Few inventions have had as profound an impact on the world as the car. It was an invention that has not only change the way people lived, it’s influenced business and the economy in ways no one could have foreseen when Henry Ford put together a mass production operation for his Model T. Some would even say that Americana culture wouldn’t exist without cars.
Of course, there have also been a few drawbacks to the creation of the automobile. Buckle up for a informative, entertaining look at how the car changed the world.
Cars Helped Revolutionized Production
Henry Ford is known as the godfather of the American car industry, even though Carl Benz invented the first vehicle in 1879. He may not have invented the vehicle, but he did revolutionize how they’re manufactured, which made cars affordable enough for people outside of the upper class.
Ford perfected step-by-step assembly line production by using standardized, interchangeable parts. He then trained employees in only one or two steps so that each person could work as quickly and efficiently as possible. But then Ford took it one step further by using the first ever moving assembly line for large-scale manufacturing. It’s a production model that’s been adopted in countless other industries, allowing for mass production that cuts cost. Without the Model T, manufacturing may not be what it is today.
Cars Dramatically Changed the Economy
It’s an understatement to say automaking has changed the economy. Today, over 4.25 million people work directly within the automotive industry. Not only has car manufacturing become one of the largest industries in the world, it’s also been the driving force behind the growth in the oil and gas industry. Of course, over the years horse breeders and buggy makers have taken a hit.
Cars Enabled People to Travel and Relocate More Readily
The most obvious change for everyday people was that cars gave them a way to get around quickly. Suddenly, people had a new mode of transportation that could get them more places, which meant leisure travel became something common folk could afford.
Where people live has also been influenced by the automobile. Up until the early 1900s, few people lived more than a few miles from where they grew up. It was a matter of choice and logistics. Before cars were invented moving just a short distance away meant hours of buggy travel on rough roads. The rise of suburban areas also wouldn’t have been possible without the automobile.
The trend to moving further away really took off after President Roosevelt’s New Deal programs created thousands of miles of roadway across the U.S. Once people could easily get from sea to shining sea more people started to relocate. Not surprisingly, the U.S. is now third in the world for the number of residents who move per year. As we’ve seen in recent years, many people are more than willing to pack up and relocate for work.
Death and Injury - The Downside to Driving
In life, you have to take the bad with the good. Cars have given people freedom, income and convenience, but vehicle accidents are also a leading cause of death. Across the globe 1.3 million people are killed in car accidents every year and another 20-50 million are injured. It's actually one of the reasons drivers education and traffic school were invented.
Unfortunately, young teen drivers are among the most likely to be involved in an accident that leads to death or injury. Got to buckle up!
The Politics of Driving
Because vehicle manufacturing is such a huge industry and affects safety, politics and government regulation are inescapable. Teen drivers know this all too well. Getting a driver’s license now requires a learner’s permit period, drivers ed courses and other stipulations along with the road rules everyone must follow.
But road regulations aren’t the only political consideration when it comes to cars. Plenty of economic decisions focus on automaking. One of the most notable political interventions in the auto industry was the bailout of 2009. The U.S. government decided to help several U.S. automakers stay financially stable through the recession, largely because they are American institutions that employ thousands of people.
Environmental Concerns and Further Invention
Environmentalists aren’t the biggest fans of most cars. Their beef isn’t with the cars themselves but the fuel that provides power and harmful byproducts. According to the EPA’s estimates, transportation (mostly passenger vehicles) is responsible for 27% of greenhouse gas emissions.
But environmental concerns have led to the creation of the latest car technology. The production of hybrid and electric vehicles (EVs) are steadily increasing by the day as demand for cleaner cars rises. This (and government regulations) has prompted car manufacturers to rethink engines, fueling systems and the overall design of vehicles.
Tesla is among the most prominent companies at the forefront of the clean car movement. The company has proven that all-electric vehicles can be powerful and stylish as well as energy efficient. Of course, Toyota and Leonardo DiCaprio also helped establish the hybrid industry with the Prius.
The Future of Vehicles and What It May Mean for American Society
Now that all-electric vehicles are old news, car engineers are turning their attention to new groundbreaking transportation technology. Industry insiders are extremely excited about the concept of driverless vehicles.
Remember those death and injury stats you read a few minutes ago? Automakers are hoping that driverless vehicles will help alleviate the problem. Since virtually all accidents are due to driver error, the rational is computer systems will be able to make better, quicker decisions. There are already a number of driverless vehicles being tested, but only time will tell if backseat drivers will be the way of the future.
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