THE HISTORY OF VEHICLES


Over the years, I have owned many, many vehicles. My first car was a 1967 Chevy Malibu. I have also owned a 1976 Trans Am, a Camaro Z28 and a 1999 Jaguar XJ8. What can I say, I like fast cars! Now I drive my Big White Hemi Dodge Ram Truck.

Can you believe that the Benz Patent-Motorwagen is believed to be the first modern automobile? It was built in 1886 by German inventor Carl Benz. In August 1888, Carl Benz's wife, Bertha Benz, became the first person to drive a car over a long distance. Without telling her husband, she drove one of their Benz Patent-Motorwagen’s along with her two eldest sons from a town called Mannheim in southern Germany to Pforzheim. Automobile trips before this were usually short drives; she wanted to prove the automobile they had invented was a useful contraption that the general public could use. Bertha Benz's road trip was a pioneering drive and a key event in the technical development of the car. Covering 106 km (66 miles) each way, she did the round trip in two days, solving numerous problems on the way. When the brakes needed repairing, she invented brake lining. She used a hatpin to clean a blocked fuel pipe and insulated a wire with a garter. She located fuel at the city pharmacy in Wiesloch (hailed as the first fuel station in the world) and on her return home made other suggestions, such as the need of another gear for climbing hills.

As automobiles became more popular, a need arose to manufacture affordable cars on a large-scale basis. Ransom Olds in 1902 debuted a production-line manufacturing system at his Oldsmobile factory in Michigan, USA. The Henry Ford's Model T car, introduced in 1908, is often regarded as the most famous of all early automobiles. It was the first car to become publically affordable, especially after Ford massively improved the production-line manufacturing system. In 1914, Ford created a production-line system that focused on synchronization, precision, and specialization. Ford's cars came off the line much faster than previous methods (from 12.5 man-hours down to just 1.5), which increased productivity, yet used less manpower. By assigning each worker a specified area rather than allowing them to roam about, injuries were dramatically reduced.

Now, have you heard that Google has developed a driverless car? The vehicles look cute but hardly impact-resistant, and they have a top speed of only 25 miles per hour. Google still has significant work to do before its software can handle all the situations a human driver can. “There’s going to be an enormous market for small autonomous vehicles,” says Gary Silberg, an auto industry analyst at the consulting firm KPMG. He cites city centers, airports, campuses, and amusement parks as places where vehicles, much like those Google is just starting to test could fit in. Google said that the new design will be unleashed on the roads of the company’s hometown of Mountain View, California, this summer. Eventually, up to 100 vehicles will roam the town’s suburban streets. These cars are expected to be available commercially around the year 2020.

Can you imagine seeing a car driving down the street empty? That would be just too weird and it sounds like it really is going to happen! What is this world coming to? Just give them another 20 years and we will have flying cars – it could happen!

Drive safe out there and may something wonderful happen for you today!

Author: Kathryn Hartwell

References: sciencekids.co.nz, theeatlantic.com and technologyreview.com

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