The Evolution of Automobiles


Automobiles are vehicles used for transporting people. They are powered by an internal combustion engine, most commonly fueled with gasoline (a liquid petroleum product). They have four wheels and are primarily designed to operate on roads. Automobiles are a key component of the world economy, and they have become a symbol of modern society. They are also one of the most widely owned and operated types of consumer goods in the world.

The automobile revolutionized American life, allowing more of the middle class to afford to own cars. It ended rural isolation and brought urban amenities-including schools, hospitals and industry-to rural America. It also stimulated tourism-related industries such as service stations, restaurants and motels. Road and highway construction, once a minor government expenditure, became a major public works project.

In the United States, automobile production took off due to cheap raw materials and a large market with low tariff barriers that encouraged sales over a wide geographic area. The invention of the assembly line allowed mass production, lowering prices and making automobiles affordable for more people.

Karl Benz is often credited with inventing the first car, but many others have contributed to its development. Henry Ford’s innovation of the assembly line made his Model T a success, bringing automobiles to the masses. The introduction of the electric starter and hydraulic brakes in the 1920s marked important advances in automotive technology.

In the 1960s, issues of non-functional styling and quality, as well as questions about environmental safety and energy consumption, caused a reassessment of the role of automobiles in society. During the 1970s, oil shocks prompted governments to regulate emissions and fuel efficiency. Automobile design and manufacture accelerated, with new technologies including electronic computers, high-strength plastics, and alloys of steel and other metals.

Today, the automobile continues to evolve. Technological advances in electronics and information systems allow for ever-increasing safety, comfort, convenience and luxury features. Other innovations include alternative fuels and autonomous driving systems. In addition, consumers demand more safety and energy-efficiency features. Car manufacturers must continually balance these factors to stay competitive and satisfy customer demand.