Society’s Dependence on the Automobile

“…the car has become an article of dress without which we feel uncertain, unclad, and incomplete in the urban compound.” Marshall McLuhan (McMullin 1996)

Centuries and even thousand of years were needed for a man to invent, first, the wheel and then its modification with other details so that to have the machine with the engine. This gradual evolution of man’s thought has many peculiar things as for the nature of every invention and the changes which were obvious during every period of the historical development of mankind. The flow of fast and vital inventions made in the nineteenth century was provided by outstanding scientists and philosophers. Moreover, the further elaboration of progressive thinking made an extra emphasis on the technological and scientific inventions which promoted faster progress. Concerning automobiles, it is rather necessary to outline their significance in modern society with several outlooks on some intentions of people realized in previous times. The machine facilitates life and work processes in terms of saving time for other activities. Thus, a man became dependant on the automobile as a vehicle needful for everyday life. The paper is dedicated to working out the main background which intended people to grab more attention on the automobile use in everyday life with some glimpses on the historical framework and social opportunities maintained during the twentieth century.

Society to its extent is always searched for innovations that can make it more authoritative, modern, and competitive. Each individual of it is full of ideas or actions which can be helpful for the society to achieve needful goals. The progress which mostly appeared in the twentieth century evaluated both the wholeness and the limitlessness of a man’s mind in its different spheres of implementation. Many of the scientists by means of their own researches intended other generations of scientists to stimulate the scientific process so that to provide human beings with the amenities appropriate for various spheres of a man’s life.

The thing is that many inventions or new devices for society are too expensive and their owners are sure to be from higher strata of social segregation. First automobiles were obviously presented with limited series. This fact cannot but make people admire with the value and status of the owners of cars, who were known to possess a very noble name of “car folk” or “motorist” (Thompson 2004) The era of increased choices gave mankind more opportunities to improve life conditions and provide people with more pleasure, joy, and conveniences.

Status might attach to particular kinds of car; one might be able to read social class or aspiration into a Rolls or Mercedes, for example. But a car as such had become classless. None of this might be altogether true, for there remained a large, and largely invisible, group of people without wheels, who one way or another were deprived of full participation in modern social life. (Thompson 2004)

Many contemporary historians of that time claimed the idea that in recent times such fast and needed restructures and advancement of industrial development can cause total automation of wok process and routine life of people. In fact, there were many publicists and researches of this standpoint working out the effects of automobile industry on the societal coloring. Looking back and having a survey on the things in present day one cannot but even think of how mankind lived without motoring transport and its systems.

The emergence of one thing can provoke the appearance of some important measures or instructions based on positive or negative instances of an invention forth putting. The motoring age beginning in the last decades of the nineteenth and advanced in the twentieth centuries implied many reasonable and constructive suggestions as for some measurements of driver’s and people’s outside a machine safety. Automobiles in their diversity need also the directions of some concrete objectives with regards to the surroundings and conditions under which a vehicle can be realized without making any harm for its owner and people around.

The mortality attributed to auto travel should be placed in perspective, however. The world of horses and wagons that existed prior to the motor age was also quite dangerous to life and limb. Accidents involving horses killed thousands of riders and pedestrians during the 19th century (Bettmann 1974: 23). At least two kings of England, as well as many other distinguished persons, lost their lives to horse-related accidents prior to the motor age (Hair 1971: 9). (Roots 2007)

However, the interest to cars grew notwithstanding the accidents which happened every single day. Society could not just abandon from using cars. The only thing was to improve the processes of people’s safety long with the modern additional systems or devices maintained in cars of different producers. Since the beginning of motoring age people want to have more powerful and more comfortable automobiles with high level of personal safety of a driver. This served to acquire in them such-like dependency. As Professor Stan McMullin admits in one of his articles:“We consider it our right as consumers of the twentieth century, to choose between the many different automobile models. Increasingly, however, many people are beginning to realize that the use of the automobile is one of dependence and not of choice.” (McMullin 1996) Here the issue of personal ability and desire to make as more things as possible is applied in terms of post-industrial type of the society where the main product is information. Striving at the quality and popularity of this or that car people do not even realize the fact that they are under the influence of branding policy and commercials which are constantly trying to thrust into the spotlight a definite model. The phenomenon of wide use of cars in the twentieth century manifested itself in the cultural implementation by means of emergence of a so-called car culture with specific framework full of instructions, rules, cautions, personal experience, and even slangs.

Another point provides the actual idea that constant growth of automobiles was provoked by perpetual increase of world’s population. One more factor of which appeared some decades ago touches upon the ability of various car producers to compete and build a strong policy of delivering information about their products towards current and potential consumers by virtues of mass media. That is why the sales of the major automobile corporations are so high. Moreover, many of them taking into account the fact that in the future the use of combustion engine will be reduced due to the hypothetic decrease of gas and oil deposits organize their strategies with perspectives of new types of safe-for-environment engines.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics, the number of new automobiles produced in the world each year is now more than 60 million. And the cars are staying on the roads longer: In 2006, there were more than 251 million registered highway vehicles (passenger cars, trucks, vans, motorcycles, etc.) in the United States with an overall median age of 8.9 years, a significant increase over 1990 when the median age of vehicles was 6.5 years. (Frey 2008)

The governments tend to improve the conditions of transportation systems with such conveniences as highways, parking, service stations, car wash etc. Before buying a car drivers also consider the fact of additional costs for probable maintenance and other services along with need in fuel. External and internal costs implement the character and variability of the services, so that to define possible expenses. The core attention of the drivers in cases with financial support of automobiles should be paid on “internal and variable costs”. (McMullin 1996) This is so because of some bureaucratic manipulations of the authority and bodies responsible for transportation on the whole. These very manipulations concern the fact that “”free” parking, traffic planning, land use impacts, and social inequity, are undervalued or ignored.” (McMullin 1996) Such fact at once provokes a thought of overpayment for car optioning and using the help of various services. Furthermore, due to the automobile dependency people tend not to mind such cases because the society once got accustomed with the trends and features of automobile culture. “As a society, we often perceive public transit as parasitic to the public purse but the automobile is by far the larger parasite when one considers all the costs associated with its maintenance.” (McMullin 1996)

Automobile culture reflected the dependency on it within society even in personal spheres, namely in the outlook of houses. In the modern world the tendency to consider the place for a car became too important. When one imagines single house at once he thinks over the large door next to it for a car. This became an optional thing when building the houses. In large multi-storied houses built due modern tendencies of their construction the place known as underground parking is of vital importance. Perpetual increase of cars projected the need of building roads and other supplements to avoid traffic jams. Then a curious thing appears: people living in megacities where there are constant occasions of traffic jams in rush hours do not leave their cars and wait until the road stress falls down running behind schedule. Such case tells about the worked out principle of drivers not to leave a car for them to feel safe and protected somehow. Another approach, especially reminding men, notes the idea that a car is a so-called substitute of a horse being important in previous times. Though, in comparison with each of the epochs in the history the impact of means of transportation were incorporated with personal jewlry for individuals.

Such a great number of cars bears in mind the fact that the amounts of exhaust gases is also increasing every now and then which in return provokes pollution of the environment. According to the official statistics the results of automobile development are definitely felt when analyzing the levels of pollution increasing every year, month, day. For example, American main car producers in the last few decades and even now made automobiles with engine displacement up to 7 or 9 litters.

Each automobile, on average, spews over four tonnes of air pollutants each year,68 i.e. about two to three times its own weight. As many Canadians now know, the burning of fossil fuels is increasing the concentrations of gases such as carbon monoxide (CO) and dioxide (CO2), and is causing what is known as the ‘enhanced greenhouse effect

In accordance with the American data of the eighteenth century the national interest in transportation fell on the use of horses, of course. Hence, the farmers were intended to leave one third of croplands in order to support country with hay needful for horses. (Roots 2007) Moreover, there was no harmful effect on the environment only the process was slow due to natural expenditure of horses. One more point assimilated with the automobiles in comparison with previous time’s touches upon the fact that the extent of car ability to drive in terms of its power is called Horsepower. This fact merely gives one more objective to emphasize the influence of cars.

Returning to the environmental aspect of the issue it is known that after invention of the oil and its properties mankind began using it without the idea of further hazards for the environment. The technological flow gave birth to a huge number of people around the world who more or less connect their life with various kinds of transport and cars, particularly, so that to subsist their families or in order to follow the current tempo in the work process. This fact of people’s dependency on the automobile worries environmental organizations much in terms of potential hazards which cars presents the nature people’s environment with. Undoubtedly, society cannot abolish the use of transport and it does not even follow this point in concern with a common sense. The only thing to be done here is to reduce somehow the harmful effects of cars by providing new standards of less contrarious fuel with high quality and less amounts of exhaust gases. On the other hand, the car producers should stop making cars with large engine displacement. It is needed for trucks, not for motor cars. Such steps can stimulate further decrease of harmful effect of automobiles on the environmental situation being much polluted at the moment.

To sum up, the long period from using primitive means of transportation till invention of automobile cannot but impress with the technological and scientific outburst. The dependence of the society on the automobile is strong and considers many factors outlining personal and business interests in its use. Not to lag behind the scenes every human being urges at the goal achieving. In this case transport means plays more than just a vital role; it supposes a certain way of life. Economic, societal and social ties of providing people with achievements of mechanical thought implemented in an automobile proves a man’s personal status and stratum of his position in the society as well as his genuine eye on trendy innovations. Mankind hardly can abandon this amenity of a man’s thought, especially in the era of high technologies. It would be as a step back, in fact. On the other hand, harmful effects of car use on the environment should be resolved rationally without ill-advised acts.


McMullin, Stan (1996). The Automobile Culture in Canada: Choice or Albatross? Canadian Studies 12.495/496, Directed Studies Final Paper, School of Canadian Studies. Carleton University.

Frey, T. J. (2008). Disrupting the Automobile’s Future; the Rise of the Global Middle Class, Natural Limitations and Radical Innovation Will Define Automobile Transportation in the Years Ahead. The Futurist, 42, 38+.

Roots, R. (2007). The Dangers of Automobile Travel: A Reconsideration. The American Journal of Economics and Sociology, 66(5).

Thompson, F. (2004). The Motoring Age: The Automobile and Britain, 1896-1939. History Today, 54, 57+.

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