3 point safety belt as they perceived it as awkward and useless. Apart from that, they mistook it’s effectiveness with the 2 point safety belts. After a series of tests and trials of all the belts available, Volvo’s three-point belt provided the best level of protection for the car drivers.
Volvo And Bohmin's Gift to The World
It, turned out to be a big favour to the car drivers since then. His work is as a Swedish designer earned him a laurel from the Royal Swedish Academy of Engineering Science and an induction in the Automotive Hall of Fame. Instead of licensing his Innovation out to other Automakers and patenting it for the the hefty amount the company opened it up so that the other auto manufactures can include it in their manufacturing units. For this selfless move of Volvo towards the safety of Automobile industry, car historians and car experts have given a lot of credits to the company.
Instead of keeping the invention restricted to their use, the company decided that the concept was much more valuable than any other personal and commercial advantages. After the invention was made patent free, it has shown incredible effectiveness in the olden as well as modern era. According to reports, it has saved a million lives until now. Apart from this, the chances of serious injuries and collision has reduced by 50% due to the introduction of seat belts. A top official from the firm, Alan Dessell described the philosophy behind this commitment. He said that, ” The decision of releasing the three-point seat belt patent was insightful and in line with Volvo. It was a guiding principle for the safety.”
The Volvo and Nils Bohlin have made world a safer place by gifting us their innovation. One cannot think of vehicles without a seat belt in the modern scenario. Even today, Volvo’s cars are considered to be extremely safe and secure.