Automobiles – The Most Common, Ubiquitous, and Widely Used of Modern Technologies

An automobile, also referred to as a motor car or auto, is a wheeled vehicle used to transport passengers. It is powered by an internal combustion engine, usually fueled with gasoline (petrol), although it may be equipped with other fuels such as natural gas or electricity. Automobiles are one of the most common, ubiquitous, and widely used of modern technologies.

The automobile has had a profound effect on everyday life in the United States and around the world. It has revolutionized industry, changed the way people live and work, and transformed our culture. The scientific and technical building blocks for the automobile go back several hundred years, but it was German engineer Karl Benz who invented the first true passenger car in 1885. Benz’s design was very simple and expensive, but other inventors developed new engines, chassis, drive systems, control and safety systems, and other features that made cars more functional and practical.

Before the introduction of the automobile, it was very difficult for most families to have their own transportation. Traveling long distances for work was often impractical without a horse and buggy or even a bicycle. Families who owned cars could make trips together and explore more of the country. They could visit relatives and shop at local businesses. They also had more options for work, allowing them to choose where they wanted to live in relation to their career.

During the late 1800s and early 1900s, many manufacturers produced cars with different types of engines. Steam-powered vehicles went very slowly and had a hard time reaching high speeds. Electric cars were easier to operate, but they had a limited range and required frequent recharging. Gasoline-powered cars soon won the market, and their availability allowed more people to afford them.

After 1912, American car manufacturer Henry Ford introduced modern production methods, which enabled him to sell millions of cars at a relatively low price. These production techniques eventually became standard in most auto factories and reduced the price of the Model T to less than half the average annual wage at the time. This lowered the cost of automobile ownership to middle-class levels and helped fuel a huge increase in driving.

By the 1920s, modern life seemed inconceivable — or at least highly inconvenient — without access to an automobile. Cars were becoming easier to operate and more comfortable as steel bodies and heaters became commonplace, while features such as power steering and air conditioning became available. Even women were starting to take advantage of this new freedom. Two women, Nell Richardson and Alice Burke, took a cross-country trip in 1916 to promote women’s right to vote, decorating their car with “votes for women” banners.

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