The modern seatbelt was created by Volvo engineer Nils Bohlin in 1959. At that time, seat belts were simple two-point waist restraints, and in crashes they often did more harm than good.
In the early decades of the automobile industry, safety was just an afterthought. In those days, Volvo built their reputation on selling safer cars, but they gave away the most important safety device ever invented: the three-point seat belt.
The design was first launched in the Nordic market in 1959 on the Volvo Amazon and Volvo PV544. It made its way to the U.S. in 1963.
But Volvo didn’t do that — they gave the patent away because they decided it was too important to keep to themselves. They decided that the invention was so significant, it had more value as a free life saving tool than something to profit from.
So if you’ve ever had your life saved by a three-point seat belt, you have Bohlin to thank for it, and maybe also Volvo for putting human lives ahead of corporate profits. It was a revolutionary invention, and one that probably could have netted Volvo a fortune on patents alone.