On the Road with Bertha Benz

Bertha Benz and the ‘Patent Motorwagen

Without her husband knowing about it, Bertha Benz took her two sons on the first long distance car-trip ever performed on August 5, 1888.

Before Bertha and Carl Benz got married, she invested in his company to support the engine designer and engineer. The recently patented vehicle ‘Patent Motorwagen’ developed by Benz could not achieve a great financial success due to the lack of a real marketing, so Bertha Benz took action. She performed the trip together with her sons Eugen and Richard from Mannheim to Pforzheim and caused huge media attention since nobody (and especially no woman) had mastered a distance like this before. Showing the public how useful and quick the automobile was, the financial success of the company finally set in.

To the honor of Bertha Benz, a ‘Bertha Benz Memorial Route‘ has been established between Pforzheim and Mannheim and it is now 191 km long. On its way there are many touristic attractions such as the automobile museum of Carl Benz, and the pharmacy in Wiesloch, today known as the first gas station. Since the family ran out of fuel and there were no gas stations, Bertha Benz bought petroleum ether at a local pharmacy and could continue the trip to Pforzheim.

Carl Benz is seen as the inventor of the modern automobile today, even though several attempts were made some years earlier. In 1769 Nicolas-Joseph Cugnot created a steam-powered tricycle and 38 years later François Isaac de Rivaz developed a vehicle with his internal combustion engine. The next attempts took place several years later when Gustav Trouvé introduced an automobile powered by electricity and finally it was Carl Benz, who patented his four-stroke cycle gasoline engine in 1897, but sold only 25 cars in the first years. Due to the effort of Bertha Benz and the later development of the flat engine in 1896, Benz ran the world wide leading company in the field of automobiles.

At yovisto you can listen to Sebastian Thrun, Director of Stanford’s Artificial Intelligence Lab in his TED talk ‘Rethinking the Automobile‘.

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