The History of Automobiles

Automobiles are the means by which millions of people travel throughout the world. They help people get to work, visit friends and family and go on vacation. They also create many jobs. People work in factories that make them, at restaurants and motels where people stop to eat or sleep, and at gas stations that supply them with fuel. People also work in the highway construction industry and in police departments that enforce traffic laws. But the automobile has a dark side as well. Millions of people die in car accidents each year, and cars pollute the air we breathe. And they take up space that could be used for homes, shops and parks.

The scientific and technical building blocks of the modern car go back hundreds of years. The first automobiles ran on steam or battery power. But these cars did not reach very high speeds, and they were expensive to maintain. The modern gasoline-powered automobile was first perfected in Germany and France toward the end of the 19th century by such engineers as Nicolaus Otto, Gottlieb Daimler and Karl Benz. The production of cars exploded in America when Henry Ford developed the assembly line, where workers stay at one station and do only one task while car parts pass by on a conveyor belt. His Model T became the most popular car in history.

After World War I automobiles continued to improve. Manufacturers added features like self-starters, closed all steel bodies and hydraulic brakes. They began to add air conditioning and power steering as well. Many of these innovations were in place by the early 1950s.

When car ownership became common in the United States, it changed life. People now lived closer to their workplaces and could do more leisure activities. This helped the economy grow and created new services like hotels, restaurants and amusement parks. People began to drive long distances to go on vacation or visit relatives and friends. This also meant the creation of highways and the development of intercity transportation systems. It also led to the need for safety regulations, including seatbelts and highway rules.

Cars are very complicated machines. Millions of different parts work together to make them run and make them comfortable for people to ride in. The engine is at the heart of every car, producing the power that turns the wheels and electricity to light the car’s lights and operate the car’s accessories. Other important systems include the transmission, brakes and steering.

Most cars use gasoline to run, and that fuel comes from oil. Until 1973 oil was plentiful and cheap, but in that year the Arab countries that produced it started to limit how much they shipped to western countries. This caused high gas prices and long lines at gasoline stations. Many automakers responded by producing compact cars that use less fuel. Some even made electric cars.