Automobiles – A History of Change


Automobiles are a vital component of modern American life. They bring us to work, allow us to see the world and give us freedom to connect with our family and friends. But the automobile was also a force for change in society, transforming American culture and providing jobs and economic opportunity to people who would never have been able to get into the workforce without it.

The scientific and technological building blocks for the automobile began in the 1700s, when Dutch scientist Christiaan Huygens developed a type of internal combustion engine sparked by gunpowder. Gottlieb Wilhelm Daimler, a German industrialist and engineer, pursued the idea with greater intensity. He studied mechanical engineering at Stuttgart Polytechnic and worked to perfect a small, practical engine that could power vehicles. By the end of the 19th century, Daimler and his collaborator, Karl Benz, had created a prototype that was capable of carrying passengers.

By the 1920s, automobiles were the backbone of a new consumer goods-oriented economy and provided one of every six industrial jobs in the United States. Automobiles were made from a variety of materials, but most prominently they were powered by petroleum and gasoline. As a result, ancillary industries such as steel and rubber and services like gas stations and convenience stores emerged to support the automobile industry.

In addition to the many changes that automobiles brought to the economy, they have given rise to suburbs, drive-in movies, fast food chains and the interstate highway system. They have shaped the landscape of America and helped define our national identity.

The automobile has become the most widely used form of transportation in the world. In fact, it’s hard to imagine living in a world that does not have automobiles. The luxuries of modern life, such as traveling to your favorite restaurant or going to your doctor’s appointment without having to wait for the next available bus, are impossible to imagine without the use of automobiles.

Despite this, there are still some who choose not to own cars and instead depend on public transportation, ride hailing apps or Mobility-as-a-Service. But despite these new forms of transportation, the car remains a key part of daily life for most Americans and will continue to serve as an important mode of transport in the future.

The automotive industry has been the driving force of American history for more than a century, changing our society in ways that no other technology ever has. But now, at the apex of the Auto Age, it is time for a new chapter in American technology to take its place. A new Age of Electronics is on the horizon, and its influence may be even more profound than the era of the car. The future is electric, not gas-powered. But the spirit of the Model T lives on in the pickup trucks and SUVs that will carry the rugged, hardworking heart of America into a more diverse future. Let the Boston elites drive their Swedish Volvos; let Los Angeles residents ride in their Teslas; and we in the heartland will stick with our F150s.