Automobiles are a major part of the world’s transportation system. They allow people to commute, shop, work and play. The modern automobile is a complex technical system that has thousands of subsystems with specific design functions. The automotive industry drives many ancillary industries such as steel and petroleum. It also is one of the largest consumers of other industrial materials such as aluminum, high-strength plastics and new alloys of nonferrous metals.
The automotive industry is a vital component of the economy, employing millions and providing one in six American jobs. Automobiles are one of the most important technological inventions of the 20th century, making modern life inconceivable without them. The automobile revolutionized the way we live, by bringing jobs, leisure activities and services to urban areas that were once remote. It fueled a growing consumer culture, with its accompanying businesses like motels, hotels, amusement parks and restaurants. It also contributed to a new style of living, with its demand for suburban homes with lawns and garages.
Before the automobile, people used horses for transportation. They were expensive and difficult to maintain, but they could travel at great speeds. During the 18th and 19th centuries, inventors tried to create better ways of transporting people. One of the most important developments was a gas-powered engine that ran on a variety of fuels, including gasoline, diesel and kerosene. This engine caused the car to go faster and longer than a horse could. In addition, gas-powered engines were easy to start and didn’t require expensive maintenance.
The development of the automobile spurred changes in government policies and social attitudes. It led to the creation of highways, traffic laws and safety features such as seatbelts and airbags. It also spawned a whole new set of service industries, such as auto dealers, repair shops and insurance companies. It even changed the way we work, with employees driving to and from work in cars instead of walking or taking trains and buses.
Automobile accidents are almost as old as the cars themselves. One of the first documented automobile deaths occurred when Joseph Cugnot crashed his steam-powered “Fardier” against a wall in 1771. More recent crashes have caused thousands of deaths and injuries.
Although automobiles are a major part of the world’s economy, they are not without their drawbacks. They produce pollution that can harm the environment and human health. They also cause traffic congestion and contribute to climate change. Fortunately, public transportation such as buses, trains and trams can help reduce the number of automobiles on the road.
Whether to own an automobile or not depends on a person’s lifestyle. Despite its disadvantages, the automobile offers freedom and convenience that other means of transportation can’t match. People who choose to own an automobile must weigh these advantages against the costs and responsibilities of maintaining and insuring their vehicles. If they do decide to own an automobile, they should look for models that have good fuel economy, safety and reliability ratings.