Cruise Control Was The Creation Of Blind Inventor Ralph Teetor After His Lawyer Annoyed Him
One of the most widely used features of modern cars was born out of a frustrating car ride a brilliant, but blind, engineer took with his attorney
Innovation is often taken for granted. Every time something is invented that makes life a little bit easier, people gobble it up until the next thing comes along to fawn over, leaving little room for true appreciation. One 20th century development that has been used countless times the world over is cruise control — the function of a vehicle to go a set speed without having to continuously employ the gas pedal. Surprisingly, this driving feature was originated by a brilliant inventor named Ralph Teetor, despite being completely blind when he developed the concept.
Teetor was born in Indiana in 1890. At the age of five, an accident with a knife claimed one of his eyes, and a medical condition claimed sight in his other eye the following year. He never let his disability stop him, and even preferred not talking about it.
He went on to earn multiple engineering degrees from the University of Pennsylvania and worked in the motor division of his family’s Teetor-Hartley Motor Company. After this was sold in 1918, he went on to work for various other companies that built motors and engines. Despite a career of accomplishments, the one that he is best remembered for is cruise control.
Teetor’s inspiration for cruise control came into his mind during a car ride he took with the family lawyer, Harry Lindsay, around 1935. The attorney had a peculiar habit when driving of slowing down while talking, and speeding up while listening, creating a rhythm that grated on Teetor’s nerves. Determined to find a solution to avoid future rocking back and forth during a conversation in the car, the engineer embarked on a lengthy journey of experimentation before hitting upon a solution.
10 years later, in 1945, a year before Teetor became President of Perfect Circle Corporation, he was finally granted his first patent for his speed control device, which was alternately called Controlmatic, Touchomatic, Pressomatic, and Speedostat. The latter eventually…