Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month and Older Drivers

Headshots of Margaret Wu, Ching Wan Tang, Ajay Bhatt, Dawon Kahng.

From day to day, we probably don’t think too much about the items we use or what makes them function. Yet, our car engines run more efficiently thanks to advents in synthetic oil, we can use better screens, and we can charge our phones or other electronics while we’re on the road all thanks to the ingenuity and hard work of these Asian American and Pacific Islander inventors. These inventors we’re highlighting during Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month (AAPI) Month helped to make our cars safer and more efficient, and we’ve chosen a brief list of these few who had a hand in many of the safety features we highlight in our Transportation Planning Tool to make sure as an older driver we’re all doing our part to keep the roads safer.

Margaret Wu1

(Photo credit: National Inventors Hall of Fame)

Margaret Wu was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2022 for inventing a new class of polyalphaolefin (PAO, a synthetic base oil used in lubricants). The PAO improved energy efficiency, reduced waste oil, and better protected the machine. These lubricants make vehicles safer which is important for older driver safety. A part of vehicle safety is getting your oil checked every 3-6 months (refer to your owner’s manual for the oil change time that’s right for your vehicle). Oil change appointments are an opportune time to check on other maintenance needs, such as getting your tired rotated, to keep your vehicle running efficiently and safely.

Wu was a senior scientific adviser at ExxonMobil and officially retired in 2009. She continued as a consultant until 2016.

Ching Wan Tang2

(Photo Credit: National Inventors Hall of Fame)

The Organic Light-Emitting Diode (OLED) was invented by Ching Wan Tang, an advance in flat-panel displays found in computers, cell phones, and televisions. OLED’s can be used in modern vehicles displays that include screens. These screens can help older drivers safely use hands-free cellular technology and GPS to help older drivers find routes. Learn to make your car "fit you" with CarFit, a program staffed with volunteers that will help drivers, including older drivers. Volunteers will take drivers through a 12-point safety checklist checking safety features such as the seatbelts and positioning of your seat.

Wan Tang joined Eastman Kodak in 1975. In 1997, the first OLED product, a car stereo, was commercialized by Pioneer.

Ajay Bhatt3

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We’ve all had ideas about what someone could invent to make their lives easier. Ajay Bhatt did and we all have reaped the benefit. Bhatt created the Universal Serial Bus (USB) as a solution to an everyday problem—printing materials for his child’s school work. The idea was popularized and built by Intel in 1998. USB’s are a technology that comes standard in several newer model vehicles. These USB ports can be utilized with external GPS systems and chargers for phones, which can be used in the event of a vehicle emergency. Make sure you’re prepared in an emergency situation by stocking your car with a checklist of items from the National Safety Council.

Dawon Kahng4

(Photo credit: National Inventors Hall of Fame)

Dawon Kahng, inducted into the Inventors Hall of Fame in 2009, created the MOSFET, the most widely used type of integrated circuit in the computer and electronics industries. The primary use of the MOSFET is to control conductivity, or how much electricity can flow. Computers have impacted older driver safety with features such as lane assist, GPS, and backup cameras. Learn about the safety features of your vehicle by using the My Car Does What? Site.