Automobiles – A Brief History
Throughout the years, many scientific and technical developments have helped make automobiles safer, faster, more comfortable, and easier to operate. Some of the most important advances include electric ignition and electric self-starters (developed by Charles Kettering for Cadillac Motor Company in 1909-1911), independent suspension, four-wheel brakes, and air conditioning. Automobiles have been a major force for change in twentieth-century life and have created whole new industries. For example, automobiles fueled the desire for suburban communities where families have their own homes with lawns. They also have made it possible for people with special needs to travel independently of others.
Regardless of how you use your automobile, it can save you time by taking you to work, shopping, visiting friends and family, and running errands at your convenience. In addition, having a car gives you a sense of independence and freedom because you are not relying on public transportation.
Although the automobile has greatly altered American society, it has not always been a blessing. After the end of World War II, American manufacturers concentrated on producing cars for civilian consumption, and quality declined rapidly. At the same time, environmental concerns arose over pollution and the draining of world oil reserves, which led to the imposition of new government standards. In the late 20th century, the automobile industry became embroiled in controversy over nonfunctional styling and the high cost of gasoline. As a result, American makers lost ground to German and Japanese makers of fuel-efficient, functionally designed, well-built small cars.