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Australian Inventions: Transport Innovations

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Australian Inventions: Transport Innovations

Australians are an ingenious bunch. Many of us are familiar with products of Aussie ingenuity, such as Wi-Fi and the plastic banknote.

From our nation of inventors, a range of auto and transportation inventions big and small are recognised as important. However you choose to get from A to B, chances are you’ll be relying on an Australian invention during your journey.

Here are some of the most noteworthy transportation inventions, for which we have our fellow Aussies to thank.

1. Car Radio (1924)

Our daily commute would be very boring without the company of our favourite music artist or radio host. In 1924, Kelly Motors in Liverpool, New South Wales fitted the first car radio in a Summit car. This high-end car model also included other cutting-edge accessories such as a clock, front and back windscreen wipers and a cigar lighter.

The history books don’t say whether the new invention sparked complaints about drivers hooning up and down streets to the sound of 1920s Australian jazz. But it’s hard to imagine what we’d do today without our favourite tunes while driving.

2. Utility Truck (1934)

The ultimate all-round carrier, the utility truck was designed in 1934 by Lewis Brandt at the Ford Motor Company in Geelong, Victoria

The ultimate all-round carrier, the utility truck was designed in 1934 by Lewis Brandt at the Ford Motor Company in Geelong, Victoria after a Gippsland farmer’s wife sent in a request: “Can you build me a vehicle that we can use to go to church in on Sunday, without getting wet, and that my husband can use to take the pigs to market on Monday?”

And thus Australia’s iconic car was born. The original ute was called a “coupe-utility,” describing a body shape that combined a Ford V8 coupe in the front with a high-sided open carrying space in the back. The car went on to become a huge success and was quickly copied by other car manufacturers around the world.

Motoring historian Adrian Ryan explains: “The ute has become, I think, as Australian as the kangaroo. It was just something that most Australians aspired to having.”

Popular with everyone from farmers to office workers, the ute will always remain the iconic, fair dinkum Aussie vehicle, and one of our best innovations on the roads today.

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3. Variable Ratio Power Steering (1971)

Have you ever wondered why your car is just as easy to turn on the open road as well as at slow speeds? Hydraulic and electric power steering systems make things much easier for modern drivers. Gone are the days when using a steering wheel gave you a decent workout. But the key to an effective power steering system lies in a little known Aussie invention: variable ratio steering technology.

The key to an effective power steering system lies in a little known Aussie invention: variable ratio steering technology.

Arthur Bishop was an enterprising engineer and inventor from Sydney who developed and patented designs for new car steering systems and their components. Bishop’s key inventions include a variable ratio rack-and-pinion steering technology and a rotary valve for power steering. Many cars owe their good steering ‘feel’ to these inventions.

But not only did Bishop invent the variable ratio rack-and-pinion technology, he also figured out how to manufacture it. According to Bishop, it was important not just to invent and patent an idea: “…but also to find and cover the best way to manufacture, or the best process associated with that new idea.”

You won’t find Arthur Bishop’s name on a product today. But his inventions are used in 20 per cent of the passenger cars made in the world each year, and have helped to produce safer and more precise car steering.

4. Baby Safety Capsules (1984)

Many of us grew up with car safety restraints for children as commonplace. But for a long time, there was really no secure way to protect babies in a car crash.

Bob Botell and Bob Heath invented the “Safe-n-Sound” baby capsule in 1984, in response to the need for a child safety restraint. The invention was made up of a bassinet that fit inside a base which was kept in place by a seat belt. They designed the capsule to fit in a standard car seat, which meant that babies and small children could now be buckled up safely.

Since 1984, more than 2 million little Australians have been protected by the Baby Safety Capsule. Baby safety capsules are now sold in other countries such as New Zealand, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Sweden, Korea and Japan making it a globally successful Aussie invention.

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5. Black Box Flight Recorder (1954)

A spate of airplane crashes in the 1950s had engineers stumped. Why had these planes crashed? No one knew for sure.

The first ‘ARL Flight Memory Unit’ was produced by Dr. Warren and his team in 1957, and refined over the next few years to be crash-proof and fire-proof.

In response, Dr. David Warren, a researcher at the Aeronautical Research Laboratory in Melbourne, came up with the idea of a machine that would automatically record voices and important flight data from the cockpit. With this kind of information, investigators would gain important clues about why a plane crashed.

The first ‘ARL Flight Memory Unit’ was produced by Dr. Warren and his team in 1957, and refined over the next few years to be crash-proof and fire-proof.

While the original unit was black in colour, later models used an orange-coloured housing to make it easier to find in an emergency. The original name ‘Black Box’ stuck though, and in 1960 a judge ruled that all Australian passenger airplanes had to be equipped with one.

Today, every commercial plane flies with Dr. Warren’s black boxes fitted into the aircraft. This humble Aussie invention has helped to solve hundreds of crash investigations, spurred improvements in aircraft safety, and has helped make air travel one of the safest modes of transport.

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Invented in 2003 by a team of Australians led by brothers Lars and Jens Rasmussen, Google Maps is used by millions of people today to find out the easiest way to get somewhere.

6. Google Maps (2003-2004)

Here’s a depressingly familiar scenario: you’re driving in an unfamiliar neighbourhood, and clearly lost. Rather than ask for directions or consult a map, you keep circling around the block, hoping to find the right street. But it’s no use.

Enter Google Maps, the online navigation system with searchable street maps and turn-by-turn directions for those of us brave enough to admit our poor sense of direction. Invented in 2003 by a team of Australians led by brothers Lars and Jens Rasmussen, Google Maps is used by millions of people today to find out the easiest way to get somewhere.

In August 2013, Google Maps was reported as the world’s most popular app for smartphones, with more than 54 percent of global smartphone owners using it at least once.

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7. Military Tank (1911)

The continuous chain tracks described in de Mole’s tank design are found today in vehicles such as bulldozers, tractors, and of course, tanks.

Admittedly, most of us don’t use tanks as a mode of transport (though it certainly would be fun to do so). In the early 1900s, while working in the rugged countryside of Western Australia as a draughtsman, Lancelot de Mole came up with the idea to use a continuous chain rail on wheels for moving heavy hauls.

From this idea, de Mole came up with a design for a chain rail armoured vehicle, and sent his sketches to the British War Office in 1912. However, a number of bureaucratic errors meant that his designs were rejected before and during World War I, only for very similar tanks to emerge on the battlefield in 1916.

De Mole was eventually awarded financial compensation by the British government and considered his military tank design: “a very brilliant invention which anticipated, and in some respects surpassed, that actually put into use [during the War]…”

The continuous chain tracks described in de Mole’s tank design are found today in vehicles such as bulldozers, tractors, and of course, tanks.

From our nation of inventors, a range of auto and transportation inventions big and small are recognised as important. However you choose to get from A to B, chances are you’ll be relying on an Australian invention during your journey. Here are some of the most noteworthy transportation inventions, for which we have our fellow Aussies to thank.

From our nation of inventors, a range of auto and transportation inventions big and small are recognised as important. However you choose to get from A to B, chances are you’ll be relying on an Australian invention during your journey. Here are some of the most noteworthy transportation inventions, for which we have our fellow Aussies to thank.

 

Sources
http://www.australia.gov.au/about-australia/australian-story/austn-inventions
http://www.carsguide.com.au/car-news/aussie-car-inventions-18202
http://www.abc.net.au/tv/bigideas/stories/2009/07/10/2620279.htm
http://www.businessinsider.com/google-smartphone-app-popularity-2013-9
http://net.lib.byu.edu/estu/wwi/comment/DeMole/designnotpassedon.htm
http://www.australiangeographic.com.au/topics/history-culture/2015/01/top-10-unknown-australian-firsts
http://www.powerhousemuseum.com/australia_innovates/?behaviour=view_article&Section_id=1080&article_id=10083
http://www.madderns.com.au/news/steering-the-way-arthur-bishop-1917-2006/
http://www.powerhousemuseum.com/australia_innovates/?behaviour=view_article&Section_id=1080&article_id=10082
http://www.radioaustralia.net.au/international/radio/onairhighlights/the-first-ute
http://www.gizmodo.com.au/2011/01/australias-top-10-inventions-the-ute/