Mankind has been tinkering around with vehicle propulsion systems for hundreds of years. But the automobile as we know it didn’t first make an appearance until the end of the 19th century.
It’s a common misconception that internal combustion is our most archaic and low-tech means of vehicle propulsion. In reality, vehicles that take advantage of electric and alternative-fuel based power systems have been around much longer than the gas powered cars of today.
Long ago in our history it was decided by the masses that petrol fueled internal combustion engine technology was superior to everything else we had. Since then, we’ve continuously refined and revamped the machinery. Now, many of these cars on the market represent what we think of as “perfection of the automobile”.
When they were first sold to the public, cars were little more than a horse and buggy setup, but with an engine instead of a horse. These loud, slow, smelly, bouncy and dangerous automobiles got horrible gas mileage and often broke down at the worst of times. They were designed to do only three things.
Accelerate, brake, and steer. So long as they accomplished these tasks, they could be considered marvels of mechanical engineering. Regardless, there was never a shortage of bright young men willing to push these rudimentary vehicles to their limit in the name of science and fun.
Eventually we realized we could do better. It wasn’t long before we saw dramatic advancements in horsepower, reliability, safety, and more. Manufactures started making cars designed explicitly for transporting people and cargo, and doing it well too. They started becoming faster, and lots of fun to drive.
No longer were our vehicles simple and unrefined attempts to do something crazy. Production automobiles became indispensable staples of modern life early in the 20th century.
With the advent of contemporary manufacturing techniques, computers, and high-tech materials, we’re currently pushing the limits of automotive design far beyond the wildest dreams of those who came before us.
Gone are the days of carburetors and the erratic performance of haphazardly designed passenger-hauling deathtraps. We can finally feel comfortable behind the wheel because our cars have been designed from the ground up with some of the most advanced technology there is.
What might the future hold for our precious people movers? Will they someday be able to hover, fly, or simply vanish and appear someplace else?
People have dreamt about such incredible feats since man’s first car made its maiden voyage down the street. While not necessarily practical for everyday use, cars have always been modified by enterprising individuals to accomplish otherwise impossible tasks.
They’ve been made to forge rivers, attached to hot air balloons, and even been turned into primitive car-helicopter combinations. Nobody can say with any real certainty what tomorrow will bring for America’s favorite invention. But the future is here today, and the automobile is still doing nothing but getting better and better.