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  • Odometer


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ID:	34393An odometer or odograph is an instrument that indicates distance traveled by a vehicle, such as a bicycle or automobile. The device may be electronic, mechanical, or a combination of the two. The word derives from the Greek words hodós (“path”) or gateway and métron (“measure”). In countries where Imperial units or US customary units are used, it is sometimes called a mileometer or milometer, or, colloquially, a tripometer.


    Odometers were first developed in the 1600s for wagons and other horse-drawn vehicles in order to measure distances traveled. In 1645 Blaise Pascal invented the pascaline. Though not an odometer, the pascaline utilized gears to compute measurements. Each gear contained 10 teeth. The first gear advanced the next gear one position when moved one complete revolution, the same principle employed on modern mechanical odometers.

    Odometers were developed for ships in 1698 with the odometer invented by the Englishman Thomas Savery. Benjamin Franklin, U.S. statesman and the first Postmaster General, built a prototype odometer in 1775 that he attached to his carriage to help measure the mileage of postal routes. In 1847, William Clayton, a Mormon pioneer, invented the Roadometer, which he attached to a wagon used by American settlers heading west. The Roadometer recorded the distance traveled each day by the wagon trains. The Roadometer used two gears and was an early example of an odometer with pascaline-style gears in actual use.

    In 1895 Curtis Hussey Veeder invented the Cyclometer. The Cyclometer was a mechanical device that counted the number of rotations of a bicycle wheel. A flexible cable transmitted the number of rotations of the wheel to an analog odometer visible to the rider, which converted the wheel rotations into the number of miles traveled according to a predetermined formula.

    In 1903 Arthur P. and Charles H. Warner, two brothers from Beloit, Wisconsin, introduced their patented Auto-meter. The Auto-Meter used a magnet attached to a rotating shaft to induce a magnetic pull upon a thin metal disk. Measuring this pull provided accurate measurements of both distance and speed information to automobile drivers in a single instrument. The Warners sold their company in 1912 to the Stewart & Clark Company of Chicago. The new firm was renamed the Stewart-Warner Corporation. By 1925, Stewart-Warner odometers and trip meters were standard equipment on the vast majority of automobiles and motorcycles manufactured in the United States.

    Trip meters

    Most modern cars include a trip meter (trip odometer). Unlike the odometer, a trip meter is reset at any point in a journey, making it possible to record the distance traveled in any particular journey or part of a journey. It was traditionally a purely mechanical device but, in most modern vehicles, it is now electronic. Luxury vehicles often have multiple trip meters. Most trip meters will show a maximum value of 999.9. The trip meter may be used to record the distance traveled on each tank of fuel, making it very easy to accurately track the energy efficiency of the vehicle; another common use is resetting it to zero at each instruction in a sequence of driving directions, to be sure when one has arrived at the next turn.

    GPS used as odometer

    Recently, exercise enthusiasts have observed that an advanced Global Positioning System receiver (GPSr) with an odometer mode serves as a very accurate pedometer for outdoor activities. While not truly counting steps (no pendulum is involved) an advanced GPS odometer can accurately reveal the distance traveled to within 1/100 of a mile (depending on the model, perhaps 1/1000 of a mile). 1/1000 of a mile is approximately the distance of a single pace or 2 steps (1.609 m). Precise metric odometers have a precision of 1/100 or 1/1000 km, 10 or 1 metre(s) respectively.

    A GPS with odometer mode is also an excellent and inexpensive means to verify proper operation of both the speedometer and odometer mounted in a vehicle.