Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Nicolas Cugnot, the inventor of the first automobile.

In 1769, Nicolas-Joseph Cugnot designed and constructed the first working self-propelled vehicle for human travel. Perhaps best described as a power tricycle about the size of a small present-day bus, it had one wheel at the front under the boiler and two-cylinder steam engine, and two wheels at the back under the freight area. Called a fardier a vapeur (steam dray), it had a top speed that was slower than walking, about two miles per hour, even without factoring in that it needed to stop 4-6 times each hour to restock its water reservoir and allow the steam pressure to rebuild. A 1771 incident where the driver lost control and the cart ran into a wall is sometimes cited as the world's first automobile accident.

Cugnot's cart was intended to serve as a gun carriage for moving heavy artillery or up to four officers on the battlefield, but beyond a few prototypes it was never manufactured, due to a lack of interest by Louis XV's court. In 1801, Cugnot's steam-powered automobile was moved to France's Conservatoire National des Arts et MĪ¹tiers, where it has been on permanent display ever since.

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