Automobiles are a common sight on the world’s highways, providing people with a means of transport that is both convenient and flexible. They are a time-efficient way of moving people and smaller, household amounts of cargo, they are enclosed and largely protect occupants from weather and they can be driven when and where they wish within a set of rules and regulations. But there are also significant costs associated with automobile ownership, including the initial purchase price, repairs and maintenance, fuel, depreciation, borrowing, license fees, taxes and insurance. Then there are the indirect societal costs, including road maintenance, pollution and health care costs caused by accidents and injuries.
The invention of the automobile revolutionized everyday life in twentieth-century America and elsewhere. It fueled consumer goods-oriented societies and drove economic growth, transforming the steel and petroleum industries and creating new ones such as tires, glass, chemicals and gasoline. But it was also responsible for causing pollution and putting a strain on dwindling world oil supplies.
The first car was designed in the late 1860s by Siegfried Marcus, who used a two-stroke internal combustion engine powered by gasoline. The American automotive industry became dominant during the 1920s, when Henry Ford introduced mass production and General Motors and Chrysler emerged as the “Big Three” automakers. Ford innovated many important improvements in the vehicle, and his competitors followed suit.
One benefit of owning a car is independence, says Fix. People who rely on public transportation have to make sure they make it to their stop on time, which can be problematic during rush hour. Another benefit is increased job opportunities, he adds. “Interviewers will look at someone who has a car as someone that is mobile,” he says.