The Evolution of Automobiles


The automobile is one of the most universal of modern technologies. It is a motor vehicle designed for passenger transportation on land, powered most often by an internal combustion engine fueled by gasoline (or occasionally other fuels). The scientific and technical building blocks of the automobile go back several hundred years.

In the 1800s, cars were powered by steam, electric power, and gasoline internal combustion engines. They competed for decades until the gasoline-powered car emerged as the dominant form of automotive transport by the 1910s. As the automobile became more common, it changed American society in a myriad of ways. People gained freedom of choice, allowing them to escape urban life and rediscover pristine landscapes. The automobile also encouraged families to vacation together in places previously inaccessible. Teenagers acquired a sense of independence as they began to drive. And dating couples found that a ride in the car could help relax sexual attitudes.

Henry Ford introduced a mass-production model, lowering the cost of the automobile and making it affordable for middle-class Americans. He and others in the automotive industry also revolutionized industrial manufacturing. They developed assembly lines that turned out cars much faster and more inexpensively than ever before.

Automobiles can be dangerous when they are driven recklessly or when their drivers fail to follow the rules of the road. Many accidents have been deadly. Yet the car remains an essential part of the American way of life, and as technology evolves, the world’s leading automakers continue to innovate.