Can you imagine a world without Uber, Lyft and ultra-cool driver’s ed apps like Aceable? We use these auto-related apps so frequently that it’s almost impossible to believe that at one point, cars didn’t even exist. It’s impossible to attribute the invention of the automobile to just one person because it was created in multiple stages by people across the whole world over a span of many decades; experts estimate that over 100,000 patents are related to the invention of the car! But there are some names that stand out among the rest, and if you appreciate the convenience of your car (everyone raise your hands), it’s worth knowing the people that helped give it to you:
Nicolas Joseph Cugnot
Most historians agree that Cugnot, a native of France, created the first true automobile. His 1769 model was a massive, steam-powered tricycle that was said to have run for 20 minutes at 2.25 miles per hour. The tricycle was able to carry four people and recuperate a second wind after standing still for 20 minutes.
Gottlieb Daimler and Karl Benz
Authorities agree that the two most important pioneers in the contribution to the gasoline-engine automobile are Karl Benz and Gottlieb Daimler of Germany. Benz believed that the internal-combustion engine would revolutionize the world’s transportation and fought personal obstacles like poverty and bitter objections to make his dream happen. In 1885, he ran his first car, a three-wheeler powered by a two-cycle, one-cylinder engine, around a track for four circuits before it stopped. After a few years of tinkering with the design and quality of his materials, Benz made his first sale in 1888. By 1893, he was employing 50 workmen and began making a four-wheeler. Meanwhile, Daimler was working on an air-cooled one-cylinder engine in Bad Cannstatt that was designed to run at 900 revolutions per minute (for comparison Benz’s first tricycle had operated at 250 rpm). Even more advanced, Daimler’s 1889 car had four speeds. The Daimler and Benz firms were merged in 1926 and products thereafter would be sold under the name Mercedes-Benz. Oddly, Daimler and Benz never actually met.
Ransom Eli Olds
Also active in the gasoline-engine invention in the 1890s was American Ransom Eli Olds, famous for the long-lived Oldsmobile. Originally interested in steam, Olds produced a three-horsepower, curved-dash automobile that would surpass the steam Locomobile to become America’s first best-selling gasoline engine car in 1902. The success of the Oldsmobile did not go unnoticed and over the next four years, nearly 250 automobile-manufacturing firms opened in the United States. This rapid growth was the start of Detroit becoming a major player in the automobile industry.
One of the blossoming auto manufacturers during this time was the Ford Motor Company of Highland Park, Michigan. Henry Ford improved the assembly line system by installing the first conveyor belt-style assembly line at his plant. This process helped reduce costs and make vehicles more affordable to consumers. His Ford Model T was a huge success, selling 15 million automobiles by 1927.
While the automobile has continued to transform and improve overtime, it’s origins-steam engines, three-wheelers, and assembly lines- must be appreciated for providing the platform towards the modern car we all get SO excited to turn 16 for. Now, what major invention to the car will come next?
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