Self-Propelled Cart

Leonardo da Vinci conceptualized the idea for a self-driving cart many centuries before automobiles or robotics. In fact, a working model of da Vinci's design was created by modern scientists in 2006 at Italy's Institute and Museum of the History of Science in Florence, according to an ABC News article (see source below). Incredibly enough, the prototype was successful in moving without being pushed. Da Vinci’s design used coiled springs, and had both steering and brake capabilities. It was designed to operate autonomously, with wound-up springs rotating the wheels of the cart after a brake was released. Prior to movement, the cart could be adjusted such that it would travel in any direction based on if the steering was set at any preset angles. According to the same ABC News article, researchers at the Armand Hammer Center for Leonardo Studies in Los Angeles (see source below) said da Vinci's design has many similarities to the Mars Rover, a vehicle capable of autonomous travel on the surface of Mars. Many people today believe da Vinci’s self-propelled cart to be the world’s first robot.


“Self-Propelled Cart.” Leonardo Da Vinci's Self-Propelled Cart Invention, 2008,

Lorenzi, Rossella. “Da Vinci Sketched an Early Car.” News in Science, 2004,

Image Source : xiquinhosilva (, "Leonardo da Vinci Self Propelled Cart",

Associated Place(s)

Event date:

1478 to 1480