In 1959, Swedish engineer Nils Bohlin created a visionary design for his employer, Volvo, for a new type of seat belt that secured both the upper and lower body. It was a groundbreaking design, but instead of keeping the three-point lap and shoulder seatbelt as a propriety invention in order to sell more cars, Volvo shared the life-saving belt design with other car manufacturers. The simple reason -- to save lives.
From fighter jets to seat belts:
- Before Bohlin's invention, lap belts were used -- but they caused injuries in high speed crashes.
- Bohlin had designed ejector seats for Saab fighter airplanes in the 1950s. He was hired as the Volvo’s first chief safety engineer in 1958.
- Volvo gave the design to other automakers for free. According to one of company's directors, “The decision to release the three-point seat belt patent was visionary and in line with Volvo’s guiding principle of safety.”