The History of Automobiles


Few inventions in modern times have had as great an impact on the history, economy and social life of much of the world as automobiles. These four-wheeled vehicles symbolize both the promise and the pitfalls of industrialized societies. They provide personal freedom and mobility while promoting sprawl, causing environmental degradation, encouraging the wasteful distribution of goods and creating traffic congestion. They also help to define and reinforce a lifestyle that emphasizes leisure activity.

Thousands of individual parts make up the modern automobile. Like the human body, these parts are arranged into several semi-independent systems that function together. These systems include the engine-the “heart” of the automobile, the cooling and lubrication system, the transmission, the wheels, suspension, braking system, electrical and power delivery, and the chassis and body. The chassis, analogous to the skeleton of the human body, provides support for these systems.

The automobile, in its current form, has been around for more than a century. It was first perfected in Germany and France toward the end of the nineteenth century, by such men as Gottlieb Daimler, Karl Benz, and Nicolaus Otto. At that time it was not clear which of the three main fuel sources would prove most commercially successful: steam, electric power, or gasoline. Eventually, steam cars gained the most popularity in Europe because they could reach high speeds. However, they had the disadvantages of a long start-up time and short range. Electric cars, on the other hand, were very expensive and had to be refueled often. Gasoline engines, as it turned out, had the best balance of cost, performance and convenience.

In America, Henry Ford brought the automobile to the masses with his innovative production methods. His assembly line made it possible to manufacture cars that were comparable in performance to the 1901 Mercedes but sold at moderate prices. These lower costs allowed middle-class families to own cars for the first time.

Since the 1920s nearly all cars have been mass-produced for the benefit of consumers. This has heavily influenced the design of the car, as manufacturers seek to satisfy the widest market possible. Many automobile companies used the practice of offering different models for each price range. This enabled buyers to “move up” to a higher model as their incomes improved.

There are countless automobile choices available to the modern consumer. The vehicle that best fits your lifestyle depends on a number of factors, including the amount of passengers and cargo space, fuel efficiency, safety features, and the amount of maintenance required. When choosing a car, it is important to consider all of these factors before making a final decision. The Chevy Tahoe is a top choice among SUVs because of its high safety scores and reliability rating, while the Kia Soul is a good choice for those who are looking for a fuel-efficient car with plenty of room for passengers. The Nissan Altima is another good option for a family, as it offers excellent safety features and has a spacious back seat.