Blind Logic – The Ralph R. Teetor Story

September 15, 2022

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By Jack Teetor, nephew of 1988 AHF Inductee Ralph Teetor

Ralph R. Teetor filed his first patent on his speed control device in 1945, under the tradename, “Speed-o-Stat,” known worldwide as “Cruise Control,” one of today’s most popular and convenient driving devices. His idea came in 1936, when Teetor was annoyed while riding with his patent attorney who could not maintain a constant speed. 

As Teetor once stated, “The general purpose is to make driving safer, easier and more economical.” Chrysler introduced Teetor’s device in 1958, and advertised, “Acclaimed by experts as one of the greatest automotive inventions ever developed.”   

Teetor’s “Cruise Control” no doubt was the first introduction to the “self-driving” and “autonomous” cars, now in the forefront of today’s technology. Teetor’s “Speed-o-Stat” is displayed at the new Smithsonian’s Nation of Speed exhibit, and in 1988, Teetor was posthumously inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame, where his exhibit resides today. 

Since I was a young boy, I’ve been inspired by my Uncle Ralph, and particularly after reading the insightful 1995 book, “One Man’s Vision – The Life of Automotive Pioneer Ralph R. Teetor,” written by his daughter Marjorie Teetor Meyer. In 2013, during a family reunion, we discussed a possible film on his story. This inspired my journey of making the film. 

I wrote the script based on my Aunt Marjorie’s book and on research into the time periods and events during his life. While I have fond childhood memories of Uncle Ralph and just how kind hearted and fascinating he was, I learned more about his profound persistence and extraordinary mental vision, against seemingly insurmountable odds. 

In October of 2021, we conducted our location shoot in Hagerstown, Indiana, Teetor’s 1890 birthplace, and filmed interviews with my four cousins, Teetor’s grandchildren. I examined photos, extensive archives, and discovered writings, articles, tributes, and news clippings of this innovative and inspirational leader, who had an enormous impact on the automotive world and on people’s lives everywhere. We have recorded a temporary voice-over track and are now engaged in the challenging editorial phase.  

Despite his loss of sight at age five, Teetor’s parents taught him to “look” at things with his hands. He accepted the challenge to live a normal life, but in a world of darkness. His story has inspired people from all around the world. 

Teetor once stated, “The speed control I invented; If I could drive a car, I doubt that I would have ever developed the thing.”   

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