One of the most important inventions of the twentieth century was the automobile. While it was at first a humble motorized horse buggy, the production of Oldsmobile’s six-horse power powered vehicle surpassed any previous car production and its output exceeded its price. It had low operating costs and a moderate price, which allowed it to be affordable to the middle class. Its success was not limited to its size and cost; it also revolutionized the concept of urban neighborhoods.
Changing conception of the urban neighborhood
Automobiles have altered the conception of the urban neighborhood. Before automobiles, cities had rail systems connecting the urban core to its periphery. Rail lines radiate out from the center and converged at the downtown. This centralization was undermined by automobiles. Now, cars cut through the city, undermine the physical integrity of its neighborhoods, and destroy the sense of community it once enjoyed. Automobiles also emphasize individual choice and displace the needs of the many.
Automobiles transformed the landscape of American cities and the nation. Automobiles allowed people to commute without having to wait in traffic. Commuters in Los Angeles spend 119 hours a year in traffic, while those in Moscow spend almost two weeks stuck in traffic. In the U.S., there are more than two billion parking spaces, many of which are located on valuable urban land that could be used for housing and retail. Moreover, automobiles contributed to hundreds of thousands of deaths worldwide due to pollution from automobile tailpipes.
Changing conception of the automobile industry
The development of the automobile ushered in a new era of manufacturing. The automobile made life much easier. People could travel and take advantage of jobs that otherwise would have been out of reach. Automobile manufacturing made use of assembly lines, and the steel and machine tool industries prospered. Demand for parts, fuel, rubber, paint, and other supplies grew rapidly, leading to the growth of automobile industries. The advent of the internet also gave birth to new automobile services.
Several new business models are taking the automotive industry by storm. Driverless transport, for example, will remove one of the largest costs of transportation: human drivers. Instead, autonomous vehicles will be driven by software. This technology will require meticulous mapping, enabling a new generation of driverless transportation. However, the shift to driverless transport isn’t as easy as it sounds. Changing conceptions of transportation and mobility will require new partnerships and ecosystems that will help companies make the necessary adjustments.
Changing conception of the automobile as a commodity
During the twentieth century, the automobile was the central mode of accumulation. In the corporate-dominated global economy, post-war Bretton Woods consensus, and neo-liberal orthodoxy, the car has become the primary source of wealth and consumption. By 2006, nine out of ten of the world’s largest corporations were involved in selling cars. Today, more than a trillion cars are sold annually around the world. The production of cars uses about half of all world oil production. In addition, the industry requires up to 25% of the world’s steel, glass, and rubber. Furthermore, it consumes a significant portion of the world’s GDP.
The development of the automobile industry has revolutionized the economy and society. In the 1920s, the automobile industry became the backbone of the new consumer goods society. By the mid-1980s, it ranked first in the value of its product, and it provided jobs for one in six Americans. The automobile industry also revolutionized the steel and petroleum industries. By the 1980s, the automobile industry was a global business.
Changing conception of the automobile as a key force for change in twentieth-century America
The automobile changed the landscape of the typical American household, the concept of an urban neighborhood, and the way we live our lives. By the mid-1920s, it ranked as the most valuable product produced by a single firm and provided one of every six American jobs. It revolutionized the steel and petroleum industries, and a single car could transport a household of five or more people for 120 miles.
Invented in Germany and France in the late 1800s, the automobile quickly became a global business. Henry Ford, who had pioneered mass-production methods, transformed the automobile industry in the early twentieth century. Ford, General Motors, and Chrysler quickly became known as the “Big Three” car companies. But during the Great Depression, manufacturers diverted their resources into World War II, and American car production decreased as war ended. But after the war, the automotive industry rebounded, and Daimler had one of the world’s largest automobile factories in the United States, employing 17 hundred people, and assembling less than 1,000 cars a year.