Automobiles – The Promise and the Pitfalls of Modern Life


Automobiles are the vehicles that most Americans use to get them to work and back, to run errands and to have fun. They are a symbol of the promise and the pitfalls of modern life. No invention changed American life as much as the automobile.

The first modern car was built in the late nineteenth century. It was powered by an internal combustion engine, invented in the 1860s and ’70s by people such as Gottlieb Daimler, Karl Benz and Nicolaus Otto. The engine was mounted in the center of the vehicle, and it burned gasoline derived from fossil fuels. Its weight was relatively low, and it could achieve high speeds.

By the early 1900s, many different manufacturers were producing cars with gasoline engines. The new technology quickly won the marketplace over the older steam- and electric-powered vehicles, which were comparatively slow and cumbersome. New industries developed to provide parts and fuel for automobiles. These included oil and gas companies, rubber and plastics producers, and services like gas stations and convenience stores. In the United States, cheap raw materials and a tradition of manufacturing made it possible for small firms to produce large numbers of motor vehicles. In addition, the country’s vast land area and sparse population guaranteed a great demand for transportation.

During the postwar period, automobile manufacturing became highly automated, with production lines designed to keep workers in one place and working on just one task at a time. This process increased the number of cars produced each day. It also reduced the price of the Ford Model T, making it affordable to most middle-class families.

In addition, after World War II automobiles became easier to operate and more comfortable. Features such as power steering and automatic transmission made driving safer and more pleasant. Steel bodies and heaters provided more comfort in cold weather. The era of the annually restyled road cruiser ended with federal regulations on safety, emissions of pollutants, and energy consumption, and with escalating gasoline prices resulting from the oil shocks of 1973 and 1979. By the 1980s, most households owned a motor vehicle and almost everyone used them regularly.

Today’s cars are more environmentally friendly than ever before. They are also safer, with new technologies such as airbags, backup cameras and accident-avoidance systems reducing the number of vehicle deaths. Cars are also becoming more fuel-efficient, saving consumers money at the pump.

Most importantly, automobiles are a safe and convenient way to transport family members to school and activities. Cars allow parents to be more involved in the lives of their children, and they can safely take them to emergency rooms when necessary. In a world where events are often unpredictable, owning a vehicle provides peace of mind and security for individuals and their loved ones. In short, the modern world would not be nearly as livable without the automobile.