Automobiles and Modern Life

Automobiles are the world’s most widespread mode of personal transportation. They are powered by internal combustion engines fueled with volatile fuel and have four wheels for travel on roads. Often, they are capable of carrying one or more passengers and may be equipped with various safety devices for passenger and driver protection.

The automobile was a significant force for change in twentieth-century America, becoming the backbone of a new consumer goods-oriented society and requiring the development of ancillary industries to support its needs. It was a major user of petroleum and gasoline, steel and other raw materials and services such as gas stations and convenience stores. In 1982 it accounted for one in six jobs in the United States.

Modern life seems inconceivable, or at least very inconvenient, without the automobile. It is the primary form of transport for people to work, to shop and to visit friends and relatives. In addition, it serves as a means of recreation for people who enjoy the freedom of travel, sports and other activities. The automobile has also contributed to the expansion of suburban communities and urban centers, the growth of leisure activities and the appearance of new service industries.

Automobiles are a part of modern life, and they continue to evolve as technology advances. New design innovations and advances in engine technology have allowed vehicles to become safer, more fuel efficient, and easier to operate and maintain. Some of the most important developments have been in the field of electronics, high-strength plastics, and advanced alloys of iron and nonferrous metals. Moreover, the advent of electronic computers has made it possible to build more powerful and versatile engines for cars.

Although a few inventors created steam-powered road vehicles in the 1800s, it was not until the late 1860s that Siegfried Marcus invented a small, portable vehicle that used an internal combustion engine fueled by gasoline. In 1870 he built a crude version with no seats, steering or brakes, and he put it aside. In 1888 or 1889, Karl Benz developed a similar prototype with these features. Benz’s motor vehicle was the first to be sold commercially, and it introduced a whole new concept of mobility to society.

The American automobile industry quickly emerged as a dominant global player in the 1920s, and Ford’s innovative use of assembly lines revolutionized automotive manufacturing techniques. This enabled mass production of his Model T runabout, which sold for less than the average annual wage at that time and made mass personal car ownership a reality.

In the 1970s and ’80s, rising fuel prices and environmental concerns led to increased interest in smaller, more economical vehicles such as minivans and sport-utility vehicles. These cars are designed to carry more passengers and cargo than traditional sedans, but they typically provide the same level of driving comfort and safety as larger vehicles. Many manufacturers produce hybrid-electric vehicles to meet consumer demand for environmentally friendly alternatives to the traditional fossil fuel-powered automobile.

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