The automobile has revolutionized modern life by enabling individuals to travel long distances in comfort and with freedom. It is also an important economic force, with the manufacturing of vehicles providing one out of every six jobs in many countries. Despite its many positive impacts, it has brought with it negative effects, including degrading landscapes and traffic congestion. In addition to personal transportation, the automobile has become a vital tool for the distribution of goods and services.
The automotive industry develops automobiles that meet government and consumer safety standards as well as other specifications, such as power, weight, aerodynamics (the way the body moves through air) and appearance. In addition, it must consider costs, which is particularly important in the current economy. While advanced features may improve the performance of a car, they often increase its price beyond what is affordable for most consumers. Consequently, most automobiles are designed to satisfy a balance of factors rather than maximizing one attribute at the expense of others.
Automobiles have evolved rapidly in recent years, and the latest models offer objective improvements in nearly all measurable ways. The newest cars are more powerful, faster, handle better, keep their occupants safer, have more advanced technology, and are more environmentally friendly than their predecessors. This has been fueled in large part by technological advances in computer-controlled drive systems, which enable cars to perform complex tasks that previously could only be performed manually.
Having access to an automobile provides great convenience, and can make it easier to commute, go shopping, and visit friends and family. However, it is essential to weigh the benefits of owning a vehicle against its associated costs, including purchasing, fuel, maintenance, insurance, and parking expenses.
While automobiles have been around for several hundred years, they began to be developed in earnest toward the end of the nineteenth century, particularly in Germany and France by such men as Gottlieb Daimler, Karl Benz, and Nicolaus Otto. Edouard Delamare-Deboutteville and Leon Malandin patented an internal combustion engine in 1883 and built and tested a car. During its first test run, the tank hose accidentally burst, and the vehicle literally “shook itself to pieces.”
In the United States, Henry Ford pioneered mass production at his Highland Park plant, and made the Model T available for less than half of the average American salary in 1912. The result was that modern life would have been unthinkable without access to automobiles by the middle of the twentieth century.
While there are still some concerns about the impact of the automobile on the environment, the advantages outweigh the risks in most cases. In fact, the automobile has enabled people to live more active lives than they would be able to otherwise. It also allows them to easily and quickly travel long distances, making it possible to be involved in a wide variety of social activities.