Automobiles – The Most Common Means of Transportation in Modern Society

Automobiles, also called motor vehicles or cars, are the most common means of transportation in modern society. They are typically powered by a gasoline or diesel engine and carry passengers, cargo and baggage from one location to another. Today there are over 59 million cars in use worldwide. Automobiles are a major contributor to air pollution and require special equipment to control emissions. The design of the automobile is constantly evolving to meet the needs and expectations of consumers. Research and development engineers work on improvements for the body, chassis, engine, drivetrain, safety systems and control systems.

The automotive industry provides employment and economic benefits. Individuals who own cars save money by not having to rely on taxis or public transportation. Cars give people more freedom and allow them to travel to places that would be difficult or impossible to reach on foot. In addition, the automobile creates jobs in the automotive parts and service industries and stimulates development of new roads and related services like gas stations. The automobile is a significant contributor to the growth of leisure activities and businesses related to recreation, such as hotels, restaurants and amusement parks. It has also contributed to changes in government policies, including laws requiring seat belts and drivers’ licenses.

Although the automobile was first invented and perfected in Germany and France in the late 1800s, Americans came to dominate the industry in the early twentieth century. Henry Ford innovated mass production techniques and Ford, General Motors and Chrysler emerged as the “Big Three” automakers. Manufacturers funneled their resources into the war effort in World War II and afterward, automotive production soared worldwide.

As the car evolved, it became an icon of American culture and national identity. It was a status symbol, providing an opportunity for middle-class families to show off their wealth and success. Cars became a common sight on roads throughout America and, for the first time in history, the automobile was available to the masses.

While the first automobiles were powered by steam and electric power, the most popular type was the gasoline-powered vehicle. It was more reliable and could travel faster than the horse-powered carriages of earlier times.

The 1901 Mercedes, designed by Wilhelm Maybach, is generally regarded as the first true modern motorcar in terms of its mechanical design and engineering. Its thirty-five horsepower, solitary internal combustion engine was much lighter than previous engines and more powerful. Its price of $575 — less than the average annual wage in 1912 — made it within reach for most middle-class consumers. Its superiority over the one-cylinder, three-horsepower, tiller-steered, curved dash Oldsmobile of the same year is best illustrated by Cycle and Automobile Trade Journal’s statement that “the only thing that comes close to matching it in cost is the abacus itself.”