Vehicles and society
The impact of the automobile* is immense, it paved the way for a future dependency on the automobile, motorcycle and other mechanical ways of transport of people and goods. Imagine life without an automobile; your mobility would be very limited. The impact of the automobile had many effects on the world since the automobile provided an outlet for individuals and has increased the freedom of travel among all classes of people. It also helped people living in rural areas to see the aspects of city life and vice versa
The first image of a self-propelled vehicle dates back to around the early thirteenth century and was created by Leonardo Da Vinci making Europe the birthplace of the automobile, but it was quickly adopted by America after the first ‘real’ automobiles where build by Karl Benz and Gottlieb Daimler in 1886. They created vehicles that were the ancestors of the modern vehicles. They used two different approaches, Daimler began with the motorcycle and Benz used the tricycle but each technique needed a component the high-speed motor, but Benz developed a reliable way of ignition.
The automobile era in the United States dates from September 21, 1893, when a motor carriage with a one-cylinder gasoline engine was build in Springfield, Massachusetts”. The inventors were Charles and J. Frank Duryea. There were a huge number of early automobile pioneers. Mr. E. Olds and Alexander Winton formed a company to manufacture gasoline automobiles; Oldsmobile and the brand name still exists today. Henry Ford is another important pioneer in the automobile industry. He helped the idea of the automobile superseding the horse to become commonplace in the minds of Americans. He used the factory system, mass production and assembly line. Henry Ford realised his dream of producing an automobile that was reasonably priced, reliable, and efficient with the introduction of the Model T. The Model T initiated a new era in personal transportation, it was easy to operate, maintain, and handle on rough roads and immediately became a huge success.
The impact of the automobile had many positive effects and one of the early impacts of the automobile was its promotion of auto racing. This was logical because racing was a great way to advertise their cars. Also, it was a way for the designers of the automobile to test their ideas. Although the FIVA does not organise races or other speed events, we do recognise the importance of the development of vehicles through this sport and many technical advances have been made as a result of racing cars and motor cycles. Just think about the impact of the development of anti-locking brakes and streamlining on modern vehicles and traffic safety.
Few other inventions had a greater impact on industry and society.
The fuel and tire industry shared the greatest natural impact of the automobile. The emergence of the automobile almost immediately revolutionised the petroleum industry. Before 1900, only a very small amount of crude oil was converted into gasoline. Basically, gasoline was regarded as an unattractive useless by-product. With the arrival of the gasoline automobile, it helped to increase the amount of crude oil supply through the opening of new oil fields across the globe. The rubber industry had a very comparable story to the petroleum industry. The automobile’s impact on the rubber industry changed its character. The rubber industry hit its peak in the early 19th century when Charles Goodyear began vulcanising and the basis for the modern tires was laid.
The automobile also produced thousands of drive-in fast-food restaurants and drive-in theatres, initially mainly in the USA. Automobiles helped to increase the women’s role in society and while the tradition role of a woman was limited to the house, the automobile changed that.
The automobile allowed women to escape their house. It changed women’s role from being producers of food and clothing into consumers of prepared food and ready-made clothing. Women were now able to do out-of-town shopping as well.
Trucks and busses allowed for farmers to bring their goods to local markets or consumers to go out an buy good in the countryside. This not only increased the selection of foods but also helped in bringing goods quicker and fresher to its consumers.
Road construction changed dramatically because of automobiles. Roads went from gravel and cobblestone to smooth hard surfaces of concrete or asphalt. Highway travel allowed to travel at greater amounts of speed and safety. Old roads were rebuilt, new roads were added and automobile designers produced faster cars because of the better roads.
The improvement of roads produced an increase in amount of people that were able to travel for vacation, inspiring the tourist industry. Small-town hotels were build for the salesman that travelled from town to town. The growing number of automobile tourists increased the amount of business in stores. Service stations, garages, and repair shops were the industries that benefited from the increased amount of travel. Gasoline pumps became common sight, providing work to many and boosting the economy.
The automobile also had some negative effects; the railroad industry felt the effects of the automobile since automobiles posed more of a threat to passenger trains. The family car took over the travel done by families. Motor trucks began to cut into the business of the railroad’s freight trains as well while busses further helped the decline of the passenger train. City transit and urban electric lines felt the impact of the automobile.
* although we use the term ‘automobiles’ here, many of the effects mentioned are also true for motorcycles, trucks and agricultural vehicles.