Your Car is Safer Because of This Engineer

Photo courtesy of the Automotive Hall of Fame.

December 13, 1999

Allen K. Breed, engineer, and automotive safety pioneer died in Orlando, Florida, at the age of 72. Breed, who was born in Chicago in 1927, graduated from Northwestern University with a B.S. degree in mechanical engineering.

In 1961, he started the Breed Corporation to produce safety and arming devices for the military. Breed eventually realized that the technologies used for those devices could likewise be applied to automotive airbag systems. He developed an electromechanical crash sensor that has become the basis for modern automotive airbag systems.

It was due in large part to Breed’s creativity and advocacy that the use of airbags made significant inroads into the automotive community. In 1984, the federal government required that all automobiles have driver’s side airbags or automatic seat belts by 1989. Airbags have since helped save thousands of lives. 

Breed was widely honored for his contributions to automotive safety. Not long before his death, he was inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame.

For more information on Allen K. Breed, please check out his 14 January 2000 New York Times obituary at

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