Automobiles are a major part of modern life. They transport people to work, school, and social events and can help them get around town. They also allow us to visit family and friends across the country. Without a car, many of these activities would be impossible. However, it is important to note that cars can be dangerous. Fortunately, there are safety measures that can be taken to make your vehicle more safe.
The emergence of the automobile was one of the most significant developments of the 20th century. It stimulated participation in outdoor recreation, encouraged the development of tourism and travel-related industries, and greatly expanded urbanization. It also ended rural isolation, bringing urban amenities (like schools and medical care) to the countryside and making suburban living possible for millions of Americans. The automobile spurred the growth of new housing developments, gas stations, and roadside restaurants, as well as the construction of roads and highways, the largest public works programs in history. It also contributed to the decline of the traditional family farm and spawned whole industries associated with trucking and distribution, such as grocery stores, department stores, and retail outlets.
In the late 1800s, scientists began to develop the scientific and technical building blocks of modern cars. The first horseless carriages were run on steam, electric power, or gasoline. Steam engines could reach high speeds, but were inconvenient to start and had a limited range. Gasoline-powered engines were a practical alternative, but in 1900 they still only had 38 percent of the United States automobile market. In 1906 Ransom E. Olds introduced a model that combined the advanced design of the 1901 Mercedes with a moderate price and lower operating costs, and in 1904 his company produced more vehicles than any other company had previously.
By the 1920s, almost all automobiles used internal combustion engines and were built using a similar design. The most significant technological innovations since then have been improvements in the efficiency of the engine, the reliability and safety of the chassis and suspension, and the sophistication of the braking system.
As automobiles have evolved, there has been increased focus on improving the driving experience by developing semiautonomous and autonomous vehicles that either aid the driver or fully replace him/her on a routine basis. These efforts have been accelerated by the proliferation of onboard computer systems and the availability of microcomputers, which have dramatically reduced the cost of sensors, processors, and actuators for automotive control.
In addition, as consumer demands for fuel economy and safety have increased, there has been a shift toward more sophisticated features, such as blind-spot detection, lane-departure warning systems, and automatic emergency braking. These technologies will likely become increasingly common as the costs associated with them continue to decrease. This is also the case for advanced driver assistance systems, which use a variety of sensors to detect potential hazards and assist the human driver in responding to them. These systems are becoming more widely available in mid- to upper-level models, and are expected to be included on most new automobiles in the near future.