Automobiles – The Driving Force
Automobiles are self-propelled vehicles that use an internal combustion engine to convert gasoline or other fuel into mechanical energy that moves the wheels and allows the vehicle to travel forward and backward. An automobile may also carry a limited amount of cargo. Most modern automobiles are fueled by gas, and some also have electric motors.
Automobile manufacture provides jobs, boosts local economies and helps America compete globally. It takes a team of experts to create the safest and most advanced cars in the world, and a strong manufacturing sector is vital to our country’s economy.
The car is one of the most important innovations in human history. It changed the way we work and live, giving people more freedom to do whatever they want. It opened up new activities and leisure services, such as drive-in movies and fast food restaurants. People could travel farther, too, from city to country or across state lines.
It’s not surprising that the automobile gave rise to new industries and jobs, including those involved in supplying parts and fuel. Industries like rubber and oil production, and services such as gas stations and convenience stores grew quickly. And cities and towns grew to accommodate the new traffic, adding roads and other infrastructure.
At the beginning of the 20th century, the middle class was growing in America, and more people could afford to buy their own cars. This allowed more people to get jobs in distant locations, and it enabled them to spend their free time visiting friends and family.
Many women began to drive as well, and they often drove alone, which was quite a bold act at that time. Two such women, Nell Richardson and Alice Burke, even went on a long trip to promote the right of women to vote in 1916. They decorated their cars with “votes for women” banners, and gave speeches from them as they went.
During the postwar period, however, the automobile became a symbol of excess and consumerism. Engineering began to be subordinated to the questionable aesthetics of nonfunctional styling, and quality deteriorated. In addition, the higher unit profits that automakers made on their gas-guzzling road cruisers came with the social costs of increased air pollution and a drain on dwindling world oil reserves.
The car also prompted changes in government and social life. New laws and regulations were imposed to improve safety and fuel efficiency. And service industries grew to meet the needs of drivers, from repair shops and lubrication companies to gas stations and convenience stores. In addition, new services like motels and hotels sprang up to provide accommodations for travelers. This diversified the nature of American society, bringing it closer to a rural, populist and private form than a highly urbanized, commercial, industrial one.