Automobiles are the most common mode of transportation for people worldwide. With over 1.4 billion cars in operation, automobiles are a major force in the economy. They have shaped urban design, created new businesses such as gas stations and hotels, and brought about new leisure activities. They have also changed the lives of individuals and families. With their ability to transport people great distances quickly, they have made it possible for people to visit relatives, friends and vacation destinations far from home.
Having access to a car saves time that would otherwise be spent on walking or traveling by bus or train. This frees up time that can be spent on doing things such as shopping, going to restaurants and visiting family members. In addition, automobiles can carry large groups of people making it easier for families to go on trips together.
The invention of the automobile is a story rich with many figures and events. The earliest automobiles were steam, electric and gasoline powered. It is difficult to assign exact credit for the invention of the automobile as inventors around the world contributed many of the individual elements that make up modern vehicles. The first automobile that can be credited to one person was designed and built in 1769 by Captain Nicolas-Joseph Cugnot, an engineer in the French army. This early steam-driven, clumsy vehicle did not have the qualities of what would become a true automobile, but it was the direct linear ancestor of the modern automobile.
In the 1880s, Karl Benz of Germany developed a small car with a gas-powered engine. Although his initial creation was frail and awkward, it possessed many of the essential features that make up the modern automobile such as mechanical valves, spark plugs, carburetor, cooling system, oil and grease cups for lubrication, and more. Benz’s automobile was a revolutionary invention and the direct linear ancestor of the modern car.
As the automobile became more widespread, it was soon apparent that there needed to be a more formal structure in place to govern its use. Traffic laws were introduced to help control the increasing number of cars on the road and reduce accidents. These laws established speed limits and spelled out rules for the proper handling of automobiles. They also provided safety, comfort and protection from the elements for passengers in the automobile.
A car is a status symbol for many Americans and is considered the primary means of family transportation. It is a major investment, and it is not uncommon for a family to own more than one automobile. This means that there are a lot of automobiles on the road and this creates an environment where there is often competition between motorists to see who can get to work or school the fastest.
With more than three trillion miles driven each year, the automobile has influenced many areas of American life. It has transformed our country’s social and cultural values, shaped the development of our cities, towns and rural areas, and altered the course of history. As the “Automobile Age” begins to meld into an “Age of Electronics,” the automobile is becoming an even more significant part of everyday life.