When Henery Ford made the car affordable to the average person he revolutionized the way people lived and traveled worldwide. The car made it possible for the first time to travel faster and further than ever before. It opened new vistas and opportunities that people earlier could only dream about. It made it possible to travel to distant places and opened the Western United States to massive migrations from the East and Midwestern states especially after WWII.
Cities were designed around the convenience of getting around in a car. New land-use zoning laws were devised grouping houses, shopping, and jobs separate from one another. Urban sprawl became the new norm for city planning. Infrastructure was built to make car travel fast and more convenient with gas stations conveniently located and paved roadways going everywhere. Cars ruled the roadways and horses became things to ride at carnivals.
People changed the way they got around and started to walk less and drive more in the comfort and convenience of their cars. Often people would drive less than a block to another nearby store to continue shopping.
But not all was good with cars. As cars became larger and more powerful there were more serious collisions resulting in greater injuries and loss of life. This became one of the largest causes of death among younger people. Almost 33,000 deaths result from car accidents annually in the U.S. That is the population of a small town. Auto manufacturers started having to design safer cars.
Cars created huge smog problems especially in larger cities where the smog was so thick at one time that one could often stair directly at the sun and visibly was quite poor. People vulnerable to lung diseases became ill at an alarming rate. So antismog technology had to be developed by car manufacturers to greatly reduced smog related air pollution. But this increased fuel consumption so more technology was needed to reduce both fuel consumption and air pollution. So car engine computers were developed to optimize engine performance.
But the increased use of cars resulted in huge increases in traffic congestion where commuters found themselves stuck in traffic jams for hours a day commuting to and from work. This had a major impact on quality of life. So car manufacturers designed comfort features into cars. 8 speaker surround sound stereo systems with satellite radio were developed. Lush heated powered bucket seats were designed for comfortable long periods of driving on the road. Sound proof interiors were designed to isolate the driver from outside distractions. Individually controlled air condition increased passenger comfort. Almost everything you needed was there for you to feel like driving in comfort and luxury. So the car became a metal travel capsule isolated from the outside world.
But something had to be done to reduce traffic congestion and the reliance upon cars. So many cities started to be designed more like they were before the advent of cars so people no longer need to depend so much upon cars. That meant housing, shopping, and jobs needed to be mixed and matched and located close to one another or within convenient commute by public transportation nearby. People needed to depend more upon walking as before the advent of cars. Such planning tools are being used and further developed to reduce traffic congestion by offering people real alternatives to commute without the need of a car.
But cars still produced greenhouse gases when powered by fossil fuels and 90% of cars still used fossil fuels. Cars stuck for long periods in traffic congestion produce CO2 even when not moving. Greenhouse gas from cars is having a major impact on Climate Change. I have written extensively about Climate Change on this blog. It is imperative that we quickly reduce our impacts from greenhouse gas, namely CO2 produced by cars, within the next decade or so. Carmakers are going to have to engineer greenhouse gas solutions out of cars such as making electric cars affordable and fun to drive.
There is also much development going into autonomously driven vehicles. But sometime not too far into the future cars will become obsolete and will be replaced with something different as the horse and buggy was replaced by the car. And cities will increasingly be designed to depend less and less upon cars. At least that should be the goal.