History of 20th century vehicles

Huddy, discussed the legal ramifications of new concepts such as "speeding," the purpose and function of the street, and the rights of pedestrians and unprotected children who played in the street there were no such things as children's playgrounds at that time. Serious debate was held in courtrooms and in editorials over whether the automobile was inherently evil.


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The state of Georgia's Court of Appeals wrote: "Automobiles are to be classed with ferocious animals and … the law relating to the duty of owners of such animals is to be applied However, they are not to be classed with bad dogs, vicious bulls, evil disposed mules, and the like. In , Detroit and its suburbs had 65, cars on the road, resulting in 7, accidents and fatalities. Three-fourths of the victims were pedestrians. Detroit differed from New York City and the east coast, where most automobiles were driven by uniformed chauffeurs hired by the wealthy.

In Detroit everyone from nearly all incomes was driving. One family was driven around Detroit by their year-old son. It was common for light truck delivery wagons to be driven by year-old boys who were constantly badgered to get deliveries done by driving faster. One young woman was detained by a policeman after driving on a Detroit sidewalk and killing several people. It had been her 26th arrest for reckless driving. She said she suffered from blackouts.

History of the automobile - Wikipedia

Streetcars, which ran up the center of the streets, were becoming the most dangerous place in the city for pedestrians. Disembarking streetcar riders had to run a gauntlet of racing cars, trucks, motorcycles and horse-drawn buggies to cross the street safely.


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Pedestrians often could not judge how close a fast-approaching car was to them and scrambled like squirrels to get out of the way. The most appalling tragedies were the number of children struck and killed by autos as they played in the street, many times in front of their own homes. In the s, 60 percent of automobile fatalities nationwide were children under age 9. One gruesome Detroit article described an Italian family whose month-old son was hit and wedged in the wheel well of a car.

As the hysterical father and police pried out the child's dead body, the mother went into the house and committed suicide.

The Startup

The main cause of motor vehicle accidents was seen as excessive speeding. Until there was no regulation of street traffic in Detroit. The courts and police decided to address the problem with a simple approach: Set the speed limit to match the pace of horse-drawn wagons, such as 5 miles per hour. Make the streets as slow and safe as they were before cars. After all, the automobile in the s was not yet considered an essential mode of transportation, and it was their speeding that confused pedestrians, frightened horses and tore up the roadways.

But the "normal" speed from the horse age was so slow that automobile owners had difficulty keeping their cars from stalling out. An extreme solution was enacted in England, where in small towns the law required the automobilist to notify a village constable, who would walk in front of the car waving two red warning flags while the driver followed slowly behind. If drivers broke the law, the punishment was severe, with heavy fines, jail sentences, and charges of manslaughter and murder when pedestrians were hit and killed.

In one afternoon in police hauled in people before Recorders Court Judge John Connolly on speeding charges. However, the weakness of this strategy became clear as traffic got "thicker and thicker" as it was described, and the police struggled to keep even major streets safe and slow.

And how the 21st century is defining automotive

Nine older policemen were assigned to help people, typically elderly, cross the now-treacherous downtown intersections. This was abolished and replaced with the Traffic Squad — one sergeant and 12 officers who rotated in four-man shifts at Woodward and State Street. They devised a signaling method to unravel traffic "tangles" and "blockades," both terms from the horse and buggy days. As Detroit Traffic Superintendent William Rutledge described in an annual report, "The upraised hand is the signal to stop, and the swinging hand across the body the signal to start.

The officers had to show considerable patience. By , one-fourth of the entire Detroit police force — officers — was now used for managing traffic. On May 25, , Detroit was second in the nation after New York to start a traffic court.

It was announced the same day that the 17th person had been killed in the first 24 days of May. Zeana Coatley, 4, was struck in front of a post office — the eighth child killed that month. Soon the police admitted publicly they could not keep up with traffic and could not afford to add more men to street safety.

The city was losing the war against reckless driving. This in turn required the standardization of products and resulted in the volume production of such commodities as firearms, sewing machines, bicycles, and many other items. In , the United States produced some , of the world total of , motor vehicles.

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History of cars

The Ford Motor Company greatly outpaced its competitors in reconciling state-of-the-art design with moderate price. Its two-speed planetary transmission made it easy to drive, and features such as its detachable cylinder head made it easy to repair. Its high chassis was designed to clear the bumps in rural roads. Vanadium steel made the Model T a lighter and tougher car, and new methods of casting parts especially block casting of the engine helped keep the price down.

Committed to large-volume production of the Model T, Ford innovated modern mass production techniques at his new Highland Park, Michigan , plant, which opened in although he did not introduce the moving assembly line until European automakers did not begin to use them until the s. The heavier outlays of capital and larger volume of sales that this necessitated ended the era of easy entry and free-wheeling competition among many small producers in the American industry.

Volkswagen Beetle: THE Car of the 20th Century - XCAR

Its popularity was bound to wane as the country urbanized and as rural regions got out of the mud with passage of the Federal Aid Road Act and the Federal Highway Act. Moreover, the Model T remained basically unchanged long after it was technologically obsolete. Model T owners began to trade up to larger, faster, smoother riding, more stylish cars. By replacement demand for new cars was exceeding demand from first-time owners and multiple-car purchasers combined.

Given the incomes of the day, automakers could no longer count on an expanding market. Although a few expensive items, such as pianos and sewing machines, had been sold on time before , it was installment sales of automobiles during the twenties that established the purchasing of expensive consumer goods on credit as a middle-class habit and a mainstay of the American economy. Market saturation coincided with technological stagnation: In both product and production technology, innovation was becoming incremental rather than dramatic.

The basic differences that distinguish post-World War II models from the Model T were in place by the late s—the self-starter, the closed all-steel body, the high-compression engine, hydraulic brakes, syncromesh transmission and low-pressure balloon tires. The remaining innovations—the automatic transmission and drop-frame construction—came in the s. Moreover, with some exceptions, cars were made much the same way in the early s as they had been in the s.

To meet the challenges of market saturation and technological stagnation, General Motors under the leadership of Alfred P. Sloan, Jr. The goal was to make consumers dissatisfied enough to trade in and presumably up to a more expensive new model long before the useful life of their present cars had ended. Thus engineering was subordinated to the dictates of stylists and cost-cutting accountants. General Motors became the archetype of a rational corporation run by a technostructure.

As Sloanism replaced Fordism as the predominant market strategy in the industry, Ford lost the sales lead in the lucrative low-priced field to Chevrolet in and By GM claimed 43 percent of the U. During World War II, in addition to turning out several million military vehicles, American automobile manufacturers made some seventy-five essential military items, most of them unrelated to the motor vehicle. Because the manufacture of vehicles for the civilian market ceased in and tires and gasoline were severely rationed, motor vehicle travel fell dramatically during the war years.

Models and options proliferated, and every year cars became longer and heavier, more powerful, more gadget-bedecked, more expensive to purchase and to operate, following the truism that large cars are more profitable to sell than small ones. Engineering in the postwar era was subordinated to the questionable aesthetics of nonfunctional styling at the expense of economy and safety. And quality deteriorated to the point that by the mids American-made cars were being delivered to retail buyers with an average of twenty-four defects a unit, many of them safety-related.

The era of the annually restyled road cruiser ended with the imposition of federal standards of automotive safety , emission of pollutants and , and energy consumption ; with escalating gasoline prices following the oil shocks of and ; and especially with the mounting penetration of both the U. After peaking at a record In response, the American automobile industry in the s underwent a massive organizational restructuring and technological renaissance.

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Managerial revolutions and cutbacks in plant capacity and personnel at GM, Ford and Chrysler resulted in leaner, tougher firms with lower break-even points, enabling them to maintain profits with lower volumes in increasingly saturated, competitive markets. Manufacturing quality and programs of employee motivation and involvement were given high priority. It then covers the story of Henry Ford, including some advertising material. One interviewee describes a ride in the car as being 'as exciting as going into space!

Home Episodes Clips. Main content. You must enable JavaScript to play content. The arrival of the motor car The emergence of the car and the motor industry, from an exclusive toy of the rich to a mass-produced transportation for all. Release date: 14 August

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