The Evolution of the Automobile
The automobile is a pillar of the modern economy and a vital part of our daily lives. It allows us to commute to work, go on vacation and spend time with family. It is also a source of income and a symbol of wealth. The modern automobile has come a long way from the horse powered carriages of the past. Today’s vehicles are more powerful, safer, more economical, handle better and keep their occupants more comfortable.
The technical building blocks of the automobile began to take shape several hundred years ago when Dutch scientist Christiaan Huygens invented a new type of engine sparked by gunpowder. The first modern motorcars were developed in Germany and France toward the end of the nineteenth century by Gottlieb Daimler, Karl Benz, Nicolaus Otto and Emile Levassor. But it was the 1901 Mercedes—designed by Wilhelm Maybach for the German company Daimler Motoren Gesellschaft—that truly defined the modern car. Its thirty-five horsepower engine weighed only fourteen pounds per horsepower and was capable of speeds up to fifty-three miles per hour. This made it far more advanced than steam cars, which could only travel a limited distance, battery-powered electric cars (which claimed a 38 percent share of the United States market in 1900) which had poor mileage and lacked recharging stations, or Ransom E. Olds’ 1901-1906 one-cylinder, three-horsepower tiller-steered curved dash model that was essentially a motorized horse buggy.
Whether you want a reliable family sedan like the Toyota Corolla or a sporty hatchback like the Volkswagen Golf, there’s something out there for everyone. And thanks to the recent innovations in engines, suspension and electronics, the automotive industry continues to improve rapidly.