Q&A on the News

Q: A local car dealership says Mercedes-Benz invented the automobile. I thought Henry Ford invented the automobile. Can you clarify?

—Jeanne Croft, Decatur

A: The invention of the automobile is difficult to credit to one person because France's Nicolas-Joseph Cugnot invented a steam-powered machine in 1769. Germany's Karl Benz and Gottlieb Daimler didn't know each other but are said to have filed patents for gasoline-powered machines in different German cities on the same day in 1886.

Benz is credited with driving a three-wheel vehicle powered by an internal combustion engine and integrated chassis in 1885, while Daimler’s vehicle was the first to have four wheels. Benz and Daimler merged their companies in 1926 to form what is now known as Daimler, which makes Mercedes-Benz.

Henry Ford built affordable cars that increased the popularity of automobiles with Americans about 100 years ago.

Q: The term racketeering makes me think of gangsters. Why were the Atlanta educators charged with this crime?

—Janet Peterson, Rome

A: Fulton County assistant district attorney Fani Willis said the former Atlanta Public Schools educators and administrators violated the state's RICO, or Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations, statue because they used the " 'legitimate enterprise' of the school system to carry out the illegitimate act of cheating," in her opening statement, the New York Times reported.

The district attorney’s office stated that former Atlanta Public Schools superintendent Beverly Hall and others “conspired to either cheat, conceal cheating or retaliate against whistleblowers in an effort to bolster CRCT scores for the benefit of financial rewards associated with high test scores,” according to the Fulton County District Attorney’s office.

Andy Johnston wrote this column. Do you have a question about the news? We’ll try to get the answer. Call 404-222-2002 or email q&a@ajc.com (include name, phone and city).