Automobiles and Modern Society
Automobiles are motor vehicles propelled by an internal-combustion engine, which burns a volatile fuel such as gasoline or diesel to create mechanical energy. Cars are an important part of the modern economy, and their development has changed modern society in many ways.
During the 20th century, automobiles replaced horse-drawn carriages and other transportation options in both urban and rural settings. They have revolutionized commuting and shopping by allowing people to reach destinations more quickly and conveniently than ever before.
History and Technology
The development of the automobile began in Europe in 1885 with the Benz Patent-Motorwagen, a three-wheeled automobile powered by an Otto Cycle engine (an internal combustion engine). It was built by German engineers Karl Benz and Gottlieb Daimler. The vehicle became popular in Europe and the United States, where it supplanted horse-drawn vehicles as the main form of personal transport.
It also spawned dozens of spin-off industries that provided jobs for hundreds of thousands of people. This made the automobile a dominant industrial force in twentieth-century America, and its development contributed to the creation of a consumer goods-oriented society.
Henry Ford revolutionized manufacturing by installing assembly lines in his factory to make automobile production more efficient and reduce prices for the Model T automobile. As the car became more affordable, more Americans could afford to own one.
Gasoline-powered automobiles dominated the competition for most of the first half of the twentieth century, with steam and electric power still playing significant roles. By 1920, however, gasoline-powered cars had surpassed steam and electric vehicles in popularity.
A few years later, a team led by Rudolf Diesel of Germany invented the diesel engine. This was a major breakthrough in the development of automobiles, as it allowed them to be more powerful and run at higher speeds.
The development of the diesel engine led to an increase in the number of people who owned cars, but the demand for new vehicles was slowing down, and the automobile industry was losing ground to the railroads, which were more profitable and offered greater speed. In the United States, the automobile market was largely saturated by the mid-1920s and technological innovation slowed.
A modern automobile is a complex technical system that includes thousands of subsystems, each performing a specific design function. It is a highly sophisticated and complicated machine that uses high-strength materials, new alloys of steel and nonferrous metals, electrical and electronic technologies, and other engineering advances.
Some of the most important subsystems in an automobile include brakes, steering, transmission, suspension, tires, and heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems. Some of these systems were developed as a result of government regulations and legislation, while others were conceived because they are essential to the safety of motorists and passengers.
In recent decades, as car manufacturing has become more industrialized, there has been an increasing need to improve the safety of drivers and passengers. This has led to the development of more advanced safety features, including adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping assist. Automakers have also developed more environmentally friendly and fuel-efficient technologies, such as hybrid or all-electric models.