Besides providing transportation, automobiles play an important role in modern society. They are also one of the main causes of air pollution. Compared to other forms of transport, the use of vehicles increases the risk of personal injury. They are also the favorite target for thieves. In addition, they are very expensive to own.
Today, auto manufacturers employ research and development engineers to develop new and better designs for their cars. They also improve their engines, chassis, control systems, and safety features. They also use precision robotics and highly trained workers. During the twentieth century, automakers were required to comply with stricter standards. This helped make the industry more competitive. These standards included requirements for head restraints, door strength, windshields, tires, and seat belts.
The first automobile that used an internal combustion engine was built in Germany during the 1880s. It was powered by a horizontal single-cylinder gasoline engine. It had steerable front wheels and a drive chain to the rear wheel. During the mid-Victorian era, bicycle builder Ernest Michaux created a similar contraption.
During the 1920s, the automotive industry in the United States suffered greatly. The price of gasoline was skyrocketing, and citizens were relying more on imported autos. This made it difficult for the U.S. auto industry to compete with Japanese automakers. Eventually, the U.S. government negotiated a quota system with Japan, which raised the price of Japanese cars.
After World War II, the automotive industry in the United States began to rebound. The industry developed a manufacturing tradition that lowered prices for consumers. This allowed cars to be affordable to middle-class families. At the same time, the demand for automobiles grew as economic development expanded in the United States. In addition, the automobile industry became a global industry, allowing manufacturers to separate their markets into smaller segments.
During the 1960s, consumer protection advocates began to call for federal safety standards. Ralph Nader wrote the book Unsafe at Any Speed: The Designed-in Dangers of the American Automobile. His book called for increased manufacturer research for safety technology and for a federal facility for auto safety research.
In the 1970s, the cost of gasoline soared as oil shortages prompted the government to impose embargoes. The price of fuel for small autos also increased. The automobile industry was in crisis in the early 1980s. The auto industry lost ground to the Japanese automakers. However, the government bailed out Chrysler Corporation and the auto industry regained its position.
In the 1990s, the U.S. auto industry began losing ground to the foreign automakers. In order to keep up, the government negotiated a quota system, which limited the import of Japanese cars. The United States government also bailed out Ford Motor Company and General Motors, which were suffering from bankruptcy. These companies were able to regain their position and become the “Big Three” automakers. The three companies had approximately 90 percent of the US market by 1939.
The automobile industry has also benefited from improvements in the environment. For instance, in 2006 emissions from new motorcycles in the United States were restricted to 1.4 grams of hydrocarbons and nitric oxides per kilometers. In 2010, emissions were reduced to 0.8 grams.