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Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain
Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Bertha Benz and the First-Ever Road Trip

Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain
Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Bertha Benz changed automotive history by packing her two teenage sons into a car and driving to her mother’s house.

It doesn’t exactly sound impressive, but the year was 1888. A 65-mile road trip by car had never been attempted before—certainly not by a lone woman toting her children.

Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Bertha was married to Karl Benz. Their last name might sound familiar; if you don’t know Karl as the inventor of the first car with an internal combustion engine, then you’ve probably heard of one of his little creations, the Mercedes-Benz.

But in 1888, Benz was still just a fledgling company. People weren’t convinced that Benz’ creation was safe, so Bertha hatched a PR plan that would be sure to allay fears and increase sales: She would embark upon a long journey in the Benz Patent-Motorwagen No. 3—all by herself. After all, if a woman could handle the vehicle, anyone could.

Karl Benz apparently had no knowledge of his wife’s plans. She and her sons jumped into the Patent-Motorwagen No. 3 and left while he was still sleeping, leaving a note explaining where they were going. And Bertha didn’t just drive 65 miles—she stopped along the way to fuel up, repair the leather drive belt, unclog a carburetor pipe using a hat pin, and insulate an electric ignition cable with her garter. When she got to her mother’s in Pforzheim less than 12 hours after leaving, she sent her husband a telegram to let him know that she had arrived safely, but there was really no need. Word had spread quickly from town to town as Bertha had stopped at small towns to fix problems and gas up.

The road trip stunt had the intended effect: The Benz business started thriving. The trip also helped Benz hone his invention; when Bertha reported back about the car’s struggle to get up steep hills, Karl added the world’s first gear system.

You can still drive the Bertha Benz Memorial Route today, but it’ll take you about an hour as opposed to the 12 it took Bertha—though, presumably, you won’t be making stops to make MacGyver-like repairs using only articles of your own clothing.

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Design
This Is How Kids Envision the Cars of the Future
Charlotte, 12
Charlotte, 12
GoCompare

You don’t need a driver's license to have big ideas about how cars can be improved. Take it from these kids: When they were asked by the car insurance comparison website GoCompare to draw their visions for the cars of the future, they didn’t hold back. The sketches, first spotted by Co.Design, suggest there are cupcake boosters, rainbow headlights, and shark fin rooftops on the horizon for the auto industry.

GoCompare’s gallery features the original doodles alongside their professionally illustrated counterparts. Some designs take cues from science fiction, as is the case with 11-year-old Paula’s double-decker hover car. The magnetic bottom pushes against the magnetic roads beneath it to glide above the ground. Then, there's 12-year-old Charlotte’s Rainbow Convertible 3000, which uses giant wings to float over traffic.

Power sources include chocolate fuel and rocket boosters. On the practical side, some kids worked electric generators and solar panels into their designs, anticipating the real-world need for alternative energy.

Kids drawing of car of the future.
Zach, 11

Kids drawing of car.
Isla, 6

Kids drawing of car.
Kyre, 11

Kids drawing of car.
Paula, 11

Kids drawing of car.
Joel, 11

Kid's drawing of car.
Boban, 11

Kid's drawing of car.
Danelle, 11

Kid's drawing of car.
Charlie, 11

Kid's drawing of car.
Harnitha, 11

Kids' dreams for the future extend far beyond cars. Here are some examples of what kids came up with when asked to draw the house of tomorrow.

[h/t Co.Design]

All images courtesy of GoCompare.

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Live Smarter
5 Questions to Ask Your Auto Mechanic
iStock
iStock

Own a car long enough and you will eventually find yourself standing in an auto repair shop trying to decipher what the technician is trying to tell you. The only common language? How much it’s going to cost.

Even though you might not understand all the nuts and bolts of a repair job, it’s still important you have enough information to make an informed decision. We asked mechanic Charles Sanville of The Humble Mechanic blog to pass along five simple questions that should elicit some helpful information from a repairman before (and after) you commit to getting the work done.

1. “CAN YOU SHOW ME THE PROBLEM?”

Most mechanics are not out to rip you off. But if they are, they can often be tripped up by a simple request to see which part is in need of attention. “You always want to ask this,” Sanville says. “Tell them you want to see the part that’s failing.” While some issues might be with a car’s electronics and therefore won’t have a physical spot to point to, it’s still a good idea to try. Having a visual aid will also make a tech’s explanation easier to understand.

2. “WHAT HAPPENS IF I DON’T FIX THIS?”

Be sure to ask the shop what the consequences might be of not taking care of an issue right away. “You should ask what happens in the long term if something doesn’t get fixed,” Sanville says. While a timing belt might need replacement, it’s possible it might be good for another few thousand miles; a brake issue probably can’t wait.

3. “CAN YOU PRIORITIZE THESE REPAIRS?”

Some technicians make repairs seem like urgent matters, but not everything needs to be addressed immediately. “Having five issues isn’t uncommon, but a couple of them might not be a big deal and can wait,” Sanville says. “Have them prioritize what’s wrong with the car.”

4. “CAN I SEE THE DEFECTIVE PART?”

Before the repair has been made, request that the shop save the faulty part so you can take a look. “Sometimes they’ll let you keep it,” Sanville says, depending on disposal requirements. It’s tangible proof they did the work promised.

5. “CAN YOU EXPLAIN HOW YOU FIXED IT?”

Don’t worry about understanding much—or any—detail about the repair work. What you really want, Sanville says, is to build a relationship with the technician and not just the service advisor behind the counter. “Ask them to explain in a technical way what the problem was, how they caught it, and how it was fixed. It’ll help build a relationship and then you’ll have your own tech. You can bring it to ‘Bill’ instead of just ‘ABC Auto.’ That’s a guy who will know you and know your car and do what he can to keep you on the road.”

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