How Much Do You Know About Driving in the Early Days of Automobiles?


By: Craig

6 Min Quiz

Image: YouTube

About This Quiz

The automobile has changed a great deal about human society since its invention in the late 1800's. Cities that were once panicking over what on earth their policy should be to remove increasingly enormous mountains of horse dung from the streets found themselves, just one generation later, having to come up with all sorts of new plans to figure out what to do about this fancy new horseless carriage clogging up their streets. In 1905, cars were a curiosity, but it took only 15 years for them to entirely displace horses, and for ownership to spring from a few percent of the population to around 60%.

Part of what made this possible was standardization of the controls. In order for a technology to spread, it has to become user-friendly, and a car is no good if you get into it and take months to learn how to operate it. This was a result of a back-and-forth between different car companies, inventors, and thinkers as they tried to optimize. It was by no means certain that the arrangement of the steering wheel, gear stick, pedals, turn signals, and so on would be as they are. It's now clear from video game tech that they are actually not the most intuitive or efficient options, but they're what we're used to, so - until the machines take over and the idea of a human driver becomes quaint -- that's what we've got. How much do you know about how they came about?

What were early motor cars called?

When the motor car first came out, many people called them autocars.


Up until 1908, the steering wheel on American cars was found on the?

All vehicles produced in the States up until 1908 featured steering wheels on the right-hand side.


One of the earliest problems motor vehicle owners found happened during winter. What was this?

An early problem for motor vehicle owners in the early days was the fact that the water in their radiators froze during cold winters. Often, owners would drain the water from the radiator and store their car for winter.


Rain could also prove to be a major problem for vehicles, especially if the road was very muddy. What piece of equipment was often carried to overcome muddy patches?

When driving after heavy rains, many vehicle owners carried a large wooden board that could be thrown over muddy areas and then driven over with the vehicle. As road construction improved, this became less of a problem.


To keep the radiator warm in winter while out on a visit to the shops or family, this item was often placed over it.

In cold weather, a radiator could freeze over, even if the car had been used recently. Clever owners quickly worked out that the heat could be retained in between trips with a horse blanket placed over the radiator. This was a great way to ensure your car would start when you came back to it from your shopping trip or family visit.


Steering on early cars didn't make use of a steering wheel. How was a vehicle steered?

Many early cars never had a steering wheel. The driver held a metal rod in his hand and pushed it in the direction he wanted to turn.


What were the rims of early cars made from?

Like wagon wheels, most rims on early cars were made from wood.


Which vehicle was the first to feature a steering wheel on the left-hand side?

Ford was the first motor company to introduced vehicles with the steering on the left-hand side.


Why did Ford start putting the steering wheel on the left-hand side of the vehicle?

The main reason Henry Ford put the steering wheel on the left-hand side of the vehicle was that it meant the passenger could enter the car from the sidewalk and not have to worry about oncoming traffic.


Which vehicle company introduced the first lever-operated headlights?

By introducing lever-operated headlights, Cadillac put the driver in total control how where the headlights shone and how much light they let out.


The first rear-view mirror was pioneered by?

The first rear-view mirrors used to give the driver some idea of what was happening behind his vehicle were introduced by the Marmon Motor Company.


In what famous American race were the first rear-view mirrors used?

It makes sense that a rear-view mirror would makes its appearance in motor racing. It was introduced by the Marmon Motor Company.


At the turn of the 20th century, what powered most early motor vehicles?

Many early motor vehicles were in fact mini steam engines and at the turn of the 19th century, around 40 percent of all vehicles were steam-driven.


In what year was the first diesel engine built?

Rudolf Diesel began work on a diesel engine in 1892, and five years later, he had it working properly. It was first used in a vehicle in the 1930s.


To overcome freezing radiators, car owners would often fill this reservoir with?

Other than putting your car away for winter in areas with a cold climate, some clever vehicle owners would drain their radiators after use and then refill them with hot water when they needed the car again. This stopped the water in the radiator from freezing.


The first car to reach 100km/h achieved the feat in 1889. What type of engine did it use?

An electric car designed by Frenchman, Camille Jenatzy, was the first vehicle to break the 100km/h barrier. He achieved the feat in 1899.


Which city in America was the first to have a dedicated traffic police force?

It makes sense that that Motor City was the first to have cops watching the cars run. High-speed chases were a LOT slower back then.


At the turn of the 20th Century, the second most popular engine type for cars was?

Around 38% of vehicles at the start of the 20th Century were powered by electric motors.


Although they were extremely popular at the turn of the 20th Century, electric engines faded away fairly quickly? Why?

Many cities did not have full electrical grid systems, which made recharging the batteries for an electric vehicle difficult.


In which year did the first motor vehicle accident occur in America?

While driving a single-cylinder gasoline driven vehicle, John William Lambert and his passenger, James Swoveland, were involved in an accident when their vehicle careened off a road after hitting a tree root.


The first long-distance trip was undertaken by Bertha Benz in 1888. She traveled how far in two days?

Without her husband's knowledge, Bertha Benz took one of his vehicles and drove it to the next town and back over the course of two days. During her trip, she gained much knowledge about the vehicle and provided her husband with many practical ideas to improve it.


The earliest motor vehicles often only had ____ wheels.

Many early vehicles only had three wheels. In fact, Karl Benz, the father of the automobile, designed many of his early vehicles with just three wheels.


When were the first vehicle turning indicators invented?

The first turn indicator for cars was invented by Canadian, Florence Lawrence.


What were the first turn indicators called?

Invented by Florence Lawrence, early turn indicators, called the auto signaling arm, consisted of an arm attached to the fender. When the driver pressed a button, the arm would raise to indicate the car was turning. There was one arm on either side of the vehicle.


In what year was the first spare wheel invented?

The first spare wheel for vehicles was invented by Walter and Tom Davies in Wales.


The first tires with pattern treads were invented in?

A German company, Continental, was the first to introduced patterned tread to its tires in 1904.


The first grooved tires were invented in?

An American company, Goodyear, introduced grooved tires to improve traction in 1908.


In what year was the first steering wheel used on a car?

The first car to have a steering wheel was the French Panhard & Levassor in 1898.


In what year was the first car fitted with brakes on all four wheels?

The first four-wheel braking system was fitted by Dutch automaker Spyker to their 60/80 HP model.


Which city in the United States was the first to use stop signs, traffic lights and lane markings?

The first city to make comprehensive use of stop signs, traffic lights and lane markings was none other than Detroit City.


Which car club set up an extensive network of signs in New York in 1905?

As vehicle numbers increased in New York, the Buffalo Car Club took it upon themselves to put up signs throughout the city.


In which city were the first electric traffic signals used?

Cleveland, Ohio was the first city to make use of electric traffic signals.


Riding on the right-hand side of the road has been a rule in the United States since?

Of course, this rule had nothing to do with powered vehicles at the time but for horses, wagons and carriages. Naturally, as vehicles became more popular in America, the rule continued.


The first fatality in which a motor vehicle was involved was pedestrian, Bridgett Driscoll. In what year did she die?

Bridgett Driscoll was killed in 1896 while crossing the grounds of Crystal Palace in London. She was struck by a car giving demonstration rides.


The first driver fatality in a motor vehicle occurred in which year?

The first driver killed in a motor vehicle accident occurred in London in 1889. The victim was Edwin Sewell.


Explore More Quizzes

About Zoo

Our goal at is to keep you entertained in this crazy life we all live.

We want you to look inward and explore new and interesting things about yourself. We want you to look outward and marvel at the world around you. We want you to laugh at past memories that helped shape the person you’ve become. We want to dream with you about all your future holds. Our hope is our quizzes and articles inspire you to do just that.

Life is a zoo! Embrace it on