Pros and Cons of Automobiles

Automobiles are powered by an internal combustion engine which uses fuel to generate power to drive the wheels of the car. Most automobiles use gasoline, but some also run on diesel or even kerosene. Depending on the type of fuel used, these cars produce greenhouse gases that are contributing to climate change and other environmental problems. The automobile has both advantages and disadvantages for the environment, society and the individual owner of the vehicle.

The scientific and technical building blocks of the automobile date back several hundred years. Leonardo da Vinci drew designs and models of what would become the modern car in the late 1600s. By the late 1800s, these vehicles were being perfected in Germany and France by such men as Gottlieb Daimler, Karl Benz and Nicolaus Otto. By the 1920s, Henry Ford innovated mass production techniques that became standard and made the automobile a common sight on American highways and byways.

While the automobile opened up new employment opportunities, it also created a need for service industries such as gas stations, roadside restaurants and motels. In addition, the automobile prompted the construction of roads and highways, one of the largest items of government expenditure. The automobile ended rural isolation and brought urban amenities such as schools and hospitals to rural America, while paradoxically making the traditional family farm obsolete.

In the postwar period, manufacturers slowed production to funnel resources to the military during World War II. Afterward, the big three automakers dominated the industry, and the number of small car producers dropped sharply. After the war, engineering was subordinated to questionable aesthetics and non-functional styling at the expense of economy and safety. The higher unit profits that Detroit earned on its gas-guzzling “road cruisers” came at the price of increased air pollution and a drain on dwindling world oil reserves.

Pros: Automobiles allow people to travel at their own pace and reach their destination without being dependent on the schedules of public transportation, which can often be unreliable. Unlike bikes, motorcycles and trains, automobiles can carry large amounts of luggage.

Cons: Automobiles create traffic congestion and cause air pollution when too many are crowded together in a small area. They require regular maintenance, and owners must deal with the hassle of registration and finding parking places. Most drivers also have to share the road with trucks and buses, which can be dangerous.

The consumption of fuels for automobiles is a major contributor to climate change and ozone depletion. There are alternatives to automobiles, however. In cities, there are buses, passenger trains and trams that can get people where they want to go faster and cheaper than an automobile. There are also bicycles and walkers, which can be a healthier way to get around. However, owning an automobile can still save time and money, and the convenience it offers is invaluable to many people. The best alternative is to buy a fuel-efficient car and maintain it properly to limit greenhouse emissions.