A Brief History On An American Icon: The Automobile

How Cars Have Influenced America

 

Do you remember pulling up to the gas station in your mothers station wagon?

A man out front, smiling, fills your large tank with gas.

He even cleans your front windshield.

You drive off with the windows down to feel that warm summer breeze.

To roll up the window, you crank it by hand. It’s a satisfying feeling. The steering wheel is thin and large.

Your mother drives the car more like she is navigating a boat.

But your memories in that car have lasted you a lifetime.

We as Americans depend on our cars for just about everything.  From hauling groceries to hauling children. From towing a boat to speeding in the carpool lane to work.

But mostly, cars bring us memories. Memories of road trips with the family, listening to your favorite podcast while stuck in traffic, or that new leather seat smell that lasts for years.

The nostalgia of the car has never gone away. We have morphed it though.

Change is good…

Throughout history, the car has grown, shrunk, changed lights, steering, engine components and fuel consumption rates.

We as drivers go with the flow because, frankly, the car just keeps getting better and better!

One thing that has to change with the timeline of the automobile is our car insurance.

Getting cheap car insurance nowadays has been mobilized and fast-tracked. We can order it online, over the phone and get hundreds of discounts.

The best cheap insurance one can own is for the car. Heck, we insure just about everything nowadays, but are better off for it.

 

 

What Has Changed?

 

Here is a timeline on how the car has come to be what it is today:

 

  • 1789- The American Oliver Evans gets a patent on the first ever steam-powered land vehicle.
  • 1879- The American inventor George Baldwin gets his patent on the automobile, which is basically a wagon with a combustion engine. The first cars crawled at a mere 10 miles per hour at best!
  • In 1886- In Michigan, Henry Ford builds his first car.
  • 1893- The brothers Frank and Charles Edgar Duryea, make the first gas-powered engine for a car in the United States.
  • 1900- The steering wheel is invented! At this point, only the rich could afford a car.
  • 1912- First electric traffic light was invented. Cars were becoming a way for people in city’s to get around.
  • 1913 – Ford’s Model-T production is at 146 cars per hour. The assembly line is born and factories are busting out cars left and right.
  • 1914- Rolls Royce was founded. You may also recall the Titanic sinking, making it clear that inventions sometimes do not meet our expectations.
  • In the beginning, the speed limits were set around 8 miles per hour.
  • 1924- The radio was put into cars and cars became more pleasurable.
  • 1936- First diesel powered passenger car was invented.
  • 1940- The Jeep was born which was the first American four-wheel drive vehicle. Invented by the U.S. Military.

Post World War II

  • 1956- The American Highway systems were born. This was not only good for the economy but good for car manufacturers everywhere.
  • 1962- Seat belt laws start to come into the picture. Cars are going faster, and are becoming more dangerous.
  • 1974- Airbags become a new car safety component.
  • 1975- The US Postal Service orders 350 electric Utility Jeeps from AM General to be used in a test program.
  • 1990- California passes its Zero Emissions Vehicle mandate which states that by 1998, 2% of vehicles have zero emission, and 10% by 2003.
  • 1995- The GPS was invented and placed into cars.
  • 1996- The first electric car was placed into a showroom as a real example of what the future might hold.
  • 1997- The first Prius is sold in Japan.
  • 2000- A few thousand electric cars are produced and put out on the market.
  • 2006- Tesla released one of their first cars at a car show in San Fransisco. The first one of these cars actually sold in 2008 for just over 98 thousand dollars.
  • 2008- Gas prices reach an all time high of nearly $4 per gallon. An electric car frenzy begins.
  • 2009- The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act passes. This gives 2 billion dollars for investing in electric cars and their future.
  • 2010- Nissan Leaf and the Chevy Volt are released to the U.S. public as an example of electric cars that are affordable.
  • Today there are 23 plug-in type electric cars available and 36 different hybrid models.

 

How Has Insurance Changed?

 

Insurance for cars has been there all along. With the amount of cars on the road today, it is the law that insurance be required.

There are only a minimum standard however and not everyone chooses to abide by the laws.

California is one of the leading forces in not only changing the future of the car, but making it safe to drive on the roads. Millions of cars are sold every year.

With these rising numbers, the United States has had to come up with ways to keep people safe.

From widening sections of roads and freeways, to adding laws which prevent us from talking on our hand-held devices while driving.

Here is how laws and insurance companies have had to change with the times as well.

Brief History on Safety

 

  • In the 1910’s, when people were first learning about how to drive cars, and city streets were becoming occupied with them. Driving flaws began to show. Reckless driving, driving while intoxicated, and multiple crashes were a part of everyday life.  There were things happening on the streets that no one had witnessed before and no one really knew how to prevent. Laws had to be passed in order to hold citizens accountable for their new and potentially dangers automobiles.
  • Starting in the 1920’s the National Safety Council started to compile statistics. They also held conferences and had national awareness campaigns.
  • About ten years later, automobile makers started implementing safety features in their vehicles. People were having to pass drivers license tests and roads were being improved to hold the growing amount of drivers.

Post World War II

  • In the early 1950’s cars were “crash-tested” to see how they could be improved. Scientists took notice of this and began to test cars more consistently. Safety programs were put into place and cars were rated according to safety.
  • By 1968, seat belts, padded dash boards and other safety features were added to the manufacturing of cars and put into law by the US government.
  • It took another 20 years for seat belts to be used by the majority of people. Safety laws were then put into action to make sure that you wore your belt while driving. During this time, statistics showed that seat belts could prevent deaths, and by the 1990’s, people were using them regularly.
  • Today we have laws for child safety seats, cell phone usage and a plethora of other laws that differ by state. Drinking while intoxicated is the number one cause of death in an automobile accident, and is today’s most active awareness campaign.

 

Insurance Has A Purpose

 

From the beginning of the car, people have been arguing over it’s safety and purpose.

Insurance companies were formed to protect people’s assets and to prevent lawsuits.

Insurance is placed into law because there are too many people on the road driving at once and there needs to be accountability.

But how do we get reliable cheap car insurance? How do we know what our car is worth and what is worth protecting?

It took a while for the public to become familiar with insurance and its uses.

Now, insurance is the second check we write, right after the mortgage. We insure everything from cars, to houses  to even clothes and dogs.

I guess the American motto would be: it’s better to be safe than sorry.

 

Here is what the history timeline looks like for insurance in the United States:

 

  • Travelers Insurance was the first insurance company in the United States. It is still one of the biggest names in the insurance industry today.
  • The first car insurance policy was bought in 1897 by Gilbert Loomis from Travelers.
  • In 1902 the first fire and theft protection policy was purchased and this was known as the first non-liability policy written.
  • In 1925 the first laws were passed making it mandatory for people to carry liability insurance on their cars. This made it so that drivers would be held responsible if they got into an auto accident. It also streamlined the way that people thought about driving and financial responsibility.
  • The first laws for car registration began around the same time in Massachusetts. This is what we have to still do today. To have current car registration so we are then held accountable by the DMV.
  • Today, auto insurance is a law in every state. The amount and kind vary from state to state, but for the most part liability and property damage coverage are needed.

 

The Future of Cars

 

Today one of the biggest fads is owning a car that gets you extremely good gas mileage.

Many of us commute to work or drive long distances on weekends, and gas prices just aren’t falling.

This is a short term resolution for a long term problem. Basically, we are running out of natural recourses.

Soon, we won’t have gas to fill our tanks.

Tesla and Toyota are two of the largest manufacturers of electric cars. Tesla by far outweighs the other competitors in style and power. But they are not yet affordable for the everyday driver.

Will electric cars become obsolete before we can afford to purchase them?

This is a question that scientists fear is true.

It is estimated that in the not so distant future, only 20% of people will actually own cars.

New technology showcases cars that can drive themselves, and get us from point A to point B in half of the time.

Our whole way of life could be changing. We will be sharing cars instead of owning them.

We will have fast and efficient public transportation. And once again owning a car may become a luxury.

History is on a loop and we are stuck on it’s tracks.

 

What is the answer?

In the near future, it is possible that most people will utilize a plug-in vehicle.

These vehicles will also have features such as: self parking, auto everything and for a price we can handle. But this phase won’t last long.

Because these electric and plug-in vehicles don’t last for a long period of time. You have to re-charge them after so many miles.

They also cannot replace a truck with hauling power. They do not have the size or substance to take over the truck industry and what it does for so many Americans.

Roads and stop lights may have to be re-done as well. Because the vehicles of the future have sensors.

We won’t need to rely on the drivers for as much. This can be good and bad.

Driver error is a huge factor in crashes and mishaps on the road. If we could reduce this by having cars drive themselves, we may be saving lives.

But how far in the future are we talking?

 

It’s nice to think of a future with lower emissions and self-regulating cars. But we must remember that there is a huge imbalance in America when it comes to the poor and the people that can afford these kinds of vehicles.

Many Americans rely solely on public transportation and cannot afford to buy a car let alone pay for keeping it insured and registered.

We have to keep in mind that most of the country is not thinking about the future, but is thinking about how to put food on the table now.

Insurance companies have recognized this and have put more and more discounts on insurance to stay alive and competitive.

Even though insurance is the law, there are around 20% of drivers who still do not carry it. This may be because they cannot afford it, or they do not have a valid license.

The life and times of the American automobile are changing and changing fast!

 

We should be asking ourselves: what sort of life do we want for our children?

I bet Henry Ford was asking himself how he could better the world by making changes to the car.

By streamlining production and producing reliable vehicles.

In the last Century, Americans have changed a lot about their world to encompass the car. And we will continue to do so throughout time.

Our future generations may not know what a Mustang or a Pontiac look like.

It is a balance of keeping history alive while also doing what is best for society.

For the car and the people who drive them, it is a personal decision on how we want to live.

What lifestyle does one have?

Are you a farmer who relies on your diesel F-350?

Are you a commuter who is just waiting for that bullet train to be manufactured so you cam get to work in ten minutes compared to one hour?

It’s all relative.

And I have no doubt that the car will mold to the needs of the people.

 
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