May 31, 1904
“Friction-drive” is introduced
Byron J. Carter received a U.S. patent for his “friction-drive” mechanism. The friction-drive replaced the conventional transmission to provide more precise control of a car’s speed. A newspaper at the time of the device’s release explained that the friction-drive mechanism “used friction discs, instead of gears, so arranged as to be instantly changed to any desired speed. The discs also change to forward or backward movement, and can be used as a brake to stop the machine by reversing the lever.” Carter’s friction drive never really caught on, however. Conventional transmissions served their purpose adequately, and the friction discs proved to be susceptible to poor road conditions. Carter’s ingenious design did, however, attract the attention of William Durant, General Motor’s megalomaniac expansionist leader. He bought the Carter-car design thinking it might turn into something big; it never did. The technology involved in the friction-drive is, however, related to today’s disc brakes.