The Greatest Inventions

Flushing toilet and the car – both rescued by the AA

15 December 2010

The flushing toilet is the most important invention in our daily lives over the last 100 years or so, closely followed by the car, according to an AA poll.

The AA is well positioned to help individuals when these two great inventions go wrong; as well as rescuing cars, the AA has now entered the Home Emergency Market.

The AA/Populus poll* had 18,732 responses to the question "which invention of the last 100 years or so had been most important in people's daily lives?"

The most frequently selected option was the 'flushing toilet' (22%), with women particularly likely to say this (27%, compared with 18% of men). For men the top invention was the car (21%).

The second most frequently selected invention overall was the car, with 1in 5 (20%) panellists choosing this. Antibiotics (17%) came in ahead of innovations such as the internet (13%, although this was the most important invention for the 18-24 age group with 24% of these respondents selecting it) and personal computers (9%).

The full results

  • Flushing toilet – 22%
  • Car – 20%
  • Antibiotics – 17%
  • The internet – 13%
  • Personal computer – 9%
  • Telephone – 5%
  • Mobile phone – 4%
  • Television – 4%
  • X-Ray – 2%
  • Aeroplanes – 1%
  • Space travel – 0%
  • Don't know – 3%


Edmund King, AA president, said: "The flushing toilet is probably a device that most people in the UK take for granted but our poll shows it is the most important invention in our daily lives over the last century. Whilst more women put the toilet in the top slot, the car was the most important invention for men.

"The AA has been synonymous with rescuing the car for a century and now we realise that 'home rescue' is also an area of concern for our members. The AA is pleased to be able to take the stress out of a boiler breakdown, as well as a car breakdown."

Regional results

Fewer Londoners selected the car (16%) than anywhere else perhaps reflecting the public transport provision.

The car was supported by 21% in the South and South West.

The West Midlands (24%), Wales (23%) and Northern Ireland (23%) had highest support for the car.

The flushing toilet was selected most in the West Midlands (24%), East Anglia (23%) and Yorkshire & Humberside (23%).

Join the discussion in the AA zone

*AA/Populus survey responded to by 18,732 AA members between 23rd and 28th July 2010.


14 December 2010