The History of Automobiles


Automobiles are vehicles used to transport people or goods. Their history goes back several hundred years. Originally, they were run by steam, electric power or gasoline. The modern automobile is a complex combination of many scientific and technical advances. Its development is a fascinating part of industrial and technological history.

The automobile revolutionized everyday life. It gave people more freedom of movement and access to jobs, homes, leisure activities and services. The automobile also brought changes to industry and the environment. It created new jobs and industries to supply the cars with fuel, tires, parts, rubber and other materials. Services like gas stations and convenience stores also developed. Traffic congestion became a problem. Governments passed laws to limit speeds and require drivers’ licenses. The automobile also caused harm to the environment through pollution and the destruction of undeveloped land for highways and parking lots.

Exactly who invented the automobile is a subject of debate. Early accounts often give Karl Benz credit for the first true car, which was a three-wheeled vehicle with an Otto gasoline engine. Benz’s patent was issued in 1885 and his company started production in 1886. Gottlieb Daimler and Wilhelm Maybach in Germany also worked on the first motor cars around the same time as Benz.

In the early days of the automobile, different makes of cars were often built with similar mechanical parts. This allowed buyers to “move up” from one make of car to another as their fortunes improved. This practice was encouraged by Alfred P. Sloan, who established the automotive division model that is still in use today.

Today’s cars are very complex machines with thousands of moving parts and systems. Some of these systems are very critical to safety, such as the brakes that keep the car from running off the road or crashing into other cars or pedestrians. Other important safety features include seat belts and airbags, which reduce deaths and injuries. Some of these systems are in the car’s body, chassis and interior; others are outside the vehicle and monitor conditions like weather, traffic and road surface to warn the driver of danger.

The value of an automobile can be affected by its condition, mileage and optional equipment. Optional items, such as a sunroof or leather upholstery, are often included in the price of a new vehicle and can raise its value when sold. The type of vehicle and its color can also have an impact on value. Cars that are used for commercial purposes, such as taxis and delivery trucks, tend to depreciate more rapidly than private cars. A professional appraiser can help you determine an accurate value for your automobile. Using the Internet, you can find a number of free resources for automobile valuation. One such site is Consumer Reports. Another is NADAguides, which provides a comprehensive database of car sales to estimate an automobile’s value. Its website is easy to navigate and provides a wealth of useful information, including tips for improving your car’s value.