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2. The Automobile in America

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Automobile Evolution

The Automobile Pioneers

Evolving from earlier experiments with steam-powered vehicles, models using the gasoline-fueled internal-combustion engine were first developed by the German engineers Karl Benz (1885) and Gottlieb Daimler (1886). U.S. leadership in automobile production began with Henry Ford 's founding (1903) of the Ford Motor Co., its production (1908) of the inexpensive Model T, and its development of assembly-line techniques.

General Motors, Ford's principal competitor, became the world's largest automobile manufacturer in the 1920s, and U.S. dominance of the field continued until the 1970s, when it was challenged by growing sales of Japanese and German cars.

Today

Concern about pollution from gasoline combustion has led to the development of cars powered by electricity from rechargeable storage batteries and by the combustion of natural gas, but such vehicles have been limited in the distance they can travel and have only been used on a small scale, largely in metropolitan areas. The development of the automobile resulted in major sociological changes and caused new economic conditions.

Economic and Health Impacts

The main economic and health impacts of the automobile over the years include:

  • the creation of an industry which employs a significant number of people
  • the creation of new technologies and industries to support and supply them
  • a significant monetary cost in injury and property damage
  • increased air and water pollution.

  • Future changes in automobile technology are likely to include:

  • increased fuel efficiency and new industries to support it
  • improved safety through engineering research and development (both vehicle and road)
  • increased sophistication of controls and instruments, many of which will contribute to safety




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    Lesson Summary


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    Lesson 2 Quiz


    You will now answer 5 questions to test what you learned during this lesson. You must answer all questions correctly to receive completion credit for this lesson. You may answer the questions as many times as necessary to get them right.

    You should review the lesson material if you don't do well on the quiz.

    1. Future changes in automobile technology are likely to include:


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    2. At its height, what percentage of American workers were employed in an automotive-related industry?


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    3. By the early 1960s, the rate of car ownership in America was:


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    4. By the 1920s, the world's largest automobile manufacturer was:


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    5. From 1908 until 1927, the Ford Motor Company built over:


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