History of the Auto

The automobile has come a long way in its developmental history. It has gone from a simple steam powered vehicle to today’s high tech, computer aided auto. Along the way, the auto has had many key innovations that helped advance the development, and also aided other industries.

Steam Powered Vehicles

The origins of the first automobile have been traced back to the 1700’s with the creation of the steam powered carriage, by Britain’s William Murdoch. Murdoch’s idea was taken a step further in 1801, when Richard Trevithick built a full sized version which was capable of running on the roadways. Over the next hundred years, steam powered vehicles became more popular and the designs improved with the implementation of hand brakes, improved steering and transmissions which gave the vehicles more power. In the United States, the first patent for an automobile was give in 1789 to Oliver Evans, whose first vehicle was steam powered for land and also paddle powered for water.

Internal Combustion Engines

One of the biggest developments in the history of the automobile was the creation of the internal combustion engine. In the late 1800’s engineers started to work on engines that would work using fuel as opposed to being steam powered. Among the first vehicles that used fuel to operate was developed in 1885 by German inventor Karl Benz. He was granted a patent for the vehicle in 1886.

Soon, the development of vehicles fitted with the gas powered engine took off all over the world. From humble beginnings in the late 1800’s, inventors went about improving the designs of the automobile and new auto producers began to appear. Charles and Frank Duryea created the first car manufacturing operation in the United States in 1893. Soon after, other pioneers of the auto industry such as Ransom Olds and Henry Ford.

Mass Production

Up until the early 1900’s one of the main drawbacks in the automobile industry was the large amount of time it took to produce an automobile. At the time each vehicle was worked on by the same people from start to finish. The drawback was that each person working on the auto had to know about all the workings of the vehicle, and the time it took to finish was lengthy. In 1908, Henry Ford had an idea for an auto that can be easily produced and make it affordable to the majority of people. His Model T was able to be mass produced on an assembly line where workers would only be responsible for one portion of the production. And, with the assembly line, the car would move from station to station allowing more cars to be produced. 

The invention of the assembly line and the concept of being able to mass produce autos was the biggest innovation in the auto industry. This concept was not only used for autos but began to be adopted by other industries, making production of any item faster, more efficient and at a reduced cost.

Modern Automobiles

Once mass production came into effect, the auto industry took off. More manufacturers began to set up operations all over the world, and with it came unique designs and innovations. The auto industry created big cars, small cars and every size in between to meet the needs of the population. Also, now they were able to produce cars for every class making the auto affordable to everyone.

In more recent times technology has played a role in the development of the auto. Now using new, lighter material cars are more efficient, and added regulations have made them safer to drive. In addition cars have begun utilizing computer technology so that the auto and driver have improved communications about what is wrong with the vehicle. Technology has also increased so that the engines that drive the vehicles do not have to depend on fuel. With hybrid autos, drivers can not lessen the dependency on fuel and use electricity to power the auto.

The automobile has evolved tremendously in the last 200 years, from steam powered vehicles to cars that utilize computer technology to operate. The automobile industry has seen many changes over the years, and with continued research and development, it will continue to evolve in the foreseeable future.  

Here are a collection of resources on the history of the automobile:


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