The first braking systems were used on horse transport. Horse carriage could have high speed, however, horse itself could not stop the vehicle. The first mechanism slowed the wheel by hand lever or system of levers. A wooden block, sometimes – with leather surface, pressed directly to the wheel rim and slowed it. In wet weather it was ineffective, in addition, the spread of rubber tires made it simply impossible, because the rubber should be erased quickly in such construction.
The design of brake systems improved a lot on appearing first cars.
The first cars used the same brake systems as horse carriages. At the beginning of the XX century serial cars had a speed over 100 km / h, so effective braking system was demanded.
Ironically, disc brakes were the first to invent: they were patented by the englishman, William Lanchester in 1902, but in practice they were used in the late XX century. Their main problem was the horrible creaking, produced by contact of copper brake pads with brake disc. For this and other reasons, at the beginning of the automobile history this brake system wasn’t widely used.
Drum brakes were invented and they originally had two variants.
The first of them (used by Daimler): flexible metal tape covered the brake drum, and being stretched by a system of levers, stopped its rotation. Second – drum brake pads with a semicircular shape, located inside the hollow drum and pressed against the inner surface – it was patented by Louis Renault in 1902.
Nevertheless, the band brake proved to be less convenient. When stopped on a hill, the car could roll down. Also this system suffered greatly from corrosion, requiring frequent replacement – every few hundreds of kilometers. In wet weather braking band could slip.
In the 1910s, most of the cars used drum brakes, which brake pads were located inside the drums and didn’t slip. They could be in use for 1-2 thousands of km and it was the first truly effective brake system.
Drum brakes, practically, unchanged until forties and fifties. They were the main and almost the only type of brakes on a vehicle.
The vehicle speed increased. The most powerful cars of the fifties had a top speed approaching to 200 km/h.
In the late fifties and sixties there was a clear discrepancy between the dynamic and braking capabilities of cars.
Therefore, in the late fifties – early sixties the brakes of a fundamentally different type – disc brakes, began to appear. They were previously used mainly for racing and aviation. In such mechanism, pads didn’t press against the inner drum surface, but pressed the outer surface of the iron disc.
Such system is structurally simpler then drum one: smaller, lighter and cheaper.
Disc brakes are cooled better: the air can circulate freely between the disk and the surface of the pad. There are also ventilated discs, they have two friction surfaces. Most of the front disc brakes on the modern cars are the ventilated ones. The majority of the rear brakes are not ventilated ones. They have a solid disc, because the rear brakes simply do not generate much heat.
In the late sixties, there was another important improvement – ABS (Anti-lock Braking System). This system in its present form was developed in the United States in the late sixties by Bendix and first appeared on the Imperial car model produced by Chrysler Corporation in 1971.
There is a continuous further development of brake systems in motor vehicles (for example, recent innovations, like ESP, TCS, EBD, and so on), which resulted in further growth of active safety. However, the most important safety factor is a driver’s behavior.