The Social Impact of Automobiles

Automobiles are powered by internal combustion engines, which use gasoline (carbureted) or diesel fuel to power pistons that push down on a crankshaft to turn the wheels. A car also has a chassis, bodywork, control systems and electrical equipment. Every year about 59 million automobiles are produced worldwide.

The first cars were invented in the late 19th century, with Karl Benz often credited with creating the first true automobile that used an internal combustion engine. In the early 1900s several inventors and engineers continued to work on this new technology.

At this time Germany was the center of car production, with Nikolaus Otto producing gas-powered vehicles and Gottlieb Daimler and Karl Benz developing petrol-driven models. In America Henry Ford revolutionized the auto industry with his Model T runabout, which sold for less than the average American annual wage in 1912. This vehicle allowed mass personal “automobility” to become a reality.

Unlike horses, which require constant attention, an automobile can be left to its own devices, freeing people to work, play, or visit friends and family. This freedom allows people to save time, which is a valuable commodity for many. This can result in significant financial savings for families and businesses.

With the advent of the automobile, a number of new industries and jobs developed to supply it. Automobile manufacturers created ancillary companies to produce parts and materials, such as steel and rubber. Services such as service stations and motels grew to meet the needs of travelers. Roads and highways were constructed as part of this massive public works program.

As automobile engineering evolved, it became possible to build a car to suit nearly any need. A car designed for off-road use required durable and simple systems that could withstand severe overloads and operating conditions. On the other hand, a car intended for high-speed driving on limited-access roads needed improved passenger comfort and optimized handling and performance.

Today, automobiles are becoming computerized machines capable of performing many functions for the driver. For example, some future vehicles may be able to park themselves and even change lanes. Other advancements include cars that can run on solar energy, and even fly.

As the automotive industry continues to evolve, it will continue to be important to keep in mind its social impacts. In some ways it is no different than other industries that have influenced society for good and bad. For example, the automobile has made it easier for Americans to live in suburban communities. At the same time, it has promoted outdoor recreation and tourism; contributed to a boom in hotel and restaurant industry; stimulated participation in sports activities; and brought urban amenities like schools and medical care to rural areas. In the long run, it is important to continue to make progress in reducing environmental impact, increasing safety, and maintaining quality. This can help to ensure that the automobile continues to be a useful tool for transportation in the modern world.