Let’s be honest, we take advantage of our technology. We have never known days without electricity, the light bulb, or running water and what about days without cars when you used a horse and buggy instead? Is it a little mind-boggling to think that our everyday transportation didn’t exist for many generations? Well, let’s look back on the history of the automobile.
The first incarnation of the automobile came in 1770 by Nicolas Cugnot who invented the steam-powered engine inside of a tractor. Since this wasn’t a practical mode of transportation, – no one want’s to sit anywhere near an engine that’s powered by hot water – it when then replaced by the revolutionary internal combustion engine powered by hydrogen, which was invented by François Isaac de Rivaz in 1807. In 1885, the co-founder of Mercedes-Benz, Carl Benz, created a three-wheeled vehicle that was propelled by the combustion engine powered by gasoline and finally, in 1890, he created the first four-wheeled vehicle, similar to the ones we know today. In 1897, the Olds Motor Vehicle Company (aka Oldsmobile) started producing cars in North America, making it one of the first companies to mass produce vehicles. The Ford Motor Company and Cadillac followed closely behind.
In these early years people were enamored by the fact that these cars could move on their own but they never thought much about the safety of them. For instance, these vehicles didn’t have brakes, horns, seatbelts, or even electric starters. Even though the first edition vehicles could only go about 45 km/hr, they could cause a lot of damage to the driver, pedestrians and property; therefore, in 1911 electric starters were introduced after someone was killed using the crank starter. In 1929, four-wheel brakes were installed in vehicles, improving vehicle safety even more. Likewise, in 1949 seatbelts were available in cars, in 1956 power steering was introduced, in 1970 anti-lock brakes were invented, and in 1984 airbags were installed in vehicles.
Now that drivers felt safe in their vehicles, manufacturers wanted people to have fun in their vehicles so they started implementing the cigarette lighter (1925), radio (1930), 8 Track (1965), cassette player (1970), CD players (1985), and navigation systems (1995).
Looking back on these inventions it’s hard to believe that our vehicles now have Bluetooth systems, self-parking and driving systems, rearview cameras, and DVD players and we’re sure that Cugnot, de Rivaz, and Benz never fathomed that their technologies would become our society’s biggest necessity.
Now we can only dream that our automobiles will one day fly around like in the Jetsons and Back to the Future or maybe they will do things that we won’t even be able to imagine….