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Three-Point Safety Belt from the man who helped develop the ejection seat and other pilot rescue systems.
Nils Bohlin was born in Härnösand, Sweden on the 17th of July 1920. In 1939 he received a diploma in mechanical engineering and in 1942 he began working with aircraft maker SAAB. In the mid-1950s, during his time at SAAB, he helped develop the ejection seat and other pilot rescue systems.
In 1958, Mr Bohlin joined the Volvo Car Corporation as its first chief safety engineer. At this point safety belts took the form of a two point waist restraint, with the buckle placed over the abdomen. The position of the buckle often caused serious damage to internal organs. A relative of the Volvo CEO had died in a car crash and it is believed that this motivated the company to improve safety.
While working on planes, Bohlin had worked with the more elaborate four point harnesses in airplanes but knew this was not suitable for cars. A problem Bohlin faced was user comfort. At this point seatbelts were not yet mandatory and as he puts it:
“The pilots I worked with were willing to put on almost anything to keep them safe in case of a crash, but regular people in cars don't want to be uncomfortable even for a minute."
In just under a year of working at Volvo he developed his desired device, the three-point belt. In 1959 the three-point belt was launched onto the Nordic Market on the Volvo Amazon and in 1963 it was launched onto the US market.
''I realized both the upper and lower body must be held securely in place with one strap across the chest and one across the hips” – Nils Bohlin
The three-point belt is widely used today and this can be thanked to Volvo opening up the patent. This is a product that probably could have made Volvo a fortune but they chose to put safety first.
“The decision to release the three-point seat belt patent was visionary and in line with Volvo’s guiding principle of safety.” – Alan Dessell, Volvo
It is estimated today that the three-point belt has saved over 1 million lives. It is probably one of the most important safety devices ever made and it wasn’t made for profit.
On the 26th of September 2002, Nils Bohlin died. On the day of his death he was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in Akron.
''We believe that he was a great inventor; an inventor with a conscience that made great contributions to road safety' – Victor Doolan, Volvo