Evolutionary Changes In Automotive Technology
Means of travel have played a major role in the development of civilization. From the initial barefoot means of movement, followed by animal drawn wagons to modern cars, transportation has seen tremendous evolution. Since its invention in the early 1800s, the automobile technology has dramatically changed the society. Besides the changes it has brought in society, the motorcar technology has in itself undergone great advancements over time. As mentioned earlier, before the advent of animal drawn carts or the automobile, people used to traverse the globe on foot. This made travelling, especially when transporting heavy luggage extremely cumbersome until the advent of animal drawn wagons. This made transportation a little bit easier as heavy goods could be transported with ease and for longer distances. This was a convenient mode of transport because the animals only required adequate food and water to facilitate transportation of goods and passengers to their destinations.
The exact date the motorcar was invented is a point of debate. Some people say that Cugnot’s steam car built in 1770 was the first motorcar while others argue that the 1885 Benz tricycle was the very first automobile (Jasanoff and Markle 627). However, this debate depends on the definition of motorcar technology. Steam technology as a way of transportation, has been around for a long period of time since the Cugnot vehicle, driven by a steam engine. In fact the development of the internal combustion engine was to some point based on knowledge resulting from steam technology since the two types of engines operate on the same principle. The major elements in both types of engines included: pistons, axles and high pressure. One of the pioneers of the internal combustion engine was Ettiene Lenoir. He made an internal combustion engine whose design and operation resembled a steam engine although he had an industrial purpose for the engine he made. This concept was enhanced by Otto, who invented the four stroke principle. Karl Benz and Gottlieb Daimler employed the Otto design to come up with a motorized vehicle in 1885. These individuals’ efforts are universally acknowledged in the birth of the automobile.
Between the years 1885 and 1918, more automobiles were built and this brought about vast changes in the society’s way of living. Various parts of forests were cleared to pave way for road constructions between towns and countries. This activity destroyed very many animal habitats. The construction of road network prompted the opening of numerous commercial centers in the rural areas where people traded products from other parts of the globe since transportation was much easier and faster. Peoples’ eating habits changed since they could easily access foodstuffs from other corners of the world which were previously inaccessible. The advancement of the automobile technology also changed many people’s economic activities. A good number of people began oil mining activities to supply fuel to the many automobiles that were built in this period of time. This created more job opportunities in both the mining and refining companies which greatly improved their living standards. The interaction of people from various corners of the world brought about many cultural changes. People from far ends of the world met at commercial centers and cities and shared their cultural practices and in so doing new cultures came into being.
From 1919, there was rapid development of automotive technology. This was because hundreds of small manufacturers competed to gain the world’s attention. Among the major developments were the electric ignition and the electric self starter, initiated by Charles Kettering for the Cadillac Motor Company (Frenken and Nuvolari 419). This was followed by the independent suspension system and four wheel brakes. During this period marketing plans profoundly influenced automobile design as cars were mass produced to meet the market needs. Later Alfred P. Sloan came up with idea of diverse makes of automobiles produced by one company. With the swift pace of change, different makes shared automobile parts which resulted in reduced costs for each price range in larger production. For instance, LaSalles, which were sold by Cadillac, employed cost effective mechanical parts from Oldsmobile in the 1930s While Pontiac shared doors, roof, hood and windows with Chevrolet in the 1950s (Mumsford 67).
The rapid development of automotive technology together with the high competition among the manufacturers to meet the market requirements enhanced the making of more complex vehicles changing the society in its wake. For instance, Cars with higher speeds built during this period, led to the conversion of horse racing facilities to new, faster, extra dangerous and therefore more exciting, motor racing. During this period, sophisticated military automobiles were designed and made by different countries and were put to greater use during the world war one and world war two claiming a lot of human life. The mass production of automobiles worldwide came with an increased rate of road accidents that has up to date claimed a reasonable number of people, denying the world the much needed human resource. The larger number of automobiles produced during this period also had an adverse effect on the environment. The fumes and dust from the numerous numbers of vehicles in the world played a major role in the pollution of the atmosphere.
In 1965, emissions regulation was implemented in California after recognizing the harmful effects of the automobile industry. This led to another step in the advancement of the automobile technology. New models for hybrid, electric and driverless or robotic cars have been made. It is estimated that by the year 2020, 2% to 4% of the automobiles in the world will be prototypes of these models (Gijis 46). The focal point of these models is the drive train, the engine, the steering, the suspension and the electrical and computer systems of the automobiles. These vehicles will be more expensive and will require knowledgeable drivers.
I believe the evolution of automobiles has significantly led to advancements in almost all sectors of life. The automobile has not only created different types of industries from car assemblies, parts manufacturing to even drilling, transportation and distribution of fuel. Many industries have emerged from the development of the car. However, the ease and convenience brought about by the evolution of the car has had its own share of disadvantages. From environmental pollution to loss of lives in accidents, the automobile has equally been responsible for so much misery in the world. Better were the days when we would never wage war against each other simply to control the price of oil.
Frenken, K. and Nuvolari, A. “The early development of the steam engine: an evolutionary interpretation using complexity theory.” Industrial and corporate change 13.2 (2004): 419-450. Web. <http://icc.oxfordjournals.org/content/13/2/419.abstract>
Jasanoff, S. and Markle, G. E. Handbook of science and technology studies. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 1995. Print.
Mom, Gijis. Conceptualizing technical change: alternative interaction in the evolution of the automobile. Tackling Transport. 3 (2003): 9-46. Web. 30 March, 2011. <http://jdh.oxfordjournals.org/content/21/2/171.abstract>
Mumford, L. The myth of the machine. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1967. Web. 30 March, 2011. < http://hhs.sagepub.com/content/16/4/39.abstract>
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