Despite being a complex, technical system, the automobile has become one of the most important and universal technologies of our time. In fact, according to the United States Department of Transportation, over four trillion kilometers (three trillion miles) of automobiles are driven annually.
A vehicle that has four wheels and can carry two to six passengers is considered an automobile. Generally, these vehicles have an internal combustion engine. Other technical features include suspension, a steering system, an odometer, and a differential. The design of the car depends on its end-use. The majority of modern cars are driven by a water-cooled piston-type internal-combustion engine. However, some automobiles use an air-cooled engine. These engines have less efficiency than the liquid-cooled ones.
The development of automobiles began in the mid-Victorian era. During this period, a bicycle-like contraption was created by Ernest Michaux. A similar machine was also created by Sylvester Howard Roper. The early American automobile industry was a group of independent manufacturers. The first production motorcycle in the US was produced by Charles Metz in Waltham, Massachusetts in 1898.
In the late 19th century, the idea of a self-propelling carriage took hold. A three-wheeled, steam-driven carriage was designed by British engineer Richard Trevithick. This car had an engine driving the rear wheels and a boiler in front. It could go up to 3 mph and had a limited range. Pedestrians had to walk in front of the self-propelled vehicle. It was inconvenient to start the steam engine, which had a short range.
The automobile changed the way Americans lived and worked. It gave people access to jobs, paved roads, and a place to live. It also ushered in new laws and regulations. The government ruled that a car’s speed should not exceed 4 mph. The automobile also introduced safety features, including seat belts. The car was also a symbol of identity and strength for women. In 1916, Nell Richardson and Alice Burke drove across the country in a car decorated with “votes for women” banners.
In the United States, the automotive industry grew rapidly during the early part of the twentieth century. During the Great Depression, the Ford factory in Charlotte, North Carolina, closed. But, in the 1920s, the automobile had overtaken the streets of Europe. By the end of the decade, gas-powered automobiles had overtaken the streets of the United States. The automobile helped the economy and increased consumer demand. It also brought the first assembly lines to the automotive industry. These assembly lines allowed the cost of automobiles to drop.
The automotive industry rebounded after World War II. By the 1950s, Henry Ford had revolutionized car manufacturing with an assembly line. His cars were cheaper and faster. As a result, automobiles became more popular and affordable for middle-class families.
The invention of the internal combustion engine accelerated the progress of the automobile. Gottlieb Daimler developed an improved internal-combustion engine in 1885. By the end of the nineteenth century, many inventors were pursuing their own designs. A self-propelling carriage had yet to be invented, but the automotive industry was expanding rapidly.