Automobile Research Paper

Effects of Automobiles on Society

This essay attempts to describe the effects of automobiles on society. The history of transportation has undergone a major shift in the twentieth century. Historically, transportation was dominated by the railroads; attention in the recent years, however, has turned to the 20th century modes of freight and passenger movement namely: the automobiles, including cars, trucks and buses. These modes of automobiles present massive opportunities to understand the tremendous need for independent and liberal modes of rapid mobility. The essay also discusses the effects of automobiles on environment, common people and cities asserting that automobiles have revolutionized lifestyles and become an indispensable and basic component of society.

History of Automobiles

It is not possible to attribute the origin of automobile to one person, although its history can successfully be traced back to some major technological developments in Europe. In the United States, Henry Ford and some other prominent pioneer auto makers commenced mass-producing cars and made the industry of automobile as a primary transportation mode. (Cohen, 2003) Automobiles, nowadays, are considered as one of the significant ways for transporting millions of people around the world, particularly in developed countries. Most of the people are dependent on their trucks and cars for travelling to and from their work, to transport goods, to perform distinctive tasks, to visit relatives and friends. The ever increasing number of automobiles produced and sold today has transformed the auto industry into a gigantic global giant. (Berger, 2002)

Effect on Different Segments of Society

The automobile has made huge impact on different segments of society including shopping centers, motels, theme parks, superhighways, dive-through banking and drive-in restaurants. The enormous spread of automobiles has also created some major complexities including significant increase in vehicle accidents and related death and injuries, noise pollution, more dependence on fossil fuels and the grave need to maintain vast roadway systems. (Cohen, 2003)

The advent of automobile had proved a defining moment in the lives of ordinary people. It was a new lifestyle and the beginning of new life. The first automobile powered on steam was invented by Richard Dudgeon, a native to New York. (Elliot, 2006) Prior to the invention of automobiles, the traditional means of transportation were bicycle, horse and streetcars. The innovative invention of automobile made it possible for the common person to live outside major cities with much convenience. More job prospects and opportunities became available as people were able to provide and support themselves with transportation. As such the automobile proved to be an enormous economy boost and uplift for the society. (Armi, 2006)

Automobiles in Twenty First Century

Automobile has become a primary and major foundation of mass transportation in the twenty first century. Everything about our society and culture has developed around this essential form of transportation. Even though, automobile exhausts are extensively polluting the environment and atmosphere, the demand for automobiles is on a continuous rise. With this increase in demand, there is a dire need to search for sufficient petroleum and oil to run automobiles. These resources are limited and a dire need is felt to find enough resources for meeting the future demand of oil and petroleum to run automobiles. (Armi, 2006)

For most of the people, especially in developed countries like United States, automobiles are considered as the second most costly expenditure of the citizens, with housing as the first. Some of the factors, which are taken into consideration, while purchasing a car are; price, the style and features of fuel efficiency. Manufacturers of automobiles invest huge amount to establish particular images for certain cars and their endeavors can be rewarded handsomely. (John 2003)

The automobile has a significant impact on different aspects of life. With the increased production of automobiles, people demand improvements in the roads. Prior to the advent of automobiles, most of the roads were not paved. It was demanded by the drivers that roads should be paved for the purpose of creating better conditions of driving. The local and state government also formulated regulations to protect citizens and control traffic. In fact a huge development occurred in cities with the increased use of automobile. (John 2003)

Effects of Automobiles on Environment

The effects of automobile on the environment have been massive. Automobiles, from the manufacturing process ultimately to junkyard; consume resources; transform space; and pollute land, water and air. Vast quantities of glass, rubber, plastic and different other materials are required for manufacturing automobiles. Moreover, assembling also requires thousands of vehicles through machine and human labor. (John 2003)

The production process of automobiles consumes huge amounts of energy, and factory output ultimately produces its particular array of pollutants. Automobiles, on the roads, are the major consumers of gas and oil, stimulating continuous drilling, refining and transporting of petroleum products for meeting the ever growing demand. Most of the cars having internal combustion engine recurrently dominate automobile momentum, huge amounts of pollution is dispensed by the cars in the form of noise, air emissions, used oil and disposable parts. (Dunn, 2005)

Despite its dramatic effect car has been viewed as not only a benefactor but an environmental threat, as a benefit to freedom, liberation and individualism, and as the bane of society. Car is publicized by the enthusiasts as a technical, reliable and practical means of conveyance. It has made scores of places which are more accessible, easier to maintain, cheaper and longer-lived as compared with an urban horse. Automobiles have changed the quality and pattern of transportation in the society. Gas fumes are considered as not worse than coal smoke produced from steam engines as well as manure from horses. The automobiles are also praised by the street sweepers as their job has been made much easier; fewer manure pits and stables; and less manure to pick up. (McShane, 2004)

Most of the environmental damage is caused by automobiles as fabricating one car ultimately produces tons of waste and polluted air. Extracting bauxite, iron ore, petroleum lead and different other raw materials are necessary to process steel, plastic, aluminum, rubber, glass and other related products required to manufacture automobiles. They consume limited resources as well as use huge amount of energy, causing grave environmental repercussions. (Curt, 2000)

It is still unclear whether the automobiles pollute or has polluted excessively to different forms of manufacturing in the economy. In recent years, manufacturers of automobiles have been held responsible for pollution standards or have endeavored to improve conditions voluntarily, mostly due to the grave concerns found among different segments of society.

Although air pollution is the most-discussed and best known environmental effect considered in society, there are some other factors including traffic noise. Traffic noise is not at par in gravity with air pollution, considered as an environmental hazard, is however significant. The automobiles, as in different other cases, did not invent noise pollution. Particularly in and around cities, massive crowds, steam whistles, factory machinery, grinding gears and screeching brakes from streetcars and clanging bells contributed heavily to urban noise. (Dunn, 2005)

However the massive volume of automobiles has added a particular new dimension to the noise pollution. Although, mostly cars can be blamed for causing noise pollution, the buses, motorcycles and trucks are also contributors of noise pollution. The noise pollution can produce everlasting damage to health. It may also increase stress and ultimately can result in hearing loss. Automobiles indirectly contribute to visual intrusion or visual pollution. The entire automobile infrastructure- paved over highways; landscapes for roads; parking lots; service stations; car washes, strip shopping centers; signs; billboards and different other types of advertisements or promotions- assault the distinctive aesthetic sense of many people. (Curt, 2000)

Effects of Automobiles on Common People

In the later half of twentieth century, both sexes-male and female- have become more similar in their usage and access to cars. This convergence of attitude suggests more about specific actions executed by women to acquire parity. Women, since later half of twentieth century, have insisted on equal access, particularly to automobiles. The main reason for this claim of parity is the increasing volume of dual-income families. The dual-income in family has enabled to afford more than two vehicles. (Dunn, 2005)

It is a common phenomenon in most of the developed countries that each generation of young women, regardless of race, class or ethnic affiliation is involved in driving as automobiles have become an integral part of life’s expectations. Moreover, as the automobile society matures, there is increasing number of older people who continue to drive unless safety issues and health problems intervenes. More women are making journeys and travelling more miles.

One of the major elements influencing the increasing demand of automobiles, particularly cars, is income. Although income is not the only influence that shapes the norms of modern society, it seems that it is the dominant factor. Ethnic and racial differences reveal certain variations in the propensity of people either to access automobiles or to drive. An aging and multicultural society cannot anticipate a universal gender standard, although the white middle-class female in United States has remained a role model in the recent past. (Dunn, 2005)

Effects of Automobiles on Cities

The automobiles have transformed cities and reshaped the landscape of nations. The transformation of the cities by automobiles was in fact a twentieth-century phenomenon, built upon the effect of transportation technology. The emergence of a private mass transportation technology has effectively replaced public mass transportation technology, offering owners of car the flexibility to “shop, work and enjoy recreation”. (David, 2002)

Although there had been a congestion in major cities from the confluence of carriages, horses, streetcars and bicycles prior to the advent of automobiles, the impact of automobile on cities is not profound and unique. This phenomenon simply reconfirms that the specific transportation technology has always remained a robust force in the making and remaking of major cities. But since World War II, cars have mostly shaped cities, particularly of developed countries and also their suburbs to a huge extent. (Chafe, 2004)

Automobiles, especially cars, have not only replaced rail service and great deal of pedestrianism, but they also strongly influence growth of inner-city in areas lacking any type of transportation service. Rails in the past had connected different urban cores directly with their periphery prior to the invention of automobiles, but in a distinctive manner.

Streets of the cities, in the past, had generally followed the general patterns of the streetcars as well as transportation routes and ways before them, but it was just a matter of time before automobiles, especially cars, outgrew the ultimate limits of the old routes. The acquisition of automobile is considered as acquiring liberty of movement; having overall access, under all circumstances, to different places which are mostly not accessed in an appreciable manner by public transport. This freedom of movement also maintains a sophisticated and desirable link with the countryside; being capable to go off for a weekend; and transporting elderly or small children. (John, 2003)

Automobiles have played a vital role in the location of most of the human activities, particularly dictating work and residence. Moreover, vacant land is connected by the roads and streets. The accessibility extended by automobiles have benefited people in every walk of life including; bankers, landlords, contractors retailers and a wide array of consumers. Modern cities in particular bear a robust physical impression of automobiles and different other motorized vehicles. A vast area of land is dedicated to roads and streets, parking lots, driveways, stations, traffic signs, signals, car dealerships, automobile-oriented business and more, ultimately influencing every segment of society. (David, 2002)


It is concluded from the arguments and presentations made in the paper that automobiles have become an integral part of society. Automobiles have influenced every segment of society effecting and shaping the today’s world. The evolving ‘automobile society’ of twentieth-century world resulted in liberty and freedom, not only on a single type of transportation, but also on petroleum, evolution of new suburban and urban forms, huge commercial development and engulfing pollution. The dependence and auto usage have significantly increased, especially in women and older people. The automobiles have influenced the public life to a huge extent, extending the overall boundaries of cities on a pace and scale which is not experienced before. Although, transportation of different types continuously play a main role in extending the borders of urban areas, the automobile has successfully extended them to a large extent. People, not only in cities, but in suburbs have become absolutely dependent, particularly on car for shopping, work, recreation and obtaining services.


Armi, E. (2006) The Art of America Automobile Design. University Park: Pennsylvania State

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Berger, M. (2002) The Devil Wagon in God’s Country: The Automobile and Social

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Chafe, W. (2004) The Unfinished Journey: America Since World War II. New York:

Oxford University Press. (Sixth edition)

Cohen, L (2003) A Consumers’ Republic: The Politics of Mass Consumption in Postwar

America.New York. Random House

Curt, M (2000) Coast to Coast by Automobile: The Pioneering Trips. Stanford, CA : Stanford

University Press

David L (2002) The Automobile and American Culture. University of Michigan Press

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Brookings Institution Press.

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