The French Formula One Grand Prix at the Paul Ricard racetrack in Le Castellet, southern France. F1 cars can theoretically be driven upside down in a tunnel. Image Credit: AP

At any given time, there are about 1.4 billion cars on roads around the world, according to US-based Institute of Transportation Studies. The automobile industry is a giant, and for many of us, our cars are an extension of our legs – we can’t do without them.

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Since the late 19th century, when German inventor Karl Benz patented his Motorwagen, cars have dominated the urban landscape. Here are 5 informative, and even entertaining facts about the automotive industry you may be surprised to learn about:

1. First speeding fine

On January 28, 1896, in the countryside of Kent, England, a man named Walter Arnold was arrested for driving at four times the speed limit. He was driving at the breakneck speed of… 12km/hr. Arnold had to pay a fine of 1 shilling (worth Dh113 today), when a police officer on a bicycle was able to nab the errant speedster.

2. Upside-down speed

Formula 1 race cars, which average a top speed of 375km/hr, experience around 3.5 gravitational forces when cornering (basically three and a half times the car's weight). The front and rear wings of race cars generate the force, which presses them down into the road. This means they have enough aerodynamic downforce to drive upside down in a tunnel, and can maintain their speed while doing that, at 193km/hr! This is all theoretical though, since no one has risked the attempt.

3. First accident

The first automobile accident happened in 1891, when an American citizen named James Lambert was driving his single-cylinder gasoline automobile, with another passenger. On one of the roads of Ohio, US, he hit a tree root and crashed into a horse hitching post. Both driver and passenger suffered minor injuries, but the accident did have an unintended benefit - it prompted the introduction of better safety equipment for drivers.

4. Flaming vehicles

In South Africa, where carjackings were common in the 1990s, German automobile producer BMW offered customers a flamethrower option called the Blaster. With liquified petroleum gas installed along the sides of the vehicle, under its doors, the driver could flip a switch to literally shoot flames from the car at the intruder. Despite its James Bond-like security system, the Blaster had a high price tag, and only a few hundred people opted for the device.

5. Highest speeding ticket

A Swedish man was fined a whopping $1.15 million (Dh4.22 million) for speeding in his Mercedes-Benz SLS in 2010. He was driving at 300km/hr in Switzerland – at twice the speed limit – and had to cough up the enormous fine. In Switzerland, speeding fines are linked proportionately to one’s income, hence the steep amount.

Which fact surprises you the most? Play today’s Word Search and let us know at