By Mary Bellis
Return History of Cars
Ralph Teetor, a prolific (and blind) inventor, invented cruise control. Teetor, blind since the age of five, built his first car, a one-cylinder, by the age of 12. He received his Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Pennsylvania. His first job post-graduation was to develop technology for steam turbine rotors used in torpedo boat destroyers during W.W.I.
Ralph Teetor became an mechanical engineer for the Light Inspection Car Company, a company founded by his family that later was renamed the Perfect Circle Corporation. The company provided piston rings to car companies such as Packard, General Motors, Chrysler and Studebaker. He soon became the Vice President of Engineering for Perfect Circle and later the President.
In 1945, Ralph Teetor received his first patent on a speed cruise control device. Early names for his invention included Controlmatic, "Touchomatic, Pressomatic and Speedostat and finally the familiar name of Cruise Control. Teetor thought of inventing cruise control after a jerky car ride. He was being driven by his lawyer, an avid talker, who would slow down and speed up while conversing. Cruise control was first offered in the 1958 Chrysler Imperial, New Yorker and Windsor car models. By 1960, cruise control was offered on all Cadillacs.