The History of Automobiles


Automobiles are a very important part of our world. From their early beginnings as a means of transportation, to their use in commerce and pleasure, automobiles have changed the landscape of the United States. In fact, automobiles are often the most valuable kind of Personal Property in the U.S. Despite this, they are also among the most frequently stolen and heavily taxed. Furthermore, they can cause a great deal of personal injury and pollution. Automobile law covers four phases of an automobile’s life: production, ownership, maintenance and disposal.

Benz’s inventions

The development of the internal combustion engine is one of Benz’s most recognizable inventions. Although other inventors had already attempted to build horseless carriages, his work was distinctly different. Rather than adding an engine to a cart, Benz built the entire machine around the engine. By January 1886, Benz had obtained patent No. 37435 for his new automobile.

As a boy, Benz grew up in a poor household. His father, a railway engineer, died when he was just two years old, and his mother had to support the family. Despite being poor, Benz used his talents in technology to make money. As a child, he repaired clocks and watches, and later he created a darkroom to develop pictures for tourists visiting the Black Forest.

Cugnot’s inventions

The French inventor Nicolas-Joseph Cugnot made several contributions to the development of automobiles. One of these was the development of the first self-propelled steam-powered car. Though it was never fully commercialized, the concept was used several decades later.

The first true automobile was created by a military engineer named Nicolas-Joseph Cugnot in 1763. Cugnot’s design was based on a huge steam-powered tricycle. The idea caught on and a company named Panhard et Levassor was formed. By the end of the decade, Armand Peugeot produced a four-wheeled car powered by Daimler gasoline.

Cugnot’s steam engine

The first steam engine for an automobile was invented by Nicolas-Joseph Cugnot in 1771. Though this steam engine was not put into production due to its weight, it is one of the most important inventions in history. Its prototype is now on display at the Museum of Arts and Crafts in Paris. A group of engineering students even built a replica of the car in 2010 and drove it through the streets of Paris.

The steam engine was not a practical solution for transportation, however. Its top speed was four kilometers per hour (4.4 mph), and its range was 15 minutes. It also lacked brakes, which caused accidents. It was not a successful project, and in 1771 Cugnot was forced to mothball the car. In the following years, the internal combustion engine was invented and used in automobiles.